When Your Symptoms Look Like Something Else

Women tell me other therapists have diagnosed them with a variety of diagnosis which has made the women not only confused, but often MAD!  They have been diagnosed, for instance with disorders like Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, Paranoia, and other not-so-fun labels.

We recognize that this happens a lot which is why we have instituted a therapist training program so that the therapists can understand what they are seeing in context to what you have experienced. (Therapist trainings are Nov 2010 in LA and January 2011 in FL).

To come to bat for the under-trained therapists, the reason you are being diagnosed with various disorders is because your symptoms are similar to various disorders–they are mimicking true mental health symptoms.

For instance, when your moods are swinging all over the place and you are depressed and anxious, you look Bipolar. When you are cranky, highly reactive and want vengeance you look Borderline. When you are scared about what he will do next, fear you’re being followed, or afraid he is sneaking around to see you do something so he can accuse you, you look paranoid. When you think things are happening that you can’t prove to other people, you look delusional.

The issue is, these are ALL normal reactions to what is called Coercion, Stockholm Syndrome, and your basic prisoners of war, or in other words Aftermath of Pathological Love Relationship. In THAT context, your symptoms make perfect sense! You were coerced, your mind was played with, and you felt stuck and held in a pathological relationship against your own spiritual will. You did fear that your emotional and/or physical existence was in jeopardy.  And the pathological DOES do things he never gets caught for and that you can’t prove.

In pathological relationships, women emerge with signs of PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome, and Coercion. Unfortunately, not all therapists understand the overlap between PTSD, Stockholm and Coercion–which is why you are often diagnosed ‘other things.’

The symptoms of Stockholm are:

  • Perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the captor would carry out the threat.
  • Perceived small kindnesses from the captor to the captive.
  • Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor.
  • Perceived inability to escape.

(My note: A lot of this was also discussed in the book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ in which I talked about the Pathological World View and how you acquired HIS view of the world and how that entrapped you in the relationship).

In Coercion, these symptoms are:

  • Isolation: Deprives individual of social support, effectively rendering her unable to resist.
  • Makes individual dependent upon interrogator/captor.
  • Victim then develops an intense concern with self.

(My note: This too is discussed in the ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ book during the Honeymoon and Luring Stages of the relationship).

Monopolization of Perception: The captor fixes their attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection in the victim; eliminates outside competing stimuli with the captor so the victim can only focus on him, he frustrates all actions not consistent with her compliance to him.

(My note: In the mid-relationship dynamics in the book, this is talked about. Your Super Traits are very high in what we call relationship investment and cooperation which means you are highly cooperative because you get so much enjoyment out of your relationships that you will ‘bend over backwards’ to make things work. The book discusses when the mid-relationships ‘shift’ and what happens to the woman’s perspective).

Induced Debility and Exhaustion: People subjected to this type of abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet his standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid demands and requirements make the exhaustion and ability to resist even worse.

(My note: All the women who show up at the retreats show up in bodily exhaustion. This too is discussed in the book).

Occasional Indulgences: This provides motivation to her for compliance.

(My note: The TCI test we gave the women show that you test very high in compliance).

Devaluing the Individual: Creates in her a fear of freedom and dependence upon him; creates feelings of helplessness; develops lack of faith in her individual capabilities.

(My note: In the book, women who are doctors can’t remember how to care for themselves, women who are attorneys can’t remember how to file their own restraining order, women who are therapists can’t remember why this is sick behavior….)

When you look at it through the eyes of a mixture of PTSD, Stockholm and Coercion your symptoms make perfect sense…at least to me! While that doesn’t mean you ‘can’t’ also have Bipolar or other disorders—it’s too early to know. Very often much of the symptoms of other disorders fall by the wayside when effective and appropriate treatment is begun. Many of the women do, however, meet the criteria for PTSD. PTSD is most associated with war vets (and yes, you too lived through a war!) and trauma victims (yes, you were traumatized)! To that end, you probably do have a disorder but it is related to PTSD or other Acute Stress Disorders.

Our hope is that as we train more therapists we will help you most by making available effective and knowledgeable help for what you have lived through and stop the erroneous diagnosing so often associated with you and your symptoms.

For now though, if you cannot locate a therapist, we do offer phone sessions, telesupport groups, Retreats, and one last 1:1 Intensive Sessions with Sandra.

Be hopeful that what you live with today in symptoms may not always be as problematic as it is in your current life. There is hope and healing available!

DSM 5 Personality and Personality Disorders Sneak Peek

The American Psychiatric Association has released a “sneak peek” of changes to the personality and personality disorder information.

You can view the info at this webpage:
http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevisions/Pages/PersonalityandPersonalityDisorders.aspx

When a Divorce is Unexpected

You are now in a position where all your decisions will most assuredly impact your future.  You must think logically and strategically while going through this period.  If you feel you don’t know which way to turn and need advice, you may want to consult a relationship strategist or divorce planning expert before you take the first steps and consult an attorney.  Be sure that the professional is someone who has your best interests at the forefront and represents you well.  They should be able to advise you on a number of things, especially how to choose the right attorney and how to prepare yourself for your first consultation.

Follow these steps to keep on track:

  • Consult a lawyer immediately (consultation for the first half hour or so is usually free).
  • Bring with you to the lawyer a list of prepared questions to ask.
  • Try not to spend that free time crying or talking about your marriage. A lawyer is not there to be your therapist. Stick to only the facts as it pertains to children, finances and property. You are there to interview and possibly hire them.
  • Copy or scan all documents including wills, car titles, etc., and anything you find on the computer.
  • If you have an iPod, video camera or camera, take two pictures of everything including appliances, cars, artwork, antiques, jewelry, furniture etc.
  • Whatever you do, do not pack up and move out until the divorce is final (consult a lawyer first).
  • If you have never had a credit card in your own name, start applying now to establish a credit history of your own.
  • Try to remain as calm as possible when you tell the children. Do not speak negatively of or badmouth the other parent.
  • Do not use your children as a confidant. Do not involve your children in divorce preparation.
  • Try to keep the kid’s regularly scheduled activities and routines as normal as possible.

Consulting with a legal professional before you are served with divorce papers will better prepare you in the days and months that follow. A good attorney will be able to provide you with a clear understanding of your legal rights.

For more information refer to “Moving Out, Moving On.” You can order the e-book version here. You can also book a session with me to strategize your exit and future here.

Important Note:  If you have been in an abusive marriage you should inquire as to the lawyer’s expertise as it relates to domestic violence, orders of protection, stalking, and whether or not he has represented women who have been abused.

Verbal Bulimia and the Art of Over-Disclosure

I wrote about Verbal Bulimia in my Dangerous Man book, discussed in Women Who Love Psychopaths, and frequently remind everyone in the newsletters and yet I still see this embarrassing behavior among women that not only sounds inappropriate to anyone else listening but also puts her at tremendous risk amongst pathologicals.

Years ago when I had a few psychopaths in group I asked them how they picked out their ‘targets’ and from the mouth of babes they said,”I just listen. If you get them talking, they rapidly over-disclose. Women tell WAY too much! You pick up everything they just said–what they like, their values. Feed it back to them. Become what they are looking for. And ~ VOILA~ you’re in!”

On my flight back from our Dangerous Man Workshop Cruise to Cozumel a couple of years ago, I had one of those over-disclosing women sitting in front of me. Ladies, this is the kind of person that makes you want to switch genders so not to be associated with the behavior! She was purposefully loud so that others would hear her. In fact, she was so loud, the rows around her couldn’t even have their own private conversations because she was holding ‘court’ in the middle of the plane where it was mostly men.

LOUDLY she announces to a girlfriend (who must have been deaf either before the conversation started which is why she YELLED or afterward from yelling in her ear) that she was going to THE CLIFFS where she OWNED a CONDO so she COULD GOLF on TIGER WOODS’ golf course (am enunciating the way she did with her volume on the important parts of her braggadocios story). And that she FLEW back and forth to her OTHER HOME to THE CLIFFS to enjoy THE COUNTRY CLUB and GOLFING. (Just imagine if you were a psychopath sitting within ear range of this conversation….)

Oh, and THANKSGIVING, she was going to have 35 people over AND HER LARGE DINING ROOM could easily accommodate them. She was going to HAVE A COOK COME IN and help her prepare the meal. And ANYONE WHO NEEDED A PLACE TO BE on Thanksgiving was welcome to come (as she offered with a gesture of her hand to those sitting around her). (The psychopath is totaling up how much her silver and Plasma TVs are worth about now….)

Then it was on to her OTHER VACATION travels she has recently done….while everyone else around her were rolling their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears (except for the psychopaths on board who were checking to make sure they had packed their sun tan lotion–planning on a trip WITH her).

Glory to God, the plane landed and it seemed like I could get away from her. She stood up, adjusted her breasts, fluffed her hair, and sucked her stomach in as she noticed the guy in my row had a 3 piece suit on (gag!) a gold chain and to her I guess ‘potential’ This highly accomplished multi-home owner who had been loudly touting her own virtues, all of a sudden couldn’t manage to get her bag out of the overhead, turning into Scarlett O’Hara. “Could some big strong man help little ol’ me here?”

She was staring straight at the gold-chain guy, so he felt obliged. Then she inserted something that had nothing to do with her bag being stuck. She stuck her hip out and leaned into his face “You know what I HATE?” “What?” he asks. “There are 3 lanes on a highway–one for 70 miles per hour, one for 80, and the last one for me–which is getting out of my way! The thing that drives me the CRAZIEST in the whole world ….” (I’m wondering Poverty? Abuse? World Hunger? Obviously not psychopaths—what?)…are people who drive too slowly so that I can’t roar my BMW Z4 at 95-100 miles per hour.”

She glances around to see who MIGHT have heard her. I have my therapy gaze on her now–like “Girl, GET a therapist!!” The guy winces at that statement and stares at his shoes. However, several other guys in line shift their position to move closer to her. Instead of heading out of the front of the plane they are turning around and heading DOWN the plane not out! What psychopath doesn’t want to con her out of a BMW Z4?? Or her Country Club membership? Or the dining room table that seats 35? Or those boobs she just pushed up?

Ok, ok….not ALL women who over-disclose do it so garishly and obnoxiously as this woman. But they DO, DO IT! There isn’t a pathological that isn’t wired to ‘hear’ the hints and hone in on it. They don’t have to remember to ‘listen’ — it’s a natural as breathing to them.

Maybe your disclosure is more subtle like at church: “Pray for me, I’m going through a divorce.”

Or in personal ads: “Recently divorced attractive woman looking for her soul mate.”

Or on a chat forum “Yeah, I was really hurt when he ran around on me. I’m just looking for a nice guy to settle down with–someone who likes children and animals, a churchgoer—someone who shares my love of art and hiking.”

TMI! TMI! Too Much Information!!

It’s hard to remember that all the ears and eyes that are exposed to you are not ‘normal’ ones. That pathologicals are listening for the ‘signs’ which are a green light to them to move on you. That includes, any hint of what you’re looking for (Fine, I can be that! he says) or loneliness (I’ll solve that!) or pain (Oh, baby, you’ve gotta let me redeem the male species! We aren’t ALL like that!).

Some are listening for your financial info (many are parasitic so are looking for ways of living with others so they can conveniently lose their jobs while with you) or to just bilk you out of your money quickly and be gone.

Others are listening for your need of a partner, companion, ‘just friends’ status, a step father for your children, a spiritual mentor, a shoulder to cry on…..

Others are listening to your unrealized dreams that they can ‘support’ you in your journey to being….a writer, a painter, a therapist, going back to college, starting your own business….

Still others are listening for your needs: Sexually hungry? Emotionally needy? Bored? Not listened to? Abused? Abandoned? Lonely? Tired? Angry?

Remember the church song when you were little “Be careful little eyes what you see….Be careful little ears what you hear…Be careful little mouth what you say…”  Remember that? It reminded us that our eyes, ears, and MOUTH needed to be careful. The song went on, “For the Father up above is looking down with love so be careful little mouth what you speak.” If we ONLY had the Father to worry about, this wouldn’t be an issue.

1 in 25 people have no conscience thus are pathological. There are ears and eyes watching and listening to you to make you their target.

So, you’re probably wondering what I did about the obnoxious, verbally bulimic woman on the plane?  I flipped my business card at her with my finger and as ‘coincidence’ would have it, it landed in her cleavage and I kept on walking…..Imagine her thoughts as she read my card “The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education Psychotherapist & Author of How to Spot a Dangerous Man and Women Who Love Psychopaths.”

Too bad the plane was too crowded to turn around and watch!!

Times Up! A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive & Stalking Relationships – e-book

by Susan Murphy-Milano

How you can escape a violent relationship and get out with your life.

You can actually live free from a life of abuse and violence using creative approaches developed by Susan Murphy Milano in her new book, “Time’s Up!”

You can’t Google the strategies and escape plans utilized by Susan who has devised a way that works and has been tested by time for over 20 years. Just like DNA, your road map will be uniquely your own because each safety plan is individual.

More than just a “to do” list, this book is a “must do” list if you are caught in a life threatening situation.

  • How to properly hire a lawyer
  • How to find an apartment
  • How to keep your personal records safe
  • How to deal with stalking
  • How to set up visitation and child support
  • How to stay 10 steps ahead of the abuser
Susan Murphy Milano has been in the streets and shelters helping women escape from bad relationships and has developed creative ways out of frightening situations.  There are domestic violence organizations and advocates who call on Susan daily to get her expert opinion on cases of battered women and how to get them on a track of freedom and safety.

Previous books, “Defending Our Lives” and “Moving Out, Moving On” are benchmarks dealing with issues of domestic violence safety plans and are used throughout the country as examples of what to do should you be caught in a violent relationship.  “Time’s Up!” uses the foundations and helps you to build your own, unique safety plan allowing you to escape safely and rebuild your life.

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Moving Out, Moving On: When a Relationship Goes Wrong – e-book

Moving Out, Moving On: When a Relationship Goes Wrong–A Step-By-Step Approach For Organizing Your Leave Ahead of Time

by Susan Murphy-Milano Moving out, Moving on is today’s most comprehensive, step-by-step, practical guide to bringing the painful process of a relationship break-up and divorce to an equitable conclusion. This book offers a complete and detailed plan for dealing with all the aspects and pitfalls that one faces during this emotional and life altering experience. Through clear examination, simple forms and worksheets, Moving out, Moving on , logically takes the reader through all the necessary preparation and information gathering to effectively seek legal redress, protect one’s assets and credit, address considerations regarding children, define alternate living arrangements, and deal with the myriad of financial problems and concerns surrounding a divorce or break-up. Moving out, Moving on, also addresses in detail abusive relationships, domestic violence and stalking and how to safely confront these situations. Moving out, Moving on , is more then a simple workbook, but a true plan to take control of one’s life and face the future head on. This is not just another “divorce book” written by a so called “expert.” Moving out, Moving on , is authored by a person who truly knows…Susan Murphy-Milano.

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A Light at the End of the Tunnel – Neurotransmitters and PTSD

Many aspects of PTSD are evident in invisible but serious physical disruptions due to the traumatic event(s). These disruptions contribute to serious problems such as depression, insomnia, and OCD; but recent advances have made it possible not only to identify these changes but to treat them in safe and effective ways. Ongoing stress, as well as a poor diet, genetics and environmental influences, can disrupt the inherent balance of the two main types of neurotransmitters (NTs). Excitatory neurotransmitters are the gas pedal that moves things along throughout our entire body. Inhibitory neurotransmitters calm us down, and function like brakes when it is normally time for the excitatory NTs to wind down.

Frequently, among people with PTSD, the levels of these NTs are out of balance. This can lead to:

Excitatory Neurotransmitters
High Levels Low Levels
* restlessness * fatigue
* insomnia * irritability
* poor concentration * clouded thinking
* emotional lability * poor focus
* racing thoughts
* anxiety, OCD or panic attacks
Inhibiting or Calming Neurotransmitters
High Levels Low Levels
* insomnia * headaches
* anxiety * headaches
* hyperactivity * carbohydrate cravings
* depression
* headaches
* insomnia
* carbohydrate cravings
* anxiety
* irritability

Notice the overlap of symptoms, as many imbalanced patterns reinforce and compound one another.

It is not surprising that many people with PTSD are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and/or clinical depression. Psychiatric medications are usually prescribed. However many people are looking for effective and safe alternatives.

There are alternatives-exercise, meditation, yoga, and other behavioral “stress busters.” The only problem is getting motivated to do these things, no easy task when you are riddled with anxiety or paralyzed by depression.

One viable alternative is amino acid therapy. Usually, a urine sample is sent to a lab and based on the results an individualized program of amino acids is suggested. NeuroScience is one company providing this service to health care providers:

https://www.neurorelief.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=9&Itemid=51

Most insurance companies pay for these tests but not for supplements. A three-month supply typically costs $150-250. Results begin within a week to three weeks. Most people with PTSD take these supplements for at least 6 months.

Because PTSD is associated with many other physical problems, such as hypothyroid conditions, hypertension, headaches, I encourage these clients to

  1. have a thorough physical exam if they haven’t done so recently, and
  2. have their cortisol levels checked.

Cortisol (AKA adrenaline) and other chemical messengers are produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. The symptoms of cortisol imbalances, as well as treatment options, will be discussed next month.

In my experience, clients who are struggling with PTSD find the combination of amino acid supplementation, adrenal support for cortisol imbalances, and neurofeedback training, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ-wX7kLBr4 to provide resolution of symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, depression and irritability.

Providing naturally occurring supplements for NT and cortisol imbalances corrects these imbalances at a fundamental level. This creates an opportunity to return to better health. Supplement use is generally time limited unlike their chemical counterparts, which are often taken for years.

The decrease and resolution of PTSD related symptoms such as panic attacks, flashbacks, depression, OCD, cognitive deficiencies, behavioral problems, etc., makes it easier to do the hard work of psychotherapy. Effective therapy helps recovery and healing, and should, whenever possible, help the client change the situation that created the PTSD in the first place. Identifying and treating the physiological effects of PTSD is a fundamental first step in this process.

N.L.P.: An Empowering Map to a New Life

Once upon a time, the Road Runner* was being chased through the desert by Wile E. Coyote.* Wile E. was shooting arrows at the Road Runner. Road Runner, being a creative and resourceful bird, found a u-shaped water gutter and held it up. The arrows went into the gutter, made a u-turn and went right back at the coyote.

‘What,’ you may ask, ‘does this story have to do with my recovery?’ My answer: Everything! The Road Runner used what was used against it to keep safe. What was used against you? The answer is mind control induced by hypnosis. Even though it is not likely your abuser studied hypnosis, by the mere fact of having been in a pathological relationship, the components of hypnosis were present and kept you in that relationship.

You may be thinking that you were never hypnotized or that you can’t be hypnotized. Consider this: Have you ever driven on the highway and wondered how you passed seven exits on that highway without even noticing them? You were daydreaming. Daydreaming is a form of hypnotic trance. In fact, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. It is simply hyper-focusing on one thing while blocking out other things. This can account for your ‘Super Trait’ of high tolerance to emotional pain. The ability to block out painful things while focusing on the pleasure of the relationship is not only part of hypnosis, its part of the ‘Super Trait’ of tolerance.

Combine this with the high intensity that your abuser brought to the relationship, the hyper-focus created by traumatic events, the verbal abuse that was received as hypnotic suggestions during these vulnerable times, and repeat this over time with varying levels of severity and you have the components of mind control. This is how one becomes programmed with the abusers’ beliefs and values, which replace one’s own beliefs and values. (Read Chapter 10 of “Women Who Love Psychopaths” 2nd Edition)

This level of mind control and programming can be helped and lessened with a form of hypnotherapy called Neuro-Linguistic Programming. In fact, we can take what was used against you in the form of mind control and turn it around using N.L.P.! Many people get apprehensive about hypnosis and fear they will be unconscious and under the control of the hypnotherapist. Or worse yet, open themselves to demonic, evil, or inappropriate suggestions or influence. This is not true.

Hypnotherapy is simply a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness. Clients can hear and respond to everything and are active participants in the session. They have complete control over what they will or will not do. Hypnotherapy is merely a way to access your subconscious mind to achieve the goals that you want to achieve. That’s because anything you have learned can be unlearned and replaced by new learning. In fact, in situations of mind control, it SHOULD be unlearned and replaced.

What Is N.L.P. and How Does It Work?

N.L.P. is a type of internal and emotional experience. Each N.L.P. experience takes about 10-20 minutes. N.L.P. focuses on how thoughts, actions and feelings work together to produce our experience. Our thoughts and memories have a pattern to them. When we change that pattern or structure, our experience will automatically change. With it, you can change your thoughts, feelings and behavior and add new ones that can become just as systematic as the old ones (and a lot more enjoyable). N.L.P. exercises are like thought experiments and the laboratory is your mind providing you with a chance to try out something new in your thinking patterns. We can neutralize painful memories and enrich memories that serve us. This changes the present which can create a better, brighter future.

A few ways N.L.P. may help your aftermath:

  • create a compelling future and a personal map to it
  • clear up past negative experiences that might have held you back
  • interrupt traumatic replay in which you keep picking the same traumatic situations/people types over and over again
  • increase your self appreciation
  • create a solid positive mental attitude
  • change thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • solidify your recovery

Common Resistance to N.L.P./Hypnotherapy
You may think that you can’t visualize and are wondering if you can even use or benefit from N.L.P. Yes you can! N.L.P. simply uses all your five senses. It uses your inner voice, sensations, feelings and images as the basic building blocks of your mental and physical resources. Since you already have these building blocks, you will always have them. That means anyone can use N.L.P.

You can choose to use a resource the way you want at the times when you want it. In any situation you can learn to choose how you want to feel and how you want to respond. Motivation, persuasion, confidence, self love, decision making and creativity are all resources you can learn.

In the movie “The Edge”, Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin were being stalked by a bear in the forests of Alaska. An N.L.P. basic principle was stated in the movie, “What one man (or woman) can do, another man (or woman) can do.” Hopkins got Baldwin to repeat and believe this truth when Baldwin started to panic. It saved their lives.

Try this similar N.L.P. activity (from the landmark book “N.L.P. The New Technology of Achievement” by Steve Andreas and Charles Falkner, which can be ordered from N.L.P. Comprehensive):

  1. Make what you want to do and think about into a positive statement. (It can’t be anything that hurts you or someone else.)
  2. Increase the mental vividness of what you want to do in order to increase its attractiveness to you.
  3. Associate into these successful behaviors and mentally rehearse them so they feel natural.
  4. Google N.L.P. psychotherapists in your area, make an appointment and get assistance from a licensed professional to create the life that you want.

* Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were created by Chuck Jones and belong to the Warner Brothers Corporation.

Fantasy Re-runs or ‘Obsession Interruptus’

Everyone knows what ‘coitus interruptus’ is–but what you really need to know is what ’emotional obsession interruptus’ is!

In the past, I have talked about the inherent traps, pitfalls, and perils of how people get roped back in to the pathological relationships during ‘weak moments’ of family or relationship fantasizing about normal relationships. There are no Normal Rockwells, oh, I meant ‘Norman’ Rockwells with narcissists and psychopaths. As much as you want to paint the picture of a happy family, that’s not what you got. What you do have is a pathological dynamic.

Discussion about family fantasizing stirs up many people who want to remain in the fantasy.

Loneliness is subjective. You’re with them but you are STILL lonely because pathology doesn’t pay attention to anything other than itself.

One of my brilliant proteges, Carol, has SOOOO understood the issue about pathology, personality disorders and the lies you tend to tell yourself —wrote me this brilliant analogy of people who don’t want to ‘get it.’ She is speaking for the people who get offended when you discuss ending the relationship or when the newsletter hits them hard on some aspect of their denial. (read this with some sarcasm….)

“I am offended that someone shed the light on psychopathy in the newsletter. I am offended that I might be set free from my psychopath.  I am happy and joyous to be in the secret and dark world of my psychopath. I am happy to unsubscribe from the very  thing that might set me free from my soul destroying psychopath. I am happy to continue on the path through hell with my charming psychopath. I enjoy my time more when I spend it with a pathological.”

This ’emotional obsession interruptus’ as I like to call it, is a re-framing technique that works incredibly well when said out loud. Repeat Carol’s often…but say it OUT LOUD and not merely just read silently.

Fantasizing normal family life is nothing new. The truth is people want healthy families. They want what they see others have– enjoyable and meaningful relationships. Then they try to reproduce that with their own families who may not have the same capacity for normality. Pathological people have challenges that interrupt their ability to sustain the consistent positive change you want them to make. ‘Wanting’ to have JUST ONE occasion in which everyone gets along,  there is no fighting, no one gets drunk or hits someone, or no one overtly insults others doesn’t mean that the pathologicals in your life have the ABILITY to give that to you.

Repetition compulsion is often re-enacted within relationships. This is repeating the same event over and over trying to get a different and satisfying outcome. This is sadly what we often see in Adult Children of Pathological Parents. At 43 they are STILL trying to have that ONE Christmas with a narcissistic mother or a borderline father so that a healing can take place in them.

Each year they start with the same hope that this year the parent, sibling or partner will do something kind and sweet or will ‘behave.’ They desperately feel like they need one restorative experience to heal their dysfunctional family memories. Repetition compulsion can leave adults trapped in this never ending desire for just one good experience but now, they have  pulled their own children into the same cycle creating an inter-generational experience of exposure to pathology. (Ever see the movie ‘Stuart Saves His Family?’)

While it is painful to face the reality that pathology is related to the inability to change, grow, or have insight about their own behavior, it is less painful than putting yourself and your children through another cycle of hope and despair.  Pathological parents, siblings, or partners can challenge you in ways that are kinder to yourself to just avoid.

What Everyone Needs to Know About How You Were Wounded and Why It’s Different – Transcript

This document is a transcript of The Institute’s teleseminar on “What Everyone Needs to Know.”

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The Pathological: The Child Prodigy-Savant–All Grown Up, Part II

Last week I started talking about this natural ability that pathologicals have when it comes to reading human behavior. Last newsletter we talked about how the child’s emotional developmental deficits actually spur them towards compensation in these areas by trying to hide their lack of a full emotional spectrum, lack of insight, and lack of ability to sustain emotional and behavioral changes.  They learn to compensate by studying human behavior and ‘mimicking and parroting’ when they want to fit in. But what about when they DON’T want to fit in, or when they become adults?

Erik Erikson studied human development and his theory says that there are ’emotional tasks’ that must occur before the next leap of growth can occur. These are building blocks of 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 ones 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 in the list) for the pathological– Bonding, Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Industry, Identity.  When these building blocks of character were being laid (and mislaid), holes in the soul develop 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 either feel inadequate or superior or 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 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 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 connected not with something positive but 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 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 lastly identity—are long tweaked into pathological dynamics. Oddly, the personality ‘age’ stops growing and you rarely see pathologicals emotionally 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.

Children and Stress: The New Science on Chronically Harsh and Conflict-ridden Households

You work and work to provide for your kids, and that puts you under a lot of stress. Job insecurity, maybe some mortgage problems, and other common afflictions of the times only increase the pressure. You find yourself taking it out on your family—the kids, your spouse, the cat, any unfortunate who gets in your way. When you’re home and not obsessively checking your e-mail, you lose your temper, you snap and yell and brood, you run alternately too hot (angry and aggressive, spoiling for a fight) and too cold (withdrawn and distant, a forbidding stone-face). You’ll admit that you’re hard to be around, but look, life is tough and you’re knocking yourself out without much in the way of thanks or respite to make enough money to feed and house the kids, and that’s what matters most, right?

Well, yes and no. Providing for children’s basic material needs is essential—it would be silly to argue otherwise. But a chronically harsh, conflict-ridden, chaotic household environment can do psychological damage and related physical damage that undercuts the good effects of whatever you’re doing to provide for children’s basic needs.

Read more at Slate Magazine…

Tips for a Healthier, Happier Holiday

  • Stop idealizing–you are who you are, it is what it is. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. In fact, everyone acts WORSE during the holidays. It is the peak of dysfunction. Accept yourself and others for who they are.
  • Don’t feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself you have choices and that the word ‘No’ is a complete sentence.
  • Take quiet time during the season or you’ll get run over by the sheer speed of the holidays. Pencil it in like you would any other appointment. Buy your own present now–some bubble bath and spend quality time with some bubbles by yourself. Light a candle, find 5 things to be grateful for. Repeat often.
  • Take same-sex friends to parties and don’t feel OBLIGATED to go with someone you don’t want to go with. People end up in the worse binds of going to parties with others and get stuck in relationships they don’t want to be in because of it. Find a few other friends who are willing to be ‘party partners’ during the holidays.
  • Give to others in need. The best way to get out of your own problems is to give to others whose problems exceed yours. Give to a charity, feed the homeless, buy toys for kids.
  • Find time for spiritual reflection. It’s the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a service, pray, meditate, reflect.
  • Pick ONE growth oriented issue you’d like to focus on for 2009 and begin cultivating it in your mind–look for resources you can use to kick start your own growth on January 1.
  • Plant joy–in your self, in your life and in others.

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 his wife 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 kidnaping, and the children 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. 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, as I described in my Spring 1998 newsletter. 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.


William A. (”Bill”) Eddy is co-founder and president of High Conflict Institute, LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

He is the author of several books, including “High Conflict People in Legal Disputes” (Janis Publications, 2006), and “Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist (Eggshells Press, 2004). Bill has become an international speaker on the subject of high-conflict personalities, providing seminars to attorneys, mediators, collaborative law professionals, judges, ombudspersons and others.

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

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

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 3

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

How Family Court Fits Personality Disorders

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 own 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.


William A. (”Bill”) Eddy is co-founder and president of High Conflict Institute, LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

He is the author of several books, including “High Conflict People in Legal Disputes” (Janis Publications, 2006), and “Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist (Eggshells Press, 2004). Bill has become an international speaker on the subject of high-conflict personalities, providing seminars to attorneys, mediators, collaborative law professionals, judges, ombudspersons and others.

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

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