Reality and Suffering

Much of your intrusive thoughts, your obsession with him/relationship, your cognitive conflict known as dissonance, and many other symptoms as well are stemming from one major issue:

The inability to accept what he is, how he is, and what this means about your relationship.

This level of resistance isn’t always conscious. Some of it may seep out and drift up into your awareness where you notice yourself fluctuating between “He is pathological, I don’t want him to be pathological, he isn’t pathological.”

This cognitive conflict between your three different beliefs about whether he is pathological takes the form of:
•    How you think you SHOULD feel about him/this situation, and
•    How you react/behave with this situation.

Each one of these beliefs:
•    He is Pathological
•    I don’t want him to be Pathological
•    He isn’t Pathological
have their own individual lives in your brain. We sometimes call this ‘Monkey Mind’- each belief jumping around and back and forth and swinging from the branches of your brain until you can no longer concentrate.

You are not entertaining just one thought/conflict – you are entertaining at least three! And each of these have subpoints below each one producing MANY thoughts.

These three conflicting beliefs, thoughts, and wishes fill up probably 95% of your thinking patterns which leaves almost no time to:
•    Resolve it
•    Work on it
•    Rest
•    Work, or
•    Find peace

In the past, I had the great privilege of working with a woman who came here from the Netherlands. Her intrusive thoughts had disabled her ability to work and enjoy her child. Within the four days she was here, we were able to harness her mind and free her from much of the distress of this invasive life-stealing mechanism.

At the heart of almost all major religions is the teaching (in different terms and lingo) about suffering. Intrusive thoughts and cognitive dissonance are the # 1 and # 2 distressing symptoms you complain about most. This level of ‘suffering’, as are many other types and reasons for suffering, stems from the inability to let our defense systems down (this is why they are called defense) and accept life as life is and stop defending against it.

Our defense mechanisms are designed to shield us from pain. But at some point, defense mechanisms can be over used and end up harming us by keeping too much of the pain (which could teach us) away from us. Pain 101 is often a good, and sometimes the only, motivator for change.

When our defense systems have become so elaborate, the pain that could help us face reality can’t even get to us to teach us and show us the way. Suffering then continues because we have not found a way to help ourselves embrace reality so that the reality can bring acceptance and the acceptance can stop the intrusive thoughts.

Our elaborate defense mechanism is very invested in proving he is not pathological and keeping the relationship going. That way, you are not alone, you get what you want, you prove others wrong, and you can fulfill the fantasy in your head about how the relationship ‘should’ or ‘could’ be.

To end suffering, we must accept what we are keeping away from our heart –the Truth and Reality – or whatever you want to call it. All major religions have a cure for suffering – but it’s all the same – accepting the who, what, where, when, and why. Some religions call it Light, Truth, Enlightenment…the words that are all related to accepting reality.

That would mean our first belief system listed above:
He is Pathological
might have to be accepted and the other two belief systems after that, would have to be dropped. Everything in your being would have to embrace the pain and the reality that he is, in fact, now and forever, pathological.

Acceptance is so critical to accepting reality, truth, and what is… And the opposite ‘non-acceptance’ is so dangerous that every 12 Step group ends their meeting with a prayer about acceptance knowing its importance in the ability to recover and heal. The 12 Steps remind us that in order to heal we must ‘Take life on life’s terms.’ That means, we must accept what is really happening in our lives, to our lives, and through our lives. In your case, that means accepting what his pathology is doing to you.

I have penned our own 12 Step Prayer to remind us about accepting who and what he is, and stopping the intrusive thought that is nothing but trying to bury the truth under some new image we come up with.

Serenity Prayer for Pathological Relationships
•    Lord, help me to accept the pathology and the things in him and this relationship that I cannot change;
•    To change the things I can in my own life that will help me leave, heal, and recover since he cannot change;
•    And the wisdom to know the difference between who can change and who can never change, and what I can do now for myself.
AMEN

The Pathological, Part 2: The Child-Prodigy Savant—All Grown Up

Last week I wrote about this natural ability that pathologicals have when it comes to reading human behavior and about how the child’s emotional developmental deficits actually spur him toward compensation in these areas by trying to hide his lack of a full emotional spectrum, lack of insight, and lack of ability to sustain emotional and behavioral changes. He learns to compensate by studying human behavior and ‘mimicking and parroting’ when he wants to fit in. But what about when he DOESN’T want to fit in, or when he becomes an adult?

Erik Erikson studied human development and his theory is that there are ‘emotional tasks’ that must occur before the next leap of growth can occur. These are building blocks of the emotional structure of development.

The first task as a baby is to bond. After that come the tasks, in this order, that must occur to be a healthy and normal person:

  • Trust builds on bonding
  • Autonomy (or independence) builds on trust
  • Initiative (or leadership) builds on autonomy
    Industry (or pride in one’s accomplishments) builds on initiative
  • Identity builds on industry, etc.

There are more developmental aspects all the way through old age. But these give us something to look at—all the aspects of emotional development that must occur (and did not occur somewhere along the way) for the pathological—Bonding, Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Industry, Identity. When these building blocks of character were being laid (and mislaid), holes in the soul developed around those building blocks that were not laid.

Instead of learning trust, they learn to con other people’s trust and yet mistrust everyone. Instead of learning independence they are either horribly dependent and parasitic, or aloof and not the least bit interdependent within relationships. Instead of initiative (or leadership), they feel either inadequate or superior and con others, and the only place they lead others is astray. Instead of industry and finding meaning and pride in their accomplishments, they see their accomplishments as being highly connected to the ability to superbly manipulate and con others. Their pride about their abilities is more related to the ability to manipulate than it is to any other abilities they may have.

Instead of a healthy self-identity, their identity is highly connected now to their choices. Since many of them are delinquent and deviant, their identity is not connected with something positive but, rather, with their darkest character flaws.

All of these developmental tasks that should be completed—bonding, trust, independence, initiative, industry, and identity—are the building blocks established by the teen years. We can easily see how and why their adult years are filled with problems and anguishing relationships. If you don’t bond, trust, have interdependent relationships, your idea of accomplishment is conning, and your identity is linked to your bad character—THERE ISN’T MUCH TO WORK WITH!

Pathologicals have difficult adulthoods AND they make everyone else’s adulthoods difficult too. The child prodigy studying what works with humans is largely squeezed down to ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me). Studying others to fit in gets replaced by the adult skills of conning, manipulation, lying, embezzlement, and other ‘honed arts’. By the time the emotional development of the teen years have hit, the bonding, trust, interdependence, accomplishments and identity are long tweaked into pathological dynamics. Oddly, the personality ‘age’ stops growing. Rarely do pathologicals emotionally grow to be older than 14 but the behaviors get tweaked up a notch to adult skills of adept conning.

What was once a science project of “Why am I different” as a child becomes “Cool, I’ll use it against them” as an adult. The child prodigy who studied human behavior so well is the relationship idiot-savant. It just takes women a while to figure out that what he espouses in the beginning isn’t really what he’s all about. What didn’t happen in his emotional development will ruin their relationship and her, personally.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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

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

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

Deficits = Disorders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Adult Children of Abusive Parents—When Parents are Pathological

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were you a parent-ified child?

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

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

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

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

Do you have any of the following symptoms of compliance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Addictive Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Real Love, Not Just Real Attraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).

Happiness vs. Joy, Part 2: Dangerous Liaisons

Last week I began talking about the issue of happiness, and how happiness is hinged on external conditions such as relationships, things, careers, stuff. … Our happiness is largely conditional based on “if things go the way we think they should go” or “if people act the way we think they should act.”

This leaves a lot of our own happiness tied to someone else’s shirt-tails and when he leaves, your happiness goes right out the door with him.

Last week I related some fun stories about my mom and her concepts of happiness. What I talked about regarding my mom was her JOY which was far different than her happiness. She wasn’t always happy. My father was murdered. That certainly did not bring happiness. Her second husband stole her life savings and was a sociopath. No happiness there. Her last “main squeeze” in her life died of prostrate cancer—a lot of sadness there. Yet, my mother was unusually “joyful.”

Joy has to do with the quality of US, not them. It’s a ME factor, not a him, or them, factor. Happiness may be external but joy is internal, and, in many ways, eternal. It emanates from within us, and can exist even when the external circumstances of our lives “suck.”

Joy can be infectious and can touch others when how we are has nothing to do with who we are with. It’s a barometer reading of how we are doing with ourselves and in our own spiritual development. It reminds us of how we are doing with managing our own outlook, optimism, and future. We may not have control over what he’s doing, who he’s doing, or how he’s doing, but we do have control over how we choose to see our circumstances. This is the essence of internal joy—managing your worldview from the inside instead of taking your emotional temperature based on how well he’s behaving. How I am, or how my joy is, can’t be taken by a thermometer from his mouth. It has to be taken from our internal and eternal well-being.

When you are finally able to shift your focus of where and how joy is created, it is a mind-blowing change because you no longer hold tight to the reins of external control—“I’ll be happy when someone else does _________.” You are able to refocus on finding joy in your life, just the way it is, with yourself and all your warts.  In fact, over the past couple years I wrote about this regarding Viktor Frankel, a Jewish psychiatrist, who went through the Holocaust and developed what is now called Existential Psychology which is finding meaning in pain AND taking control of how you see what you have lived through.

If all pain is bad, then there is no gift in it. If there is no gift, there is no learning. If there is no learning, there is no opportunity to transform it. If you can’t transform it, you are its victim.

Joy comes from the right perspective when we tweak how we see ourselves, our lives, and the lessons of our lives. When life is a spiritual walk, not just a relationship destination, we are able to see the lessons as part of the journey and the OPTION of having joy even in the midst of an unplanned disaster like a pathological relationship. Joy is like a new eyeglass prescription—it clears up and crisps up how we see who we are on this journey and path of life even while in pain.

Your pain does not have to define you. That’s your choice. You are more than your pain. And so is your life!

Joy -VS- Happiness, Part 1

You were out looking for a little happiness when you stumbled upon Dr. Jekyll, as he was appearing wonderful and considerate. Strangely, before you knew it, evil Mr. Hyde was instead dismantling anything that resembled happiness, and leaving destruction and despair in its wake.

Despair is a long way from the happiness you were initially seeking. How did you get from mere happiness-seeking to a totally despairing life? How can you embrace the happiness that you set out to find?

It might not even be “happiness,” per se, that you were initially seeking. You might have been looking for someone who was introspective, spiritual and existential.  But you tell me …

Happiness is external. It’s based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone. Happiness is linked to “some day when I meet the right guy” or “when he starts changing and acting right,” or “when he goes to counseling”.

Happiness is future-oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else’s basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the result is your happiness. These expectations can be seen especially during the holidays when whether or not you have a Merry Christmas or a happy holiday depends on whether or not he is with you, shows up, isn’t drunk, isn’t cheating, or a list of other behaviors you expect for a happy holiday experience. Unfortunately, pathology rarely obliges in that way. So when the relationship falls through, or he isn’t wonderful at Christmas, or you kick him out, or he cheats again, or he runs off with your money, or he was a con artist … then your holidays were not happy and your happiness was crushed.

Unhappiness is the result. It’s a typical and inevitable result in pathological love relationships. After all, it’s the only way it CAN turn out. There are no happy endings to pathological relationships. After Christmas and New Year’s, he will still be pathological and you will still have the same problems you had in November. You notice that The Institute has not written a book called, “How to Have a Happy Relationship With a Pathological”.

Chronic unhappiness leads to despair and depression. Remember the emotional rollercoaster you rode with him? You were happy when he was good and miserable when he was bad. You were hypnotically lulled into happy-land when you were with him and in intrusive thought-hell when you weren’t. Your happiness was hitched to his rear end. When he was around (and behaving) you were happy. When he wasn’t, your happiness followed his rear end right out the door and you were left obsessing, wondering, and pacing.

Happiness is what you feel when he says the “right romantic stuff”, buys you a ring or moves in. But happiness is not joy because joy is not external; it can’t be bought and it is not conditional on someone else’s behavior.  In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. You don’t have to have him for the holidays to have joy. Likewise, you don’t have to get revenge, snoop out his shortcomings, tell the new girlfriend the truth, or anything else in order to have joy. You can lose in court with him, already have lost your life savings to him, watch him out with a new woman, or live out of the back of your car and still have joy.

You’re probably thinking, “Sure you can have joy in those circumstances if you are Mother Teresa!” Joy is almost a mystery, isn’t it? It’s a spiritual quality that is internal. My mother, Joyce, had a lot of joy, and I learned from watching her joy. Her pathological man ran off with her life savings, forcing her to work well past retirement. It forced her to live simply, so she moved to a one-room beach shack and drove a motorcycle. For cheap entertainment, she walked the beach and painted nudes. She drank cheap grocery-store wine that came in a box, bought her clothes from thrift shops, and made beach totes from crocheting plastic grocery bags together. She recycled long before it was hip to do it. But what she recycled most and best was pain … into joy.

Instead of looking externally for yet another relationship to remove the sting of the last one, or to conquer the boredom she might feel at being alone, she cultivated internal and deep abiding joy. It was both an enigma and a privilege to watch this magnificent life emerge from the ashes of great betrayal.

I use her a lot as an example of someone who went ahead and got a great life. She turned this rotten deal into an exquisite piece of art called her life. Anyone who spoke of my mother spoke MOST of her radiant joy. She had the “IT” factor long before it was even called “IT.” Women flocked to her to ask, “How did you do it? How did you shed the despair and bitterness of what he did and grow into this? THIS bright, shining, joyful person? What is your secret?”

Somewhere along that rocky path of broken relationships with pathological men, she learned that happiness is fleeting if it’s tied to a man’s shirt-tails. She watched too many of the shirt-tails walk out the door with her happiness tied to his butt. In order to find the peacefulness that resides inside, she had to learn what was happiness and what was joy.

The transitory things of life are happiness-based. She had a big house and lost a big house when she divorced my father. She had a big career and lost a big career when, according to our culture, she got “too old” to have the kind of job she had. She had diamonds and lost diamonds.

So she entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away “stuff” left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away, there is a stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. During this holiday season, this is a great concept to contemplate.

Joyce’s joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs, but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, what you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It’s not rocked by anything.

It wasn’t rocked for Joyce as she lay dying some years ago in the most peaceful arms of grace—a blissful state of quiet surrender and anticipation. Those who were witness to her death still tell me that her death brought new understanding to them about the issue of real joy. Joy in all things … the death of a dream, the death of relationship, or the death of a body. Joy from within, stripped down, naked and beautiful.

Follow Joyce’s lead – untie your happiness from the ends of his shirt-tails …

Merry Christmas and peace to you in this season of peaceful opportunities!

Testing the Edge

Women who end up in dangerous and pathological relationships often end up there because they like (or find interesting) “living on the edge.” They don’t like their boring lives, and that extends to liking men who are edgy as well. No boring normal geek men—Nope! The more the edge/bad boy/outlaw/rebel (or the more you perceive they need some support to keep an honest life afloat) the more you like them.

This “edge-walking” landed you right in the lap of a dangerous and pathological man. In the beginning, edgy seems neutral—it’s too early to know that his edginess is going to cost you. All you know is he’s a long way from boring and that’s okay with you. It is long time before you know that his “edge”:

  • Is emotionally addicting for you
  • Is narcissism (or worse!)
  • Is about rejecting authority
  • Is all about him
  • Isn’t the cool “James Dean” type of edge
  • Isn’t artsy, educational, intellectual, musical, poetic or religious
  • Isn’t about riding fast in his convertible, or having daring sex or making risky financial investments
  • Isn’t about you or your own enjoyment of everything edgy
  • Isn’t about his party lifestyle or his commanding presence when others are around
  • Isn’t about sad stories he told about his life to use as emotional bonding with you

And it’s a long time before you realize his “edge”:

  • Consumes your self-esteem for lunch
  • Doesn’t make YOU cool for being with him
  • Doesn’t mean you are an “in” girl to love someone like him
  • Didn’t mean you were supposed to “tame” a bad boy or “heal” a wounded one
  • Can’t be fixed, counseled, medicated, or churched
  • Can’t be loved into something less savage and more soothing
  • Was really just a trail of wounded women behind him
  • Was unrelenting lying, broken promises, and changes he could never make, no matter how long he promised or how hard he tried
  • Was not really brilliance unrecognized, charm unspoiled, or love unrequited
  • Was one thing … and one thing only …

His edge was pathology.

Intense Attachments- Why is this dangerous guy so hard to leave?

Women in these relationships and their family members who watch her relationship dynamics all wonder about **why** this dangerous guy is so hard to leave. While all the people around her have the easy and rational answers of how and why she should leave, the disengagement and detachment is harder with pathological persons than anyone else.

No one knows this better than her. At the heart of the attachment is the intensity of bonding produced in a relationship that has an ’emotional vortex’ pull. Much like magnets pointed towards each other, the draw and pull and staying power of pathologicals is not like other relationship dynamics. As we study these particular attachments we see that there are unusual qualities to the relationships that even the women can’t define or adequately describe. This includes the dichotomous thinking often seen in ‘mind control,’ the hypnotic engagement often seen in trauma, and the betrayal bonding often seen in sexual addiction. Combined, this power cocktail renders her not only entranced by paralyzed from action.

Normal motivations do not motivate her. Not her current roller-coaster mental health, her other family relationships, her declining health, her children, her job or any other force that would usually rally her to her own self care. No wonder people who care about her are baffled that a high functioning, bright, proactive woman has been reduced to a an hour a week at the counselor’s office has done little to unwedge her from this super-glued relationship. It hasn’t recognized the hypnotic en-trancement, the growing PTSD symptoms, the cognitive loops and entrenched dichotomous thinking. It hasn’t unveiled the death grip that pathologicals can have on a squirming victim. Or the mind control that sucks the willpower and brain function from her.

Physically and emotionally exhausted from the too-many-go-rounds with him, there isn’t enough left of her to fight her way out or even think her way out. Many women now suffer from Chronic Fatigue from the wearing process with the pathological. Without the emotional resources and physical strength, her lethargy just ‘allows’ the relationship to roll like waves over the top of her. Without help or intervention, she is likely to have a complete physical break down including severe medical problems, sleep disruptions, mental confusion, panic attacks, anxiety, depression and more. Women have developed auto immune disease and cardiac problems in the middle of these acutely stressful relationships.

With all of their resources sapped and their concentration at a near record low, many have had to quit their jobs, have been fired, been in car accidents or sporting injuries because of the inability to concentrate. Taking an inventory of just ‘what it has cost her’ to be in a relationship with a pathological is often the first step towards education.

The disengagement process is a supported function often by counselors or The Institute in which education, acceptance of his diagnosis, self care re-initiation, and symptom management and then the full recovery process is necessary. Some need short term programs that help them kick start their own recovery such as our retreats or intensives with Sandra.

Many of the women have PTSD now from the exposure to the pathological. PTSD worsens without treatment, with added stress, and with time. Some where she has to find the counseling resources in order to return her to a life she used to know before the pathological. This includes finding support people, support groups, counseling, specific focused books and audios on the subject, and if needed, retreat or residential programs. If this describes your current situation, get what you need to heal now–to minimize the effects of the growing PTSD and the intrusive and ping ponging thoughts. Most of all, the intensity of attachment in order to be broken must first be understood. Healing the Aftermath of Pathological Love Relationships is a great tool for loosening the pathologicals emotional death grip.

Triggers and Knee-Jerk Reactions During the Holidays

The holidays are stressful under the best of situations. Add to it a dangerous and pathological relationship and you can have a prescription for guaranteed unhappiness.

The pathological relationship never lies dormant during the holidays. It’s an opportunity to recontact you—of course, “just to wish you a Merry Christmas.” If you haven’t already, do read The Institute’s materials regarding our “Starve the Vampire” teaching on No Contact! He has a million hooks he will use to get you back in … here’s one— Christmas!

A text message of Happy Holidays is not good cheer. It’s a hook.  A Christmas card is not a mass card to everyone—it is a targeted approach for you. A gift left on your door step isn’t a thoughtful gift—it’s a manipulation because being the good-mannered girl you are, you’ll call and thank him, and then he’ll have you on the phone … and it all goes downhill from there.

Then there’s the mistletoe, and the date for New Year’s Eve, and the gift he left for your child or your parents … The holidays are one BIG OP-POR-TU-NI-TY for Mr. Opportunistic.

The No Contact rule still applies and he’ll be testing your boundaries to see if it applies during the holidays. If it DOESN’T apply and you responded to him or sent him a text/card/call, you have just taught him where your loophole is. You also said something very LOUD to him. You just screamed in his ear, “I’m lonely! Come snuggle with me.” And you know what he’s thinking—“You don’t have to ask TWICE!”

Ladies, Christmas is ONE day of the year that is laced with a lot of triggering memories. Maybe from childhood where you believe, “miracles happen on Christmas” or “everyone should be together then,” or the sights, smells, and memories of past Christmases with him are rehashing in your mind. Don’t stay stuck in that “airbrushed Christmas memory”—how about you pull out your memory list from the other 363 days of the year and how he behaved then? One night with the twinkle of Christmas tree lights and a ribbon on a gift doesn’t make a pathological man stable!

Get out of the fantasy.  Christmas has a way of hypnotizing women into the fantasy of his positive behavior and his lack of pathology. Nothing changed because we hit Christmas season. It’s just a BIGGER opportunity for him to hook you.

If you’re still with the pathological person, they can be very sabotaging at this time of year, wanting to strip away every little piece of joy you could get from the season. They get drunk, pick fights, say mean things to your family, yell at the kids, and don’t participate.

Don’t react. Have a great Christmas while he wallows around in that puddle of pathology.
You know one of the things we found out in our research? You ladies tested unbelievably high in “sentimentality.” What are the holidays all about? SENTIMENT! If your sentiment is on caffeine, what do you think it will do? Be restrained or have a knee-jerk reaction because all that sentiment is coursing through your veins?

One slip-up now could cost you a year of trying to get rid of him again. Call a support person and tell them you VOW to them not to have contact this season. Then make plans to fill up your time so it’s not even a possibility.

I have “lectured” our readers about loneliness because this four-inch stack on research sitting on my desk that you ladies filled out, tells me that you lapse and lapse and lapse again when you feel lonely. Holidays induce loneliness. Plan ahead and safeguard. “I was lonely” is not an excuse for starting something that will once again destroy your life!
Instead, do something wonderful with your kids. Get outside, take a walk, go to a movie with friends, do some scrapbooking, get some of our books to read, go to a nursing home and visit someone! Sit in a chapel alone and count blessings, walk your dog more, go to the gym! Do anything except have a knee-jerk reaction to your excessive sentimentality gene!!