Archives for September 2015

Deciding to Not Stay Where You Are

~ “The first step towards getting somewhere is to DECIDE that you are not going to stay where you are.” ~ (Anny Jacoby)

 

I just loved this quote when I read it. It reminds me of what we have been talking about now for quite some time and especially the “Living the Gentle Life” series of articles.

 

I get emails that say, “I can’t leave him because_________.” There are lots of reasons that people, both men and women, feel trapped in pathological love relationships for various reasons. It could be finances, children, poor health, lack of employment or education, religious beliefs, family, attitude, fear of harm, or their own damage from PTSD. But the first step toward an internal shift, where something else might be a possibility, is beginning with knowing that you are not going to stay where you are.

 

The external reasons of why you are still there are just that—external. The paradigm shift starts internally—the decision you make that you are not going to stay where you are, whether emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, or sexually. Externally, things begin to happen when you simply make the decision that at some time in the near future, you are not going to stay where you are. What happens outside of us in recovery starts with the shift internally, before it is ever manifested in our lives. We won’t follow a path that isn’t first developed internally. We’ll end up only seeing roadblocks of the external, which doesn’t help us. The first thing that has to happen is the decision for internal movement.

 

Over the 25+ years of working with pathology and its victims, I have heard every kind of story about pathological relationships. Anything from the most deviant kind of mind control to attempted murder to actual murder. I’ve heard of financial hostage taking, rape, assaults, stalking, women put into comas, people alienated from their children, people being medically harmed, reputations and careers ruined, and people locked in their homes or psyches for decades. I’ve heard it all. The emails start with, “But, I can’t”—and then they give the reason for their inability to leave.

 

But there is movement happening in them that they might not see. They have read articles on our website, our newsletters, or are emailing us so obviously something inside is shifting. Somewhere, they are deciding they are not going to stay where they are! Even mentally they are moving and changing. Their “yes, but” might be a reason to them, but they are already deciding to not stay where they are.

 

Yes, there are safety and housing barriers. Remember, every community has domestic violence (DV) servicesor DV housing which most likely exists in your area.

 

Yes, there are emotional barriers—you have PTSD. Remember most communities have DV counseling services that are free – churches have support groups, and community mental health counseling for you or your children is free or very low in cost.

 

Yes, there are starting-over barriers when you leave with only what’s in your suitcase. Remember, DV services and other nonprofit organizations offer furniture, clothing and household items to those starting over.

 

Yes, there are legal barriers—you don’t have an attorney. Remember self-help, nonprofit and women’s organizations. DV agencies have information on legal aid and OTHER types of pro bono services if you don’t qualify for legal aid.

 

Yes, there are other case-specific barriers—there are so many issues to manage at once. Remember women’s organizations, DV agencies and other nonprofit organizations have case workers assigned to you so you don’t have to do it all yourself.

 

You need only first decide that you are not going to stay where you are. That’s the first step to the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean you leave tomorrow—that means you shift internally—that you open the emotional door of possibility that you will not always be where you are today.

 

Right around the corner is October – Domestic Violence Awareness month when I stop and give tribute and memory to those patients of mine who have died because they believed they couldn’t do anything about their situation or they underestimated his (or her) pathology. In honor of all those who have been harmed, alive or not, we remember you and send possibility to those living in a pathological situation that your life can and will be different. I don’t say that flippantly—I too have experienced a lot of pain when I see patients further harmed, so I say it from my own experience.

 

The Institute has helped thousands of people make that paradigm shift internally so they could eventually make it externally.

 

(**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

Breathe

by Jennifer Young, LMHC

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Your breath is your life. It is the power that moves you. It is the energy that drives you. It is the fire that keeps you alive. Your breath keeps you focused on the task at hand. Your breath helps you slow down and relax. Your breath moves through your body like a river, creating life along its banks.

In pathological relationship recovery, all of these things are needed. The things that your breath provides are the things that will help you get better. You need power, energy, fire, focus, and relaxation to create life again. So it makes sense that a big part of recovery is that you learn to breathe again.

It seems odd that you might need to learn to breathe again, but you do. You lost control of your breath the moment you were first traumatized in the pathological relationship. That first red flag that rose took your breath away. The first time he called you a nasty name, or showed up unannounced when you had said you were going to be busy, or anytime his masked slipped enough for you to see his pathology. These are moments when your breath became off balance for the first time. Your breath took over in a sense. You may not have felt it; but you sensed it.

When you experience a trauma, your body leaps into survival mode. In order for you to survive, certain primary functions must lead the way. Your breath first stops and slows which signals a release of adrenaline. This process then tells your body to be on alert. Other physiological symptoms occur like sweating, confusion, a fast heart beat. Through the event your breath is moving in a pressured way…often making your chest feel heavy. As the perception of the trauma resolves you come back to yourself. But what happens in a pathological relationship is that you never really leave the exposure to the trauma so you never really come back to yourself. Your body and breath is always on alert, off balance, unsure of when the next moment of fear will occur.

After an extended exposure to psychological trauma, your breath is not even on your radar. When you live “in trauma” you stop being able to sense your breath and often miss the other physiological symptoms too. You are so busy “thinking” in circles that your body’s warning signs and symptoms are “normalized”. This is the epitome of losing yourself. Without this awareness and mindfulness, you are not present. Your mind is taking you on a journey outside of the present moment, “What do I do next?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “What can I do to make this stop?” With these thoughts come the behavioral options – fight, flight or freeze.

There is another way through trauma and trauma recovery…breathe. Being able to regain the mindfulness of breathing can change everything. Whether you are still in the midst of trauma or working hard to recover from it, the focus on breathing is crucial. It is really the foundation for recovery.

You can begin by learning how to take good, deep breaths. In through your nose…count to three slowly as you inhale…and out through your mouth…count to three as you exhale. As you breathe listen to the sound of the breath moving in through your nose and hear the breath leaving your mouth. Feel the coolness and the relaxing sensation of each breath. Stay present and focused with each breath.

After you learn to breathe again, add daily scheduled time to practice. It is recommended that you spend 15-20 minutes each night before bed practicing relaxation and mindful breathing. You can start with a shorter time frame and build up to the full 20 minutes.

 

After you believe you have mastered the breathing, you can begin to add in mindfulness skills like turning your mind to thoughts of your immediate sensations. Turn your mind to take in the sights around you, the sounds you hear, the sensations you feel or the scents you smell. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present and immediate moment. Focus on just what is within your own space.

So now you can begin to catch your breath. You can begin the process of calming your body, your mind and your spirit. When you are breathing in a calm and measured way, you are at your best. With a steady breath, you will be able to think clearly, respond smartly, and behave in a way that is safe.

But it all begins with one slow, deep breath.

 

(**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

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 4

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Lying in Family Court

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

When I became a family law attorney/mediator after a dozen years as a therapist, one of the biggest surprises was the extent of lying in Family Court – lies about income, assets and even complete fabrications of child abuse and domestic violence. Why would people lie so much, I wondered? How did they get away with it? The following is my psychosocial analysis of what I believe has become an epidemic:

Men Lie

It was a sad phone call from a relatively new client. He informed me his father had just died. He had quit his job and was moving back east to wrap up his father’s affairs. He asked me to tell his wife’s attorney that he would not be able to pay child support for their three young children for a long time. (There was no support order yet.)

The next day, his wife’s attorney called me back and described how upset she was to learn of her father-in-law’s death. So upset that she had called his father- — and had a nice chat!

Women Lie

A mother involved in a custody battle told the court in dramatic detail about physical abuse at the hands of her husband. She even submitted reports of visits to doctors and emergency rooms for her bruises. However, a court-ordered psychological evaluation determined the allegations were false. The court agreed and awarded custody to the father. A few weeks later the mother picked up the children from school and disappeared for a year. She was caught, sent to jail for parental kidnapping, and the children were returned to the father.

Societal Increase in Lying

Surveys show that lying has increased over the past decade. In 1999 alone, the President was tried in Congress for perjury; a popular journalist in Boston was publicly fired for fabricating heart-rending stories; and a scientist was exposed for falsifying research on a high-profile safety issue.

We have become a society of individuals where personal gain is more important than community values. In this mobile “information age,” we rely on strangers and are easily fooled. In business, politics, and the movies, winning is everything. Successful manipulation and deceit are admired. In court, lying is often rewarded and rarely punished.

No Penalty for Perjury

Divorce Courts rely heavily on “he said, she said” declarations, signed “under penalty of perjury.” However, a computer search of family law cases published by the appellate courts shows only one appellate case in California involving a penalty for perjury: People v. Berry (1991) 230 Cal. App. 3d 1449. The penalty? Probation.

Perjury is a criminal offense, punishable by fine or jail time, but it must be prosecuted by the District Attorney -who does not have the time. Family Court judges have the ability to sanction (fine) parties, but no time to truly determine that one party is lying. Instead, they may assume both parties are lying or just weigh their credibility. With no specific consequence, the risks of lying are low.

Personality Disorders and Patterns of Lying

Family Courts see everything – from small deceptions about income to the complete fabrication of abuse. The increase in lying seems to correspond with the rising number of people with personality disorders. They often have internal distress, less empathy for others, a highly adversarial world view, an intense and manipulative nature, and a sense of victimization which they use to justify harming others. Studies show they have identifiable and predictable patterns of lying:

  • A party with a Borderline Personality Disorder may lie out of anger or even self-deception in an effort to maintain a bond with their child or spouse- or to retaliate for abandonment. Battles over custody and visitation are common.
  • One with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder may lie to boost themselves or to put other people down. They enjoy manipulating the truth and other people’s lives. They may experience excitement and a sense of power by successfully fooling the court and dominating the other party.
  • An Antisocial Personality Disorder is characterized by deception, manipulation, and disrespect for authority. Commonly known as “con artists,” they are skilled at breaking the rules. They fabricate detailed events and use the courts to get revenge or money. Their lack of empathy makes them constant liars – and often violent.
  • A Histrionic Personality Disorder is often highly dramatic and demanding, with superficial charm and seductiveness. They are skilled at lying and self-deception. Fabrication is also common.

 

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced; however, feel free to put a link to this page.)

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

(**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

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 3

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How Family Court Fits Personality Disorders

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

Family Court is perfectly suited to the fantasies of someone with a personality disorder: There is an all-powerful person (the judge) who will punish or control the other spouse. The focus of the court process is perceived as fixing blame — and many with personality disorders are experts at blame. There is a professional ally who will champion their cause (their attorney — or if no attorney, the judge).

A case is properly prepared by gathering statements from allies — family, friends, and professionals. (Seeking to gain the allegiance of the children is automatic — they too are seen as either allies or enemies. A simple admonition will not stop this.) Generally, those with personality disorders are highly skilled at — and invested in — the adversarial process.

Those with personality disorders often have an intensity that convinces inexperienced professionals — counselors and attorneys — that what they say is true. Their charm, desperation, and drive can reach a high level in this very emotional, bonding process with the professional. Yet this intensity is a characteristic of a personality disorder, and is completely independent from the accuracy of their claims.

What Can Be Done

Judges, attorneys, and family court counselors need to be trained in identifying personality disorders and how to treat them. Mostly, a corrective on-going relationship is needed — preferably with a counselor. However, they usually must be ordered into this because their belief systems include a life-time of denial and avoidance of self- reflection.

Family Code Section 3190 allows the court to order up to one year of counseling for parents, if:

  • “(1) The dispute between the parents or between a parent and the child poses a substantial danger to the best interest of the child.

[or]

  • (2)The counseling is in the best interest of the child.”

Therapists, in addition to being supportive, need to help clients challenge their own thinking: about their role in the dispute; about the accuracy of their view of the other party; and about their high expectations of the court. Further, therapists should never form clinical opinions or write declarations about parties they haven’t interviewed. Likewise, attorneys need to also challenge their clients’ thinking and not accept their declarations at face value.

More time should be spent educating them to focus on negotiating solutions, rather than escalating blame. The court should make greater use of sanctions under Family Code Section 271 for parties and attorneys who refuse to negotiate and unnecessarily escalate the conflict and costs of litigation.

The court must realize that the parties are often not equally at fault. One or both parties may have a personality disorder, but that does not necessarily mean both are offenders (violent, manipulative, or lying). A non-offending, dependent spouse may truly need the court’s assistance in dealing with the offender. The court should not be neutralized by mutual allegations without looking deeper. Otherwise, because of their personality style, the most offending party is often able to continue their offender behavior — either by matching the other’s true allegations for a neutral outcome, or by being the most skilled at briefly looking good and thereby receiving the court’s endorsement.

The court is in a unique position to motivate needed change in personal behavior. In highly contested cases, counseling or consequences should be ordered. Professionals and parties must work together to fully diagnose and treat each person’s underlying problems, rather than allowing the parties (and their advocates) to become absorbed in an endless adversarial process. Because their largest issues are internal, they will never be resolved in court.

In next week’s article, we will cover lying in family court.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced; however, feel free to put a link to this page.)

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

(**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

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 2

billeddy1Personality Disorders Appearing in Family Court

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

Probably the most prevalent personality disorder in family court is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) –more commonly seen in women. BPD may be characterized by wide mood swings, intense anger even at benign events, idealization (such as of their spouse — or attorney) followed by devaluation (such as of their spouse — or attorney).

Also common is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) — more often seen in men. There is a great preoccupation with the self to the exclusion of others. This may be the vulnerable type, which can appear similar to BPD, causing distorted perceptions of victimization followed by intense anger (such as in domestic violence or murder, for example the San Diego case of Betty Broderick). Or this can be the invulnerable type, who is detached, believes he is very superior and feels automatically entitled to special treatment.

Histrionic Personality Disorder also appears in family court, and may have similarities to BPD but with less anger and more chaos.

Anti-social Personality Disorder includes an extreme disregard for the rules of society and very little empathy. (A large part of the prison population may have Anti-social Personality Disorder.

Dependent Personality Disorder is common, but usually is preoccupied with helplessness and passivity, and is rarely the aggressor in court — but often marries a more aggressive spouse, sometimes with a personality disorder.

Cognitive Distortions and False Statement

Because of their history of distress, those with personality disorders perceive the world as a much more threatening place than most people do. Therefore, their perceptions of other people’s behavior is often distorted — and in some cases delusional. Their world view is generally adversarial, so they often see all people as either allies or enemies in it. Their thinking is often dominated by cognitive distortions, such as: all-or-nothing thinking, emotional reasoning, personalization of benign events, minimization of the positive and maximization of the negative. They may form very inaccurate beliefs about the other person, but cling rigidly to those beliefs when they are challenged — because being challenged is usually perceived as a threat.

People with personality disorders also appear more likely to make false statements. Because of the thought process of a personality disorder, the person experiences interpersonal rejection or confrontation much more deeply than most people. Therefore the person has great difficulty healing and may remain stuck in the denial stage, the depression stage, or the anger stage of grief — avoiding acceptance by trying to change or control the other person. Lying may be justified in their eyes — possibly to bring a reconciliation. (This can be quite convoluted, like the former wife who alleged child sexual abuse so that her ex-husband’s new wife would divorce him and he would return to her — or so she seemed to believe.) Or lying may be justified as a punishment in their eyes. Just as we have seen that an angry spouse may kill the other spouse, it is not surprising that many angry spouses lie under oath.

There is rarely any consequence for this, as family court judges often believe the truth cannot be known — or that both are lying.

Projection

Just as an active alcoholic or addict blames others for their substance abuse, those with personality disorders are often preoccupied with other people’s behavior while avoiding any examination of their own behavior. Just as a movie projector throws a large image on a screen from a hidden booth, those with personality disorders project their internal conflicts onto their daily interactions — usually without knowing it. All the world is a stage — including court.

It is not uncommon in family court declarations for one with a personality disorder to claim the other party has characteristics which are really their own (“he’s manipulative and falsely charming” or “she’s hiding information and delaying the process”), and do not fit the other party. Spousal abusers claim the other is being abusive. Liars claim the other is lying. (One man who knew he was diagnosed with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder claimed his wife also had an NPD simply because she liked to shop.)

In next week’s article, we will discuss how family court fits Personality Disorders.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced; however, feel free to put a link to this page.)

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

 

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

 

(**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