Genetic and Neuro-Physiological Basis for Hyper-Empathy

I heard a universal ‘sigh of relief’ go out around the world as women read the title of this article.  Don’t you feel better knowing there really IS some science backing the whole issue of having way too much empathy?

When we began writing about women who love psychopaths, anti-socials, sociopaths and narcissists, we already ‘assumed’ that maybe you did have too much empathy (as well as other elevated temperament traits).  We just didn’t know how much, or why.  When we began the actual testing for the research of the book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’, we learned just ‘how much’ empathy you had.

Do I need to tell you?  WAY TOO MUCH!

By now you have probably already suspected that your super-high empathy is what got you in trouble in this pathological relationship.  But, did you know there is hard science behind what we suspected about what is going on in your relationship with your super-trait of high empathy?  It really IS all in your head – and your genes.

In fact, these genes influence the production of various brain chemicals that can influence just ‘how much’ empathy you have.  These brain chemicals include those that influence orgasm, and it’s effect on how bonded you feel, while also influencing some aspects of mental health (No, no!  That is not a good mix!).

Other brain chemicals influence how much innate and learned fear you have.  However, females don’t seem to assess threats well, and the chemicals then increase her social interactions while at the same time she is not assessing fear and threats well (This is not a good thing!!).

One of the final chemical effects delays your reflexes (like not getting out of the relationship), and also impacts your short and long term memory (how you easily store good memories that are very strong, and how you store bad memories which are easily forgotten).  And, since it is genetic, it can run in entire families that produce ‘gullible’ and ‘trusting’ individuals who seem to just keep getting hurt.

Of course, the reverse is also true.  Genes can influence the absence of various brain chemicals that influence ‘how little’ empathy a person has.  We already know in great detail how this affects those with personality disorders.  Personality disordered people (especially Cluster B disorders) struggle with not experiencing, or not having any empathy.

Over the past few years, the magazine has been writing about various aspects of personality disorder and the brain.  This has included the issue of brain imaging.  What we are finding out is how brain structure and chemicals can affect personality, empathy, behavior, and consequently, the behavior in relationships.  As advances are made in the field of neurobiology, we are learning more and more of what The Institute has always believed – that there is a lot of biology behind personality development issues such as personality disorders.  Genetics and neurobiology are proving that behavior associated with narcissism, borderline, anti-social personality disorders, along with psychopathy has as much to do with brain wiring and chemistry as it does with behavioral intent.

The Institute has long said to survivors that personality disorders are not merely willful behavior, but brain deficits that control how much empathy, compassion, conscience, guilt, insight, and change a person is capable.  Autism and personality disorders share a common thread as ’empathy spectrum disorders’ now being studied extensively within the field of neuroscience.  But, in some opposite ways, the women also share a common thread of an empathy disorder – hyper-empathy.  We are coming to understand that hyper-empathy has much to do with her innate temperament (you come into the world wired with the personality you have), genetic predispositions to high or low empathy, and brain chemistry configurations that contribute to levels of empathy. The old thinking which assumes women with high empathy are merely ‘door mats’ is not scientifically correct when looking at current studies.

Neuroscience, with all its awesome information, has the dynamic power to blow us all out of the murky waters of assuming that our behavior is merely a reflection of our will.  As neuroscience graces our minds with new understanding of how our brains work, it brings with it incredible freedom to understand our own traits, and the pathological traits of others.

For a mind blowing book on the genetic and neurobiology of not only personality disorders, but ‘evil’ as well, read Barbara Oakley’s book, Evil Genes, or her latest book on hyper-empathy entitled, Cold-Blooded Kindness.

Fantasy and Its’ Effect on Your Reality

by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

Women who are in relationships with pathologicals test very high in the trait of ‘fantasy.’ Fantasy is not just merely wishful thinking. Fantasy has other components in it that affects your here and now life.

Fantasy is often associated with the future and in some ways the past. Here’s how… women often stay in pathological relationships because they feel panic or fear of abandonment when she or the pathological tries to end the relationship. She ends up re-contacting or allowing re-contact because of these feelings of fear/panic/abandonment.

Abandonment is an early childhood feeling. As adults we are not technically capable of being abandoned (unless you are for instance medically dependent.) The reason we aren’t capable of being abandoned as adults is that as mentally healthy adults, we really can’t be abandoned in the childhood sense. That feeling is an early childhood feeling usually associated with a time of adult or parental abandonment. It is an age-regression feeling–something that pulls you back to your childhood or a very young emotional state.

The feeling of ‘ending’ a male relationship often subconsciously sets off childhood feelings of abandonment. These are past associations and it taps into fantasy that it is happening all over again when it really isn’t. The previous male in your life who did abandon you as a child (for instance) is not the same thing as a pathological leaving your adult life.

But inside, internally, the child feeling is so strong that it feels like a ‘hole in the soul.’ The fantasy of THIS being the same as THAT takes hold and your panic makes you go back or allow him back in.

Fantasy is also future oriented. Fairy tales are fantasy and are based on “Once upon a time….and happily ever after” which is all the good stuff that ‘might’ happen in the future. Women stay in relationships with pathologicals based on a lot of ‘fantasy future betting’ — that is:
•    he might stop acting pathological
•    he might marry me
•    he might stop cheating
•    he might tell the truth
Fantasy betting is a lot like gambling…betting on a future that is not likely to happen with a pathological.

Why? Because pathology is the inability to change and sustain change, grow in any meaningful way, and the inability to for him to see how his behavior negatively affects others.

But women also stay in pathological relationships based on ‘projected fantasies’ that is, she fantasizes he will be happy with the NEXT woman and she will get all his good traits and none of his bad. This too is fantasy….that his pathology somehow will not affect HER the way it affects you. (You can’t turn pathology on and off like a light switch!)

Here’s some info: Pathology Affects EVERYONE the SAME!! (Unless she’s pathological as well–then who cares if he goes on to have a relationship worthy of a Jerry Springer Show?).
•    Women fantasize that this ‘abandonment’ feeling will affect her the way the childhood abandonment did. (And it will not–just as an FYI for you).
•    Women fantasize that he will be different with them. If he is truly pathological he is hard-wired. This IS his DNA.
•    Women fantasize that he will be happy in the future and she is missing out on something. If he is truly pathological, his patterns don’t change.
Fantasy is not the here and now. It’s not being present in the real life that is happening around you in this moment. It’s ‘out there somewhere’ kind of thinking. Come back to what’s real right now. List the 5 most real points about him right here:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Now stand back, step out of the childhood feelings, and look at the list with adult eyes. You can’t be abandoned as an adult because where ever you go, there you are and you are all you need as an adult. You don’t have dependency needs as an adult like you did as a child. To be abandoned is to be dependent on the one who is abandoning. Adults are not dependent.

Your real life is going on right NOW while you are in your head about his drama and the pathological intrigue. You are MISSING your real life that is happening right now! Drama, obsession and intrusive thoughts are usually about fantasy–the past or the future. It sure isn’t about this present moment and what’s happening right now. Such as, you might be ignoring:
•    your own health
•    your own self-care and happiness
•    maybe that of your children and friends
…because of how much time you spend in fantasy. Fantasy is telling you ‘just a little longer and he’ll get it and then I’ll have the life I really want.’

Your life is right now–not back there and not up there in the future.

 

Women Who Love Psychopaths E-book

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Who Does That? Part One

Part of our goal at The Institute is not only to help survivors heal from the aftermath of a PLR (Pathological Love Relationship), but it is also to help prevent future relationships with pathologicals. In prevention, The Institute helps survivors to spot overt, glaring pathology. The overt pathology is easy to identify.
•    Few would argue that mothers who drown their children like Susan Smith or Andrea Yates aren’t terribly disordered.
•    Those that shoot people they don’t know, or commit a drive by shooting like the Beltway Snipers Muhammad and Malvo in the Washington D.C. and Virginia areas, clearly have pathological motives.
•    Those that sexually abuse children and then hide the sexual offenders like the Catholic Church, are the face of evil.
•    Horrendous hate crimes that torture hundreds, thousands, or millions of people – like war crimes or the Holocaust – are easy to figure that severe pathology is behind the motivation of that type of hate.
•    The deranged that break into homes to beat the elderly for money like Phillip Garrett, who terrorized those in assisted living facilities, have a notable bent of sheer brutality.
•    Terrorists who commit the taking of hostages and inflict psychological torture like the infamous Stockholm Bank Robbery (resulting in the term Stockholm Syndrome) are identifiable as probable psychopaths.
•    The rapist who preys on the vulnerable, or the type of rapist who rapes a wife in front of her own husband is overtly vile.
•    The violent anti-socials that are frequent gang members or thugs like James Manley, who murdered my father.
•    Serial killers like Ted Bundy who raped and killed at least 36 women, leave no doubt that he was the worst of the worst psychopaths.
•    The ordering of killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child like schizophrenic/psychopathic Charlie Manson makes our blood run cold.
•    Cult leaders who usher hundreds to death like Jim Jones, remind us of the power and persuasion of pathology.
•    Chronic re-offending domestic violence abusers like O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson convince us that all DV is not treatable, and some abuser brutality increases with each crime and are obviously disordered.
•    The babbling grandiosity of narcissism, as seen in Charlie Sheen, reminds us that even the rich and famous carry and display their pack of pathology for all to see.
•    The robbing of millions of dollars from thousands of people like Bernie Madoff, reminds us that not all pathology is physically violent – some do it with panache, and a tie on.

These forms of pathology are recognizable by most of society and many would agree that these people are horribly disordered, and probably dangerous for life.

But being able to spot pathology in less overt and even frequently hid, yet equally as damaging acts, is where most of us fall short—even professionals in the criminal justice and mental health systems. It’s also where survivors of PLR’s are likely to trip up, yet again, since the ‘types’ of behaviors pathologicals perpetrate can vary causing confusion to the unsuspecting, highly tolerant, and emotionally understanding survivor.

Low empathy is at the core of a cluster of pathological disorders that correlates to ‘inevitable harm’ when it crosses the paths of others.  Low empathy has its roots in reduced conscience, remorse, and guilt. Without empathy, pathologicals find pleasure in harming others. While they might not cackle aloud in public when a dog is hit by a car, they no less live in the shadows of enjoying the physical or emotional destruction of others.Sadistic – absolutely, but often it’s sadistic behind closed doors, or as sheltered reputations behind factitious names, or online identities.

Why aren’t these pathological disorders better identified? That is the million dollar question since the main judicial, social, and mental systems of our society deal with this particular cluster of pathological disorders day in and day out. Why are they actively dealing with Cluster B’s?  Because these disorders represent the majority of white and blue-collar crimes that cataclysmically smash in our lives even if they are never identified as crimes.  The reason society has not cohesively named this cluster of disorders as the center of their focus, is each system has their own view of the ‘behavior’ associated with the pathological’s disorders.
•    Law enforcement calls them the bad guys (if they are even caught)
•    Mental health systems call them patients
•    Domestic violence organizations call them abusers
•    Batterer intervention programs call them perpetrators
•    Criminal defense attorneys call them clients
•    Sexual Assault centers call them rapists or sexual offenders
•    Financial structures call them swindlers
•    The online world calls them trolls
•    Victims call them predators
•    Children and adolescents call them cyber bullies
•    The swindled call them con artists
•    The judicial system calls them criminals (or not, if they are never identified)
•    The church calls them evil or unredeemed
•    The website owner calls them hackers
•    The defamed call them cyber stalkers
•    Parents call them pedophiles
•    Jails calls them inmates
•    Prison calls them high security risks
•    FBI calls them targets and terrorists
As each system deals with their own view of a specific act the person has done, we miss the wide broad category that these people fall under. We miss the bigger implication of what goes with that category. We miss the fact that those who fall under these pathological disorders have largely low, or no, positive treatment outcomes. Each system dealing with a behavior, only sees the person through their own behavioral specialty. Yet, we are all talking about the same disorders in action.

When we ask ‘WHO does that?’ we immediately become brothers and sisters in the same battle against pathology. We begin to see the ‘who’ within the act, the disorder that perpetrates these same acts, behaviors, or crimes. It’s the same sub-set of disorders that have different focuses but the same outcome: inevitable harm.

How convenient for pathologicals that each system is only focused on it’s identified behavior which helps the pathological continue to fly under the radar. Instead of seeing the big picture of pathological disorders in action, the systems are focused on the sub-directory of behaviors associated with their system, and one small aspect of the pathologicals destructive nature.

When teaching on Public Pathology, I always teach about the pathological disorders of Cluster B (Borderlines, Narcissists, Anti-socials, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths). No matter who hires me to speak, they all get the training on Cluster B.  I teach this to nurses, the military, to therapists (who seem to have forgotten), to the criminal justice system, to law enforcement, to judges, custody evaluators, prosecutors/lawyers, and mediators.  I teach it to clergy, addiction professionals, and social workers, to victim advocates, and DV programs.  I teach it to every frontline ‘system’ that is likely to be encountering various forms of behaviors that fall under the category of Cluster B, but are referred to within the systems own labeling vernacular.

All these systems have been dealing with the same disorder, with different faces, different statuses in life, different careers and titles, with money or no money, different crimes and different charges against them, different social service requests, different spiritual confessions, different storylines, different excuses, different projections of their behavior onto societal causations. But in the end, it’s the same disorder over and over again.

When I teach about Cluster B, I see the moment of ‘aha’ that comes across their faces when they recognize their own clients within this cluster of disorders. Learning the emotional, physical, psychological, behavioral, financial, sexual, and spiritual behaviors of these disorders quickly helps them to affirm ‘who’ does that. Looking across the room and seeing law enforcement, judges, therapists, and mediators all nodding in agreement rushes them into the center of reality that we are all dealing with the same disorder in our offices, court rooms, therapy offices, and pews. That, whether they are a defamer, cyber stalker, repeat domestic violence offender, a financial con artist, or a killer, we are still talking about the Cluster B of disorders.
•    When asking my audience of sexual offender therapists if any of the pedophiles AREN’T within Cluster B, no one disagrees.
•    When asking Batterer Intervention programs if the chronic repeaters aren’t Cluster B, no one balks.
•    When asking Forensic Computer professionals if trolls, cyber stalkers, defamers or bullies aren’t Cluster B, they readily affirm it.
•    Sexual Assault counselors don’t argue that rapists are largely Cluster B.
•    Judges don’t rush to defend that high conflict cases (those people who file case after case, as many as 60 times to court) aren’t Cluster B.
•    Mediators don’t disagree that those most likely to fail mediation are Cluster B.
•    Custody Evaluators affirm that those most likely to tamper with evidence, perpetrate parental alienation, and require supervised visitation are Cluster Bs.
•    Programs that deal with stalking can easily see that stalking is primarily a Cluster B occurrence.
•    Repeat criminals clogging up jail, probation, parole, and prison programs are often diagnosed within jail as having a Cluster B disorder.
•    Terrorists, school shooters, and bombers are easily identified as Cluster B.
•    Those who stay for years and years in counseling using up mental health resources without ever being able to sustain positive change are Cluster Bs (excluding here the chronic mental illness of schizophrenia or developmental disabilities).
•    Those prematurely discharged from military service are often Cluster B.
•    The over use and misuse of most major societal services and systems are related to Cluster B.
•    Some of the most brilliantly contrived inside trading crimes of the century has been planned and executed by Cluster Bs.
•    Are there many murderers that aren’t Cluster B?

WHO does that? If we take all the behaviors listed above (and often crimes from those behaviors), put them in an analyzer funnel, and watch the behaviors clink and clunk down the spiral DSM Identifier, it would spit them out in an Axis II file with Cluster B printed on the front.

Cluster B’s behaviors are generated out of a complex interweaving of emotional, developmental, neuro, biochemical, and even genetic abnormalities. Obviously, this is not a ‘simple’ disorder or there would be less ‘inevitable harm’ associated with everyone and everything they touch, and they would be cured or even managed consistently and well.

This complicated group of disorders single-handedly sets society on edge. It keeps us in court, in therapy, in prayer, in the lawyer’s office, in depression, in anxiety, on edge, on the offense, ready to off ourselves to simply be away from such menacing (yet often normal appearing) deviancy.

Who wreaks more emotional havoc than Cluster B’s?  Sixty million persons in the US alone are negatively impacted by someone else’s pathology. It drives people to therapy, to commit their own petty acts of revenge to avenge their own powerlessness, drives people to drink, to run away, to take their children and run, and sadly leads to uncountable amounts of suicides every year.

They single-handedly cause financial disruptions to the working class who are demoted, or go on disability because of scrambed-eggs for brains they now have due to too much Cluster B exposure.
It drives the legal market by keeping attorneys in business through never-ending court cases, child custody, and restraining orders.

It employs judges and prison systems. And keeps forensic computer and forensic accountants frantically busy.It funds domestic violence shelters, rape centers, and children’s therapy programs.Pathology is big business. It is what our large service systems in almost every field are driven by…the need to protect, defend, prosecute, or treat the effects of Cluster Bs.It employs threat assessment professionals to ward off stalkers and reputation defenders online programs to repair cyber attacks on people that Cluster B’s rarely even know.It employs social workers and halfway houses trying to get Cluster B’s ‘the help they need to turn their lives around.’

It drives the media of TV, radio, and talk shows. Who DO we think are often the persons on daytime TV and reality shows? Cluster B’s. WHO do the media often want to talk about in the celebrity world? The Cluster B’s. What kinds of crimes does the media flock to? The crimes often perpetrated by Cluster B’s.
It drives the medical field due to stress related disorders and diseases normal people develop as a reaction to the abnormal pathology of Cluster B.

Surely pharmacology is partially driven by medications for depression and anxiety perpetrated by the no-conscience disorders of Cluster B.It generates new products every year to track, expose and identify Cluster B’s who are hacking computers, sending viruses, or putting chips on phones and cars to invade others lives.

While clearly pathology generates jobs for many, it is still the single most destructive group of disorders that exist.  And until all the major systems: judicial, legal, and mental health get on the same page about ‘Who’ does that, we will be stuck in this maze of pathologicals flying under the radar, undiagnosed, unrealized and wreaking havoc in millions of people’s lives.

Wake up Law Enforcement, Positive Psychology Therapists, Judges, Custody Evaluators, Mediators, DV Batterer Intervention, and Lawyers!  Who Does That?

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l spent a decade co-parenting with a person who shows many symptoms of  a pathologically disordered person.

It took me long years before I came across Sandra’s book “Women Who Love Psychopaths”, which, as the first book to specifically focus on the needs of the victims with disordered partners, I believe, literally saved my life and became the basis of my search for further information. Surprisingly, in academia l found no well researched psychological work on the cognitive, social and biological processes in connection with the victims of psychopaths. I feel that because of my own experience and background in psychology, it is my privilege and opportunity to help others by taking part in academic research on this neglected but important subject. I will be working closely with the Institute, as l believe Sandra’s 25 years of therapeutic work with victims of psychopaths is an excellent base from which to do academic research on this subject.

For the benefit of victims and researchers it is important that academic psychological research be carried out on victims of psychopaths. It is from research that Sandra believes the focused treatment model of care is further developed for survivors.

I have been accepted as a postgraduate psychology student to investigate the effects of having a close relationship with disordered partners.  This research which will support The Institute’s research initiatives can only be done with financial support. We can do it together, please donate to make it happen! Thank you.

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REAL LOVE NOT JUST REAL ATTRACTION

So many people confuse the feeling of ‘attraction’ with the emotion of love. For some who are in chronic dangerous and pathological relationships, it’s obvious that you have gotten these two elements ‘mixed up.’ Not being able to untangle these understandings 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 largely not only unconscious but also physical.  There is actually something called an ‘erotic imprint’ which is the unconscious part that guides our attraction. (I talked about this in the Dangerous Man book). Our erotic imprint is literally ‘imprinted’ in our psyches when we are young–at that age when you begin to notice and be attracted to the opposite sex. As I mentioned, this is largely an unconscious drive. For instance, I like stocky dark-haired men. When ever 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 or 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 characteristic. Other women may be attracted to athletic guys–not because of what sports do 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 discussed your own high traits of empathy, helpfulness and friendliness in Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Although these traits might guide our relationships 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. People, who have been abused, especially as children, can have unusual and destructive patterns of selection. While this may seem the opposite of what you would expect, these patterns are largely driven by unresolved trauma. People who were raised in alcoholic, dysfunctional, or abusive homes are likely to repeat those exact patterns in their selection of a partner. They often select individuals who have similar ‘characteristics’ to the abusive/neglectful/addicted adult they grew up with or were exposed to. The characteristics could be physical (how they look) or behavioral (how they act) or emotional (how they abuse/neglect).  In any event, the unresolved abuse issues drive them to keep selecting abusers for relationships. Today, they are mystified as to why they keep picking abusive/neglectful/addicted people for relationship partners. That which remains unresolved, revolves–around and around thru our lives until it is resolved.

So, when you have no idea that attraction (good, bad, or dysfunctional) is guiding your selections, you just keep picking the same way and getting the same thing. But because the world keeps using the word ‘love’ you use it, too. And you label your attraction-based-choices (that are largely dysfunctional) as ‘love’ and then become confused about the nature of this thing called ‘love.’ Your attraction is NOT love. It is merely attraction. What DOES or DOES NOT happen IN the relationship may be more reflective of ‘love’ than anything else.

Remember the Bible verse, “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not seek it’s own…”? it helps to reflect how love is ‘other centered’ not in a codependent and frantic needy way but in a way that helps others be interdependent in relationships. Love is often attributed to positive ‘attributes’ such as:

Joy – love smiling

Peace – love resting

Patience – love waiting

Kindness – love showing itself sensitive to others’ feelings

Goodness – love making allowances

Faithfulness – love proving constant

Gentleness – love yielding

Self-control – love triumphing over selfish inclinations

–Source Unknown

(Now, think about if ANY of those traits described the Pathological Love Relationship? I didn’t think so….)

“As long as we believe that someone else has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims” (From: Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls).

This Valentine’s Day be very clear with yourself about love and attraction. This is a time when you might be likely to want to recontact him. Let me remind you, NOTHING has changed. His pathology is still the same. And on February 15th you could hate yourself for recontacting him for one weak illusionary moment on Feb 14th–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, then 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, so 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!

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.

HEALTHY LOVE – WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT?

by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

Since Valentine’s Day was upon us, I thought it would be a great discussion about what happens in Pathological Love Relationships— that attraction is on over-drive while love (from a pathological) is lingo-bling.

But what about real love, healthy love? People write all the time and say ‘When are you going to write How to Spot a Healthy Partner because with as many bad relationships that I’ve been in, I can hardly tell the difference between what should be obviously toxic and what should be obviously healthy.’

The opposite of healthy love is what we often call ‘toxic’ love. Sometimes understanding what toxic ‘looks like’ helps us to see what real ‘love’ should look like too.

Here is a short list of the characteristics of Love vs. Toxic Love (compiled with the help of the work of Melody Beattie & Terence Gorski).

Love Toxic Love
Development of self is first priority Obsession with relationship
Room to grow, expand, desire for other to grow Security and comfort in sameness;
insensitivity of need seen as proof of love
(may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)
Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests
Encouragement of each other’s expanding; secure in own worth Preoccupation with other’s behavior; fear of other changing
Appropriate Trust (i.e. trusting partner to behave according to fundamental nature) Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition; protects “supply”
Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation
Embracing of each other’s individuality Trying to change other to own image
Relationship deals with all aspects of reality Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant
Self-care by both partners; emotional state not dependent on other’s mood Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other
Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go) Fusion (being obsessed with each other’s problems and feelings)
Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship Pressure around sex due to insecurity, fear & need for immediate gratification
Ability to enjoy being alone Unable to endure separation; clinging
Cycle of comfort and contentment Cycle of pain and despair

 

Love is not supposed to be painful. There is pain involved in any relationship but if it is painful most of the time then you are probably in a Pathological Love Relationship because the end result of these relationships is ‘Inevitable Harm.’  Let’s be clear that there is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship – it is natural and healthy. If we can start seeing relationships not as the goal but as opportunities for growth then we can start having more functional relationships. A relationship that ends is not a failure or a punishment – it is a lesson. And these lessons are mostly about pathology, its permanence, and the lives it affects without discrimination.

Why a Focused Recovery is Necessary-Beginning with a Completely Different Mind Set

Beginning 2013 in a Completely Different Mindset

 

Last week I began the New Year by talking about the issue of healing, recovery, and moving forward. In fact, all of January we are going to look at why starting 2013 ‘differently’ can help you move forward in recovering from the aftermath of a pathological love relationship.

 

The past few years at The Institute has been a tremendous time of development. (Don’t mind me as I wander down memory lane of all that has happened this year at The Institute….)

 

A mere two years ago the newsletter started. We now have nearly 35,000 subscribers each week. That created a snowball effect and the phone coaching began. More e-books were written. Then the CDs, mp3s, DVDs, and tele-seminars were created.

 

Research commenced and the Women Who Love Psychopaths book was written. The book is now in its 2nd edition. The retreat program started, we trained therapists and coaches, and started the Inpatient Treatment Center. Sandra began to do more keynote speaking at other organizations conferences including law schools and victim organizations.

 

All this development because of realizing how uniquely damaged you became at the hands of a pathological. All this research because of realizing there was really something to ‘the temperament’ of women who end up in pathological relationships. All this phone coaching, therapist training and retreat/treatment center creation because so few people ‘get it’ about you, him, and the mind-blowing relationship dynamics. For the FIRST time there really is a concrete program designed about you and in some ways, by you, and definitely for you.

 

The one thing that does stand out in the research and what I have been eye-balling closely about healing and recovery is that this level of damage by him is profound. If there were lots of ‘hims’ then it’s even more profound. What this does to you over the long haul is take some strong, fabulous women out of the game of life by destroying you.

 

Untreated symptoms, get worse. Symptoms that get worse effect your life functioning and your children. Worsened effects then contaminate your partner selection. And if you do get a healthy one, you don’t like him or you’re too messed up from the pathological relationship to be in a healthy relationship so he leaves.

 

Untreated symptoms make intrusive thoughts worse so obsessions increase. Friends abandon you because they are tired of hearing about the obsessions so you isolate.

 

Isolation makes you at risk of recontacting him and recontacting him lowers your coping skills.

 

As your coping skills drop your bad habits increase (drinking, medication over use, eating, hibernating).

 

As your coping skills lower your fantasizing increases ‘Maybe he ISN’T pathological’ “Maybe he WILL stop cheating, etc.’ and your minimizing begins ‘At least he …..’

 

More contact with him increases your Post Traumatic Stress symptoms of flashbacks, fear of the future, unbridled worry, depression,and insomnia.

 

Is any of this sounding familiar? There is a typical decompensation pattern that most of the women go through. Recovery can stop that decompensation and begin rebuilding your life.

 

By December 31 of this year (2013) how many of you will be in the same situation, with the same man, having the same symptoms?

 

On the other hand, how many of you will be ‘pathology free?’ — symptoms reduced,a new vigor for life, insight about how this happened and how to avoid it in the future?

 

How many of you will be less depressed and anxious, more active, lost weight, have more friends,have a better job, have happier children, got more self esteem so a better job or gone back to school, and have potential to have a healthy relationship…?

 

I’m not a resolution type person so I don’t make them but I AM an advocate for complete life changes. Not tiny habits, big overhauls. Let’s face it, if you have dated a narcissist or a psychopath, you NEED a big life overhaul. Something malfunctioned in your life that created this huge blind spot under which really sick people flew into your life, camped there, and overtly destroyed you. That’s not a little issue—take a look at the condition of your life and see if you think it was ‘little.’ Ask others if they think it was little.

 

2013 is going to be a great year here at The Institute–I can just feel it. We spent the last three years laying a solid ground work for super programming next year.

 

For the first time ever, everything is in place to heal for the women who have loved pathologicals. I believe we have covered all the bases with phone support (coaching and weekly support groups), in person coaching (retreats, 1:1s, and inpatient treatment), portable products (ebooks, books, DVDs, CDS) and community outreach through workshops in your area. We have removed the barriers to assistance by creating our program in as many formats as possible. I recently found out that the Dangerous Man book is now in almost every country of the world!

 

I hope in 2013 instead of being a mere name on our email list, you’ll be a very active part of The Institute beginning by working on your own healing. Then we hope you will run support groups in your community, give powerpoint presentations for other women in your area, or start an advocacy group. Instead of emailing me and telling me what ELSE I should be doing (I’m tired enough!), how about you step out and be the powerhouse in your own community?

 

How about you take it to the streets and pass it forward? How about you turn your life around so you can be a role model to other women?

 

All of this begins when you start healing yourself…and moving forward.

 

The truth is, there is only us to educate others. You don’t see a multi-million dollar ad campaign with billboards on the highways that announce how to spot pathological relationships do you? That’s because it doesn’t exist. Sadly, no one has funded a national campaign to warn and educate others. However, what exists is The Institute + You = Education For Others.

 

It’s you and me, babe!

 

As Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’

 

Join us in 2013 for Healing Your Heart! We’re here.

 

Finding Effective Help in 2013!

By now, if you have been trying to heal from a pathological love relationship and can’t find effective and knowledgeable counseling, you have probably figured out what we have…that the pathological love relationship is NOT widely understood.

Frustrated women hear unhelpful advice from family, friends, and even therapists who label their attachment to pathological men as ‘codependent’ or ‘mutually addictive’ or merely ’emotional abuse.’ Women jump from counselor to counselor, and from one group counseling experience to another group counseling experience looking for someone, ANYONE, who understands this intense attachment to a dangerous and pathological man.

She looks for some understanding at ‘what’ is wrong with him.  Giving him the label of ‘abuser’ doesn’t quite cover the extensive array of the brilliant psychopathic tendencies he possesses.  Why did he target HER?  Why does she feel both intense attachment and loathing for him at the same time?  Why do her symptoms resemble ‘mind control’ more than mere abused woman syndrome? Why is the bonding with this man more intense and unshakable than any other man?  Is it abuse if he never physically harms her but has the mental infiltration of a CIA operative?

What we are finding out from our research with those who have been in pathological love relationships is that all of the usual dynamics in regular relationships, both functional and the occasional dysfunctional DON’T apply to pathological relationships.  All of the usual dynamics of addictive relationships, codependent relationships and dysfunctional relationships DON’T apply to the pathological relationship, either.  No wonder women can’t find the help they need…it hasn’t been taught YET! Our research is pointing towards women who DON’T fit into the stereotypes of women we normally see in shelters, counseling centers, and in other abusive situations. These are not women who have the kinds of histories we normally associate with abuse, nor do they have the kinds of current lives that fit the demographics of most counseling programs and shelters.  Their personality traits and behaviors fit no other ‘typologies.’  And, their current symptoms don’t match the simply ‘dysfunctional-type’ love relationship.

Could it be that the dynamics in pathological love relationships really ARE different than other types of relationships?  Could this be why women in these types of relationships aren’t helped by more prevalent types of intervention offered to other types of abusive relationships?  Why does the Power & Control Wheel model seem ineffective with these types of women? Why are these women LESS likely to seek traditional counseling?  And if they do, why are they less likely to be helped by it?  Why are these women’s personality traits so vastly different than shelter women, or abused women?

Too many women have been through the ringer of counselors ‘not-understanding-psychopathology,’ family ‘lumping-all-relationship-types-together,’ friends saying-‘just-get-over-it’ and counseling-programs ‘telling-her-she’s-just-codependent’.  Too many women have stopped seeking help because they are tired of too many people ‘not getting it.’  Psychology has to allow itself to grow beyond a one-size-fits-all approach when dealing with women emerging from pathological love relationships, because all relationships are not created equal – especially when one of them is pathological. Not understanding the effects of pathology on relationships, self-concept, and recovery deters a woman’s ability to heal.  Understanding the DIFFERENCES in these types of relationships is critical.

The Institute has developed programs and materials exactly for this reason. We developed our telephone coaching program for women in immediate need of validation of their experiences, our retreat programs are specifically geared to ‘Healing the Aftermath of the Pathological Love Relationship,’ our Therapist Affiliate Program training which provides other therapists nationwide the clinical training to help women heal from these types of relationships, and our 40 plus products all developed to teach pathology and its related issues to others.

Why?  Why all the effort in treatment related issues? Because the absence of trained counselors is screamingly evident.  Our mailing list asks the question week after week, ‘Can you recommend someone in Florida, Michigan, the United Kingdom, Canada, California, Oregon…who can help…? Why don’t counselors understand this? Why can’t anyone explain to me what is going on? If one more counselor or family member suggests I am codependent or a relationship addict, I’m going to scream!’ Why is this so hard to understand?

Much like the beginning phases of the addiction field, the pathological love relationship field is feeling the same phase of misunderstanding that other theories of counseling have encountered.  When the field is new or the knowledge is groundbreaking, there is an overt lack of trained responders.  Unfortunately, those who suffer the new phases are the victims/survivors that wish there were more trained service providers.

The Institute operates as a public education project on psychopathological issues, which means we try to train anyone and everyone in the issues of pathology.  This includes the women in the relationships AND those who are likely to be emotional supports to women recovering from these relationships.  Please bear with what entails, as an entirely new and emerging field of psychology is trying to race to catch up to the knowledge of what is needed for this particular population of people.  After all, until we began our research and writings, no one had even bothered to study the female partners of psychopaths and partners of other pathological types.  No one created research projects to study the personality traits, histories, and chronic vulnerabilities of women who have been in these relationships.  So, to that degree, we are virginal in our exploration of these issues.

At The Institute, we try to be immediately responsive to the needs of individuals.  In the last year we have exploded in growth in our outreach:
•    Our weekly newsletter continues to reach more and more people
•    The blogs we write for websites such as Psychology Today and Times Up! help to reach an even larger audience with the educational value of our expertise
•    Our books, CDs, DVDs are international
•    Expanded retreat format, and private1:1’s with Sandra and Jennifer
•    Telephone coaching has doubled in size
•    Weekly teleconferencing support groups
•    Therapist Training Programs

All are born out of our desire to reach YOU!  As needs are repeatedly identified by our mailing list, we try to quickly ascertain how to develop a program to meet the needs presented.  That’s because we recognize that the services available out there are slim.  We provide what we can, knowing that we are a drop in the bucket to the needs that exist–but an ever needed drop to a thirsty population.  So unless we duplicate ourselves through products and services, many women will go untreated.

I know for many women who are struggling to recover from the diabolical aftermath of a pathological relationship that it seems that too few services exist.  Please remain hopeful that along with The Institute there are other therapists and agencies that hear your cry and are reaching out for training so they can help you recover.  We too, are always looking at how we can expand our scope and reach.  If you have ideas about how we can help you further, please let us know your thoughts.

In the meantime, if our coaching programs can be of assistance please use them.  Or if you are a therapist, please come to our trainings. If you are a survivor, we would love for you to bring healing to yourself through our phone coaching, support groups, or retreats.  The fact is, the more we learn, the more we can teach.  But we can only do so much.  One agency like ours can’t heal the world.  But we can teach what we know and assist in healing those who come for help, which is why we are always encouraging therapists to get trained.  Don’t lose heart that there are few services that understand your unique situation with a pathological.  Remain hopeful that in a new field of psychology, we are growing as fast as we can!

Watch with us vigilantly, as we see this new field of psychology emerge and expand!  Please let 2013 be the year of healing for you. We’ve worked hard so that you have many of our resources that can help you move forward.

Much healing to you in 2013!

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Copyright Notice:All articles, newsletters, hand outs, websites, books, e-books, power points, or other written information as well as digital information on our radio shows, MP3s, CDs, and DVDs are copyrighted by The Institute. We take plagiarism very seriously and utilize computer scanning software to prosecute for the theft of intellectual property. If you have questions about the use of our information, please read our copyright page on the magazine or contact our Intellectual Property Management team.
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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue
applicable to both genders.
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Webinar-What Everyone Needs To Know About Pathology

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Triggers and Knee Jerk Reactions During the Holidays

The holidays are stressful under the best of situations. Add to it a dangerous and pathological relationships 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 down hill from there.

Then there’s the mistletoe, and the date for New Years Eve, and the gift he left for your child or your parents….The holidays are one BIG OP-POR-TU-NITY 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 loop hole 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 ‘air brushed 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 every little piece of joy you could get from the season away. 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 unbelieveably 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 thru 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 ‘lectued’ our readers about loneliness because this 4 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 safe guard. “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!!

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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Fantasy And It’s Effect On Your Reality

Over the  past few months we have been talking about the power of defense mechanisms. It is unfortunately common to employ defense mechanisms that actually enhance your own emotional suffering. And of course, what we want you to employ are resources that help you recover not defense mechanisms that keep you stuck. You have suffered enough from the pathological love relationship and the last thing you need is for your own psychology to be working against you. So today we’re going to
talk about ‘fantasy’ and how that too can effect your emotional suffering.

Eckart Tollee said “Emotional suffering is created in the moment we don’t accept what is.”

Women who are in relationships with pathologicals have a very strong trait of ‘fantasy.’ Fantasy is not just merely wishful thinking but has additional components in it that effect your here and now life. Fantasy is often associated with the future and in some ways, the past.

Here’s how… women often stay in pathological relationships because they feel panic or fear of abandonment when the pathological tries to end the relationship. She ends up re-contacting or allowing re-contact because of these feelings of fear/panic/abandonment.

Abandonment is an early childhood feeling. As adults, we don’t technically feel ‘abandoned’ although that’s the feeling state we think we are having when someone leaves us. The adult feeling state is loss, not abandonment but when someone has unresolved early childhood abandonment issues, any loss will template it self on top of the feelings of abandonment. Adults are techincally incapable of being abandoned (unless you are, for instance, medically dependent.) The reason we aren’t capable of being abandoned as adults is that as mentally healthy adults, we really can’t be abandoned in the childhood sense. The feeling is an early childhood feeling usually associated with a time of parental abandonment. It is an age-regression feeling–something that pulls you back to your childhood or a very young emotional state. Every time I write about abandonment I will get a furious letter from someone INSISTING they are adults and they feel abandoned.  There are two categories in which adults go through intense feelings of child-like abandonment. One is if the adult has a trauma disorder and has unresolved early childhood issues from parental abandonment that have not been treated in therapy. In that case, those feelings often resurface attached to unprocessed traumatic feelings. The other intense abandonment feeings are often held by people with Borderline Personality Disorder who regularly feel abandoned.’ I still maintain as a former psychotherapist, that are adults cannot be abandoned unless you are elderly, medically need care, or have cognitive disorders that require caretaking. This is not to say you don’t PERCEIVE yourself as abandoned.  But if you were dropped in the middle of a city ‘abandoned’ you would make your way to the police department or social services and would be fed, sheltered, and given provisions. Therefore, you were not abandoned the way a child would experience if dropped in the middle of a city.

The feeling of ‘ending’ a relationship often subconsciously sets off childhood feelings of abandonment. These are past associations that taps into fantasy that it is happening all over again when it really isn’t. The previous male in your life who did abandon you as a child (for instance) is not the same thing as a pathological leaving your adult life.

But inside, emotionally, the child feeling state is so strong that it feels like a ‘hole in the soul.’ The fantasy of THIS (him leaving) being the same as THAT (my parent left me) takes hold and your panic makes you go back to stop the panic or allow him back in to squelch the sense of abandonment.

Fantasy is also future oriented. Fairytales are fantasy based on “Once upon a time….and happily ever after” which is all the good stuff that ‘might’ happen in the future. Nothing evokes stronger fantasy thinking than the holidays which bring up either good memories of holidays past or, the total fantasy that THIS year will be the ‘Once upon a time’ holiday.

Women stay in relationships with pathologicals based on a lot of ‘fantasy future betting’ — that is ‘he might stop acting pathological, ‘he might stop cheating,’ ‘he might tell the truth.’Fantasy betting is a lot like gambling…betting on a future that is not likely to happen with a pathological. Betting on a Normal Rockwell holiday…oh I meant ‘Norman Rockwell’ holiday—is fantasy betting as well.

Why? Because pathology is the inability to change and sustain consistent postive change, grow in any meaningful way, and the inability to for him to see how his behavior negatively effects others.

But women also stay in pathological relationships based on ‘projected fantasies’ that is, she fantasizes he will be happy with the NEXT woman and the next women will get all his good traits and none of his bad. This too is fantasy….that his pathology somehow will not effect he next woman the way it effects you. (You can’t turn pathology on and off like a light switch!)

Here’s some info:

Pathology Effects EVERYONE the SAME!! (Unless she’s pathological as well–then who cares if he goes on to have a relationship worthy of a Jerry Springer Show?).

* Women fantasize that this ‘abandonment’ feeling will effect her the way the childhood abandonment did. (And it will not–just as an FYI for you).

* Women fantasize that he will be different with them. If he is trully pathological he is hard-wired. This IS his DNA.

* Women fantazie that he will be happy in the future and she is missing out on something. If he is truly pathological,his patterns don’t change.

Fantasy is not related to the here and now. Fantasy is not being present in your real life to what is happening around you in this moment. Fantasy is ‘out there somewhere’ kind of thinking. Come back to what’s real right now. List the 5 most real points about him right here:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Now stand back, step out of the childhood feelings, and look at the list with adult eyes. You can’t be abandoned as an adult because where ever you go, there you are and you are all you need as an adult. You don’t have dependency needs as an adult like you did as a child. To be abandoned is to be dependent on the one who is abandoning. Adults are not dependent.

Your real life is going on right NOW while you are in your head about his drama and the pathological intrigue. You are
MISSING your real life that is happening right now! Drama, obsession and intrusive thoughts are usually about fantasy–the past or the present. It sure isn’t about this present moment and what’s happening right now. Such as, you might be ignoring your own health, your own self care and happiness and maybe that of your children and friends because of how much time you spend in fantasy. Fantasy is telling you ‘just a little longer and he’ll get it and then I’ll have the life I really want.’

Fantasy wants to whisper in your ear to ignore it all for a few days during the holidays when you can pretend to be that Normal Rockwell family. But on December 26th, Mr Pathology will be there in all his glittering Cluster B-ness to remind you nothing happened except a Christmas Tree.  You unwrapped a ‘gift’ of pathology because all you really wanted for Christmas was your pile of fantasy, right? NO! No adult really wants for Christmas ‘her own psychopath.’

There is stil time to straighten out your Holiday Fantasy Thinking before December 24th.  Get a hold of it so you can enjoy a pathology-free holiday.

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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How To NOT Go Back/Hook Up During The Holidays

Last week I wrote about the “Power of Relapsing’ and got many emails saying “THANK YOU for writing about it as I was thinking about going back to the relationship just so I wasn’t alone during the holidays! You saved me from a disaster!”

Here’s a secret: “Even if you go back, you’re still alone. You’ve been alone the entire time because by nature of their disorder, they can’t be there for you. So you’re alone–now, in the holidays, or with them. With them, you have more drama, damage and danger. Your choice….”

People relapse and go back into relationships more from Thanksgiving thru Valentines Day than any other time of the year. Why? So many great holidays to fake it in! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, V-Day….then PHOOEY! You’re out. Why not be out now and stay out and save face. You’re not fooling anyone…not yourself, them, or your family and friends.

Holidays are extremely stressful times. It’s a time when it is more likely

* For domestic violence to occur

* For dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional

* People drink more

* People binge eat because of the stress

* Some feel pressured to ‘be in a relationship’ during the holidays and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons to ‘just get thru the holidays’

* To overspend

* To not get enough rest

*  It’s an idealistic time when people have more depression and anxiety than any other time of the year. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, to cope they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not.

People put extraordinary pressure on themselves thinking their lives ‘should be’ the picture postcards and old movies we watch this time of year. You can’t make a ‘picture postcard memory with a psychopath or a narcissist!’

Here’s a mantra to say outloud for yourself “I’m pretending that staying/going back with a psychopath/narcissist will make my holidays better.”  Pretty ridiculous thought, isn’t it? Something happens when you say the REAL thing outloud. It takes all the romaticization and fantasy out of the thought and smacks a little reality in your face.

“I want to be with a psychopath/narcissist for the holiday.”  Say that three times to yourself out loud….

NO!! That’s not what you want. That’s what you GOT. You want to be with a nice man/woman/person for the holidays. As you VERY well know, they’re not it.

“I want to share my special holidays with my special psychopath.”  ???  Nope. That’s not it either. But that’s what’s going to happen unless you buck up and start telling yourself the truth. It’s OK to be by yourself for the holidays. It sure beats pathology as a gift.

Here’s a real gift for you–some tips!

TIPS FOR A HAPPIER/HEALTHIER 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 2011 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.

I am so passionate about this subject and concerned for your well being this holiday that I have made an mp3 message for you. To listen to my 15 min broadcast about protecting yourself this holiday season from relapse and hook ups, click here: http://www.howtospotadangerousman.com/Audio/Christmas2008Message.mp3
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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Telling Yourself the Truth–You Don’t Have to Tell Me–But At Least Tell it to Yourself…

“People, like all forms of life, only change when something so disturbs them that they are forced to let go of their present beliefs. Nothing changes until we interpret things differently.Change occurs only when we let go of our certainty. “ Dee Hock

Rigorous honesty is the first rule of recovery. Nothing happens until the truth is laid on the table. Well,that ends alot of recoveries right there–the inability or even refusal to be honest, especially with yourself.

Telling yourself the truth means several difficult things:

1. It means you stop covering for him –making excuses for his behavior, quietyly and secretly LOOKING for loopholes he just might fit into (he doesn’t met ALL the criteria for pathology, only 10 out of 12.Psychology COULD be wrong in his case). Instead of looking with the eyes of safety and seeing how many areas he DOES fit in, you scoure every square inch of your memory and his behavior looking for ONE redeeming trait that is suppose to wipe out the 25 absolutely pathological things he does. You aren’t telling yourself the truth about ‘him’ and his pathology OR your own loophole hunt and what your real motives are–to find a reason to stay.

2. You tell yourself the truth about how you need to take responsibility for your choices and your recovery.Telling yourself the truth about your own choices means you are willing to really dig in and look at where your choices in relationships have their origins. You can’t change what you don’t see. While you are not responsible for abuse you incurred, you are responsible for your own recovery and the safety of yourself and children. This can only occur when you begin telling yourself the truth about the level of danger you are in and the level of damage you and your children have already sustained. Taking responsibility for your recovery means that you both acknowledge the victimization AND seek to thrive beyond the mere title of ‘victim.’ I see so many women do part one: acknowledge the victimhood and don’t do part two.They camp out in the victimhood and 10 years later, they are still in the same spot as they were before.

Recovery means movement and progress. We have to even tell ourselves the truth about our own recovery—we kick our own butts if we are stagnate or have stopped growing. Some women find their identities in their victimization because of the severe abuse and loss of self esteem. Years later some of the women have never done anything for their own recovery. They read one book and saw them-selves in it, recognized their victimhood, closed the book, squatted—and stayed there. You already lived THAT—real life is out there on the other side of recovery (even IN recovery). Tell yourself the truth about how invested you are in your recovery or what you need to really do in order to recover. If you’re afraid of success—acknowledge that.

3. Telling yourself the truth also means taking responsibility for relapses. Sometimes women secretly want to relapse. Have you had that feeling? They just want to go back to what feels ‘normal’ — which is often dysfunction. It’s human nature to want what is comfortable even when it’s painful. That makes recovery all the more difficult because when you are tired, lonely, and sick of the pain you are in, it would be great to believe the fantasy again –wouldn’t it? Just ONE night where he pretends it’s gonna be good again (and even though you know it’s not true and for that night you don’t even really care if he’s lying) and both of you know how to fake it to ward off the pain and lonelieness. So there’s that night of passion that has been fueled by fear and abandonment but the next day when everyone is past the fantasy, it all starts again. Then you think since you gave in, and you really don’t have what it takes to end this and leave anyway–so you sigh and resign yourself to just living in the hell. Telling yourself the truth is pointing to the ways you sabotage yourself. When you are tired, lonely and sick of pain and you feel the old feelings of relapse sneaking in and your head is wanting the fantasy back—you don’t pick up the phone and call someone who can remind you what reality is. You don’t plan something for that evening that will help you get thru that night without sabotaging yourself. The video tape is replaying all the fragments that only show ‘the good part’ of the relationship. It’s warm and cozy. You pick up the phone and call him or you answer when he calls. Telling yourself the truth is about how long you had planned to self sabotage.

Those are 3 REALLY HARD THINGS to hear. But they are at the crux of recovery. Trauma, fear,abandonment actually INCREASES people’s feeling of attachment. The more you have been hurt by him,often the more attached intensely you will be. Those trauma bonds are hard to break and even harder to live with. Women say they want MOST to be out of pain, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts about the relationship (good and bad) but they sabotage themselves by not protecting themselves by no contact, by not managing their anxiety, by not developing a support system, by not planning ahead for sabotaging thoughts, etc.

Recovery is a life change. It’s not a quick fix to get out of pain like Ativan or Xanax. Women who take a whopping 6 weeks off of dating or a few months and jump back in are shocked to find themselves right back in it–but usually with someone even WORSE than the last one. The most common factor is each man is more dangerous than the one before. That’s because they think time heals wounds and if it’s been a few months, SURELY it’s time to date again. Recovery heals wounds. Sitting out for 5 years and doing nothing about gathering insight about your weaknesses, relationship patterns, and problems will not magically make you ready for a relationship because you waited 5 years. Time is time.
It just passes. You have to change your life in order to change your choices. Recovery, or changing your life is a new way of seeing yourself, your previous relationships, your past, your choices, your coping skills–and most importantly a future filled with different choices and healthier relationships.

I KNOW that you ladies are up to the challenge. In the 20 years that I have been doing this and kicking butts,(referred to as Sandra’s Bootcamp!) I am always AMAZED at the quiet strength that grows in women as they take the chance to detach, be alone, and heal. It’s your strength that has kept me doing this for this many years in the face of alot of great odds and often danger myself. But ALL of you are worth it!

If we can help you dig down into the truth for you and help you start your recovery, just let us know! We make it easy–phone sessions in the privacy of your own home and in the comfort of your fuzzy slippers! Or gather over coffee in one of our tele-support groups and meet other ladies going through it too. Or jump on a plane or in your car and go to a retreat. Whatever you do….tell yourself the truth so your recovery can start!

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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Dissociation Isn’t a Life Skill

“Dissociation Isn’t a Life Skill” (Quote by Sandra L. Brown, M.A. )

Dissociation is described as:
1. The splitting off of a group of mental processes from the main body of
consciousness, as in amnesia.
2. The act of separating or state of being separated.
3. The separation into two or more fragments.

Let’s talk about Dissociation a minute…it’s technically a defense mechanism–we separate out of our memory things that we don’t want/can’t deal with. In trauma (like abuse or rape), that’s helpful at the time. If dissociation becomes your major defense mechanism, it can become a full blown dissociative disorder which are very intense types of disorders. But outside of full blown dissociative disorders, there is still the ability to heavily rely on dissociation even if you don’t have the disorder.

We can get trained to dissociate and use it against ourselves! Dissociation is when we separate from our awareness ‘details’ of an event. I think this happens with dangerous men as early as the first date when we ‘choose’ to not pay attention to our screaming red flags. We are dissociating their messages away from our awareness because if we truly became ‘aware’ we might ditch him early on and we don’t want to.

Dissociation can become a primary defense mechanism if you grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive, addictive, or violent home. That’s because children can easily go on ‘over whelm’ and check out–or dissociate because they can’t handle whats going on. If you never learned adult coping skills then it’s likely you use the ones you do know: which are from childhood. And if your primary ones were dissociation, then you’re probably using that now, and it probably has gotten you into alot of trouble in your patterns of relationship selection.

After a while, you don’t even know you’re dissociating. It’s just automatic. So you can dissociate away alot of IMPORTANT stuff early on: like discrepancies in his stories, his not-so-nice words he says to you, his tonality in his voice, or other behaviors that SHOULD cause you concern, but don’t.

Any time we separate a memory from all it’s components, you are dissociating from the complete or whole memory which is why remembering ALL the relationship issues are important–not just the good times. The bad times are a part of the memory or the memory is merely a fragment of what REALLY was going on. You can also seperate out other parts of the memory like: sensations, words or phrases, physical or sexual pain inherent in the memory, things you tasted/smelled/saw, and various emotions that were prevalent in the relationship. That’s why women get these very skewed ‘snap shots’ of just the good times and long after those times. The whole snap shot would look very different indeed if she incorporated all the senses in the memory.

Sometimes women can dissociate or fragment off the ‘meaning,’ ‘motive,’ or ‘intent’ as well. So he uses all your money and your response is “He meant well, he just doesn’t know how to handle money.” That’s not likely the situation so the motive or meaning of what he was REALLY doing is fragmented away from you so you don’t have to take action. Dissociation can become an unconscious reason to stay “I didn’t notice….” because underneath dissociation was naturally at work and it also ‘worked’ for the ability to stay in the relationship and ‘not notice.’  How long can you live on the reasoning behind dissociation which is “I didn’t know, I didn’t notice….” which is why I say that dissociation is not a life skill. It doesn’t help you move forward, it keeps you frozen in time.

Women describe dissociation as a numbing or a spacy feeling. They either don’t feel something OR they are too spaced out to do much about it. In the middle of a traumatic event, spacing out and numbing is a good thing. Even as adults, I still advocate that there are times for ‘therapeutic dissociation.’ Like in a root canal–who wants to be ‘present’ and ‘aware’ for that? But the problem is that dissociation becomes largely un-managed. Then it becomes downright dangerous to us–robbing us of our ability to be aware, intune, and vigilant.

Look back over your childhood for patterns of dissociation. Look back over your adult relationships and see how influenced your choices were by dissociation. Look at your TODAY LIFE for signs of when you check out, become aware, drift off, or stuff feelings at the speed of light so you don’t have to make a
decision about something. These are all aspects of dissociation. While it might have helped you in a time of trauma, as an adult your recovery is about growing into healthier and stronger coping skills than mere dissociation. All of real life is happening now—are you missing it?

(There is more information about Dissociation in my book ‘Counseling Victims of Violence.’)

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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