Am I Pathological, TOO?

People who were raised by pathological parents, or with siblings who are pathological, are more likely to repeatedly date pathological people. Some of the patterns of partner selection have to do with learned conditioning—learning to normalize abnormal behavior until that is the norm.

Some pathology can also be genetically transmitted, so people are often concerned if there are down lines in their family tree where pathology exists. For instance, one of the Cluster Bs with a fairly high transmission rate is narcissism. Psychopathy, too, is genetically transmitted way too often!

Clients have two concerns about pathology and its effect on them:

  1. If pathology can be genetic and my parents were pathological, am I PATHOLOGICAL, TOO?
  2. If damage can be done when parented by a pathological, am I DAMAGED?

Pathology can be genetic. There are many people who are born to, and raised by, pathological parents who are damaged by this pathological parenting, but don’t grow up to be pathological themselves. There has been a lot of research and study about this issue of resilience in people and why some do become pathological and others do not.  Nonetheless, about half of the children of pathological parents do NOT become pathological from genetic transmission or from pathological parenting.

However, many of these 50 percent who do NOT become pathological from genetic transmission or pathological parenting are STILL negatively affected by the parenting they did receive. They may carry aftermath symptoms that affect their choices, patterns, feelings, and behaviors. You might be plagued with self-doubt, low self-esteem, chronic caregiving of others, and/or a total disregard for your own needs or self-care. You could battle depression or chronic anxiety, or fight nagging pessimism about your future or the world around you. You might be dangerously naïve, never trusting your own instincts, and constantly be taken advantage of.

You could have eating disorders, sexual addictions/other sexual disorders, or obsessive- compulsive behaviors. You could medicate your feelings with drugs or alcohol or find abusive religious affiliations to take up where your pathological parents fell away. You may have emotional intimacy problems, or jump from relationship to relationship, fearing abandonment or being alone. Or you may engage in what is known as “sexual anorexia”—the forbidding of yourself to ever be intimate or loving with someone else.

Whether you understand why your parents (or siblings) behaved like they did, or you are engulfed in compassion and pity for their illness, the rubber meets the road at the point where your needs went so chronically unmet that you now have your own emotional problems because of what you didn’t get at those crucial developmental points of your life.  Compassion, pity, forgiveness and understanding don’t help you with what you never got from the most important people in your life. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself you probably were/are affected from pathological parenting.

If you learned to normalize abnormal behavior, no wonder dangerous and pathological men look like pretty normal people for you to date! Pathological parenting instills a pathological worldview about yourself, others, and the world around you. The “others” part of the worldview is how you keep ending up with pathological men—narcissists, sociopaths, and other dangerous types. What you learned at the feet of your parents was that black was white and white was black. So many women find that their level of attraction to pathological men was largely generated and supported within the pathological family.

This is a complicated issue that has its roots in several factors related to your adult life. Some of these patterns are related to:

  • Your chronic pattern of selection in men
  • Your inability to recognize and respond to red flags
  • Your non-existent boundaries in intimate relationships
  • Your pathologized worldview that sees black as white and white as black
  • Your ongoing symptoms of relationship confusion, PTSD symptoms or other symptoms you might be having

Reading relationship books or going to relationship counselors is not going to address your pathological worldview and your corresponding symptoms and patterns of selection in men. Your unique family system and relating difficulties need to have the specific understanding and treatment associated with adult children of pathological parents.

We do recognize your unique needs. And we also understand your concern about having been so chronically exposed to pathology through your early years and its devastating results now in your adult life. Rest assured that if YOU were pathological, you would most likely NOT be reading this newsletter or seeking out treatment for your symptoms. Pathologicals don’t stay in counseling or treatment. If you see yourself in the list of symptoms from pathological parenting in this newsletter, rest assured they are VERY treatable!

The good news is that you can recover! Get the help you need in order to stop the cycle of pattern selection and the aftermath symptoms that plague you!

(**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.)