Psycho-Ecology

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

 

Change is redemptive. It’s transformational and it’s healing. No wonder none of those things happen to pathologicals—they don’t change, so they don’t redeem, or transform or heal. But for those negatively affected by a pathological, change is your only hope. Without the transformation of change you are hopelessly stuck on what feels like the karmic treadmill of relational bad choices that just gets worse with each selection.

But change is not only our hope, it’s God’s hope, too. Why? Because God is the God of Ecology—He recycles everything we live through to make something out of the dung of our nasty experiences. He’s invested in what happens to us, in us, and through us. As the original ecologist, He always has an eye toward what can be recycled in us for better use because that which is used is not wasted. So our experiences with the pathological that are used to help ourselves first and others second is not a wasted experience of pain and suffering—it has been transformed into a healing gift for us and for others.

This is Psycho-Ecology at its best… the good use of our bad psychological experiences; the recycling of our pain and bad choices into insight and help for others. Psycho-Ecology is the path of recovery.

Psycho-Ecology recycles:

  • your naiveté into prevention,
  • your experience into intervention,
  • your story and makes it into a book, a support group, a website, or a speech,
  • your intrusive thoughts and turns them into a meditation on tape,
  • your tears and turns them into a poem,
  • lethargy and manifests exercise,
  • pain and creates a prayer, and
  • creates hope out of hopelessness.

In fact, that which is not transformed is stuck—stuck inside you, stuck in your life, stuck in your path, stuck in your heart. Transform it!

That which isn’t redeemed is toxic. Pain that is not redeemed into the gift of hope and life for others is just pain, crammed in your body converting your health into something sick and bad. Redeem it!

That which isn’t healed by paying it forward is an emotional cancer cell metastasizing in your heart—eating your hope, your future, and your potential healthy relationships. Pay healing forward. Heal it!

You have the largest, most magnificent force behind your healing—The God of Economy who will take one bad thing and use it to help and bless thousands. Did you read that—thousands! He wants your healing so it can be broken, blessed, transformed, and released to others.

He multiplies in His economy—so your one bad pathological experience can help many, many more women than just you. His plan includes economically using your experience by releasing it to multitudes and includes recycling it from bad to good. That which we don’t use gets wasted. That which is wasted is not transformed and that which isn’t transformed we are victimized by.

I can always tell those women who are going to be recycled and used in Psycho-Ecology in others’ lives. They are searchers—examining everything they have been through for the opportunity to heal it and use it. They are not lethargically waiting for healing to come to them while hyper-focusing on and memorizing every horrid thing the pathological did this week… their eyes are on themselves, today—what needs to heal in them, where they will transform this train-wreck of a life into something worth living.

These are the women who are willing read the books, go to counseling, come to a retreat… (Or these women find alternative community resources to help them heal right where they live. When money is a challenge, they use their community resources to help bring healing. They use what they have right where they’re at!) They find every resource and use them to beat out the feeling of victimization that wants to swallow their life. These women are silent powerhouses of potential that, when healed, are going to rock the women’s issues field! I grin to myself and can’t wait to see what they allow God to recycle in them.

I’m already seeing it… those that will go on to redeem their experiences in their lives and others’, those that jump on anything that can move their healing forward as they eagerly wait to pay it forward.

These women are the face of Psycho-Ecology. Their horrible pain is being recycled into something positive. They are the faces of hope in Public Psychopathy Education. They are, or will be, single-handedly responsible for saving women’s lives. The lives they save through recycling their pain will only be known by the Great Recycler in the end because we never know whom we have saved. We only believe we have saved someone.

Every single week I get emails from people thanking The Institute for saving their physical, emotional, financial, sexual and spiritual lives. The book, the website, the newsletter—something touched them and got them out of the Pathological Love Relationship. It’s the most satisfying life mission there is: saving a life!

The question is: Will you be the next face of Psycho-Ecology? Will your pain teach other women? Will it speak to them?

Will your pain teach others how to help these women? Will it speak to a community through a presentation?

Will it go into schools, churches, women’s organizations, prisons, jails, and others’ hearts?

Or will it stagnate inside you, producing the most insidious bitterness and paranoia?

Change and growth for us is always a choice—a choice that allows the transformation of recycling so nothing is wasted. The Institute’s mission is Public Pathology Education, which means every single one of us does SOMETHING for the cause. Each week people contact us asking about how to start a group, come to a retreat, get phone counseling, get a workshop in their community, be a speaker in their community. The Institute is here to help you heal first so you can help others heal. There is no shortcut (here, let me tell others how to heal when I haven’t done it myself!) Nope.

There is only one letter differentiation between Nope and Hope—to not only heal but be recycled.

(**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

(DISCLAIMER: We, at the Institute, celebrate and recognize spirituality in all forms of religion, not just the Christian version. In our work, we often speak of other beliefs and utilize many of the concepts in our model-of-care. This article in no way is intended to minimize or diminish the spirituality that may be found in other cultures or religious beliefs. However, we DO believe that pathology harms one spiritually no matter what the survivor’s spiritual beliefs may be. For those people, we ask that you substitute the Christian viewpoint of spirituality with your own.)

Keep the Turkey on the Table

By Susan Murphy-Milano

It is the holidays and you were sure that your relationship would last until the end of time, but it did not sustain. However, those emotions still tied to the person remain, and you are teetering after that warm and fuzzy holiday text message or phone call you just received. You have all but wiped away the memory of the last time you were together. Perhaps you were blamed or hurt by a circumstance or a situation that you were made to feel was your fault. Finally, you had enough and began moving forward with your life. You worked hard to untie those emotional strings and the memories you once shared.

Holiday or not, how many more times are you going to allow a person with whom you were in a relationship to make excuses for their outbursts? Either through yelling at you because the boss got on their back, or there is not enough money through the end of the month to buy groceries and somehow your partner is blaming you? The house is in shambles, the kids have been up all night with the flu and you are whacked across the face by your “loving partner” because things are not the way THEY expect them. Your partner informs you, similar to placing you on notice, that you have had this conversation before.

On the phone that warm and fuzzy feeling returns as he speaks to you so tenderly and warm. Your knees buckle a bit as the familiar scent of a toxic tune plays in his voice. He reminds you of all the other holidays you shared and the importance of family, knowing what will pull you back in with his toxic sweet talk. He says “can’t we try again for the sake of what we had or the kids?” And then he adds a pinch of “baby, it’s the holidays,” and your response should be “yes it is, happy holidays to you, thank you for calling, goodbye.”

The turkey you prepare should be the only one in attendance this year at your holiday table – not sitting in the chair next to you.

Remember – don’t invite the pathological live turkey to show up at your door for the holidays.

(**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

What Are Some Red Flags in Relationships

By Sandra L. Brown

I was often asked what my red flags are when I was counseling a couple and I sensed he might be dangerous. There certainly ARE specific things that I have trained my ear to listen for because they are often indicators of more serious problems often attached to dangerous behavior.

These include:

  • Pacing of the relationship. If its 24/7 it’s not that he’s “just that into you.” Pathological men have agendas about getting the relationship to appear intense and deep quickly. They want to usher you into the middle of the relationship before you figure out his agenda or respond to your own red flags. Predators told me in group sessions that their move is to ‘sweep them off their feet’ by overwhelming them with intensity of emotion, time, and gifts. Women who get into intense relationships in which they are very quickly seeing each other constantly, not having an outside life, and have the sensation of being ‘breathless’ from the pace of the relationship are often with a dangerous man. Many different types of dangerous men often try to move in quickly or marry quickly – both of which should be a red flag to a woman. Women should always be in charge of the pace of the relationship which should be SLOW. Women should also change the pace of the relationship and see how he responds. Normal men accept that you ask for more time to yourself whereas dangerous men do not. They guilt and shame you into keeping the pace at THEIR rate, not yours.
  • Serial Relationships. Women often ignore a man’s history of failed relationships. Guys with histories of multiple failed relationships have difficulty being alone so they rapidly seek other relationships without reflection on the failed one. This lack of insight in the failed relationship increases his pacing so that women are hurried into a relationship before figuring out why he has so many failed relationships. One clue I always listen for is his relational history — how many relationships, why they ended, what he has to say about his own responsibility in them ending, and what he says about the woman now. Men who take no responsibility for their actions often have mental health issues as do men who never say anything good about any of the women they have been with.
  • His History. Women need to find information about his criminal, mental health, and relationship history. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. There are on-line background search sites[1] that can do this. Women often discount a man’s criminal history. His criminal history is a good predictor of future violence, other criminality and sometimes mental health issues. Likewise, his mental health history matters! If he has been diagnosed with a mental condition, most conditions INCREASE with time, age, and stress. Mental conditions are highly unpredictable and how he appears now is not a guarantee of any stability in the future. All of his histories matter: criminal, mental health, and relational.
  • Enduring Patterns of Behavior. Women often believe they can change a man once they are in a relationship. It’s one of our characteristics we don’t like to admit, but it is often part of our belief system. If he has always been this way he may have a pathological disorder which is determined by looking at enduring patterns of behavior that don’t change. Chronic womanizing, unrelenting unemployment, long histories of addictions, etc. are all examples of enduring patterns of behavior. We begin to suspect pathological (which means a permanent disorder) when people have long histories of certain behaviors. These behaviors will not be changed by you or anyone else, including professionals.
  • His pattern of selection. The types of women he has dated can reveal the type of woman he targets. A history of emotionally unhealthy women should be a red flag. Some men love victimized women, others like women with low self esteem, or those who are financially dependent. What are the women like that he has been with and why are you now the one he wants to be with?

If these are red flags for me, they certainly should be for women as well. Women who end up with dangerous man after dangerous man are women who ignore the warning signs like these and often hope they are going to get different results than what the professionals are advising. Don’t be one of them!

[1] On-line criminal record and/or background checks may not be complete due to a variety of reasons. He may have lived elsewhere or used a different name (John instead of Jack, Allen instead of Al, etc.) Not all jurisdictions have their criminal records on-line.

(**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

Rocking the Relationship Boat

By Susan Murphy-Milano

With a month left to go before she graduated from the police academy in Florida, Kelly Rothwell, 35, was moving forward to a new chapter in her life. Her plans included ending a volatile relationship with her dangerous boyfriend of over 3 years. The boyfriend controlled and monitored her cell phone and computer activity. When she was out of his radar, he stalked her. Kelly’s training at the police academy would turn her fears and anxieties into strength.

On March 12, 2011, Kelly picked up her keys to her new residence, then met with a friend for lunch before heading over to the boyfriend’s, announcing in person the relationship was over.  Kelly Rothwell was never seen or heard from again.  She joined the thousands of other women who attempted to end the relationship without a solid plan of action.  Law enforcement has since named the boyfriend as a suspect in this case.  It is no surprise he was the last person to see Kelly.

Time and time again we read about women who were planning or have already ended their marriage or relationship, reported missing or discovered dead.  The abuser has a plan and so should you!

Prior to ending the relationship or rocking the boat in a court of law, follow the instructions provided in the book “Time’s Up! A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships” available from the Institute or Amazon.com.

And if you do nothing else, before you announce the ending of your relationship be sure to prepare the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit and video mentioned in the book. Get the app or learn more about it at http://documenttheabuse.com/

More information on this topic can be found at:

http://murphymilanojournal.blogspot.com/2011/03/intimate-partner-violence-ends-with-no_28.html and http://murphymilanojournal.blogspot.com/

(**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

Remembering Our Roots: Joyce Brown’s Influence on the Pathological Love Relationship Recovery Process

October 16 marks the anniversary of the death of an extraordinary visionary. Many of The Institute’s highly acclaimed purposes, products, and processes came from what Joyce lived through, talked about, and modeled for others.

Joyce, like other leaders, did not set out to do anything extraordinary. She simply set out to heal after two back-to-back pathological relationships. First, a 25-year relationship with a narcissist, and then an upgrade to a sociopath for 10 years, left Joyce in the typical emotional fetal position that is common in the aftermath of Pathological Love Relationships.

She went through the normal stages of pathology recovery, asking:

“What just happened?”

“Did I do that?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Why am I so obsessed with this?”

“What’s wrong with me? Why am I attracted to men like that, and what does it say about my life that I would end up in a relationship like that?”

Without the benefit of mental health therapy and with only the support of a few close friends (who were quickly becoming weary of the ongoing saga of ‘why her/why him, why he moved on quickly, and why he picked the new woman), Joyce managed to piece together not only a recovery, but some profound insights that changed the quality of her life forever.

By then, at age 60, it would have been easy to say she would not likely find love or heal. It would have been even easier to get bitter, get revenge, get hyperfocused on him and his latest antics, or get into a fetal position and stay there.

But remarkably, Joyce rose from the dirt which she had been ground down into. Like the symbol of the Rising Phoenix, she not only rose, she dug out every particle of dirt that could be transformed from crusted pain and milled it for life-changing insight.

She didn’t keep these golden gems to herself! She talked to women about relationships wherever she was. Some of her approaches have trickled down to help other therapists work with women leaving Pathological Love Relationships.

Joyce believed women tended to drift sideways into Pathological Love Relationships looking for fun and excitement, which actually pointed at what these women needed in their lives that would prevent them from taking on just any old relationship.

“If you aren’t living a big enough life that is as big as your heart, or as big as your personality, or as big as your dreams, then any old psychopath will do.”

She poignantly asked herself, “What is or is not going on in my own life that I would end up with a sociopath? Sure, I didn’t know he was one—he said all the right things… but what could this possibly be pointing out to me about me, the condition of my own life, and what needs to happen so I don’t choose like this again?”

 16 years later she had answered her own question:

In her 60s she went to college for the first time and became a short-term missionary. She started her life in the arts of painting, sculpting, and pottery. She moved to a one-room beach house so she could “make up for lost time and play hard.” She drove a convertible Miata to feel the rush of adrenaline she no longer had because the sociopath was gone.

In her 70s she took up bellydancing to prove to herself she was still attractive, went to Paris to meet handsome men so she knew she could still flirt, and got a motorcycle so she always had something “hot to ride!” (Hey, I’m just using Joyce’s words here.) She became a hospital chaplain to comfort the sick and fed the poor every week to give some of that hyper-empathy away, lest it go to another psychopath. Then she sailed a catamaran to the Bahamas to challenge her fear of drowning because she could not swim.

“A relationship is the icing on the cake. It is NOT the cake. Don’t confuse the necessity of living life to be the icing. Living life IS the cake. Anything else, including relationships, is just the icing.

The Institute’s own Jennifer Young, who does phone coaching and our tele-support group, had this to say about Joyce’s impact on her and the women she helps, “Joyce Brown carries a big impact on my work with women.  On her own she developed the innate ability to care for herself.  That care translated into real solutions for disengagement from a Pathological Love Relationship. I believe the biggest specific idea that has come from Joyce is the idea of ‘Not One More Minute.’ I have shared this concept with many women who instantly feel the ability to disengage… ‘not one more minute’ means, “I will not allow you to take one more minute of my energy, my love, my care, my compassion.” It provides an end point… a point to say “I’m done.” This change in thinking, that I stop it, is crucial. It means, “I have come to know and understand that he will not change, but I still can… and I will.” So thank you, Joyce Brown, for showing us the way to the end!”

At her death at age 76, she laid in a hospice bed only hours from death. I told her I wanted to toast her life. She said “Crank this bed up!” She fluffed her hair and with a glass of Jack Daniels in her hand, she said, “I have had a great life. I lived, I learned how to have a great life, and I was loved. Who could ask for more?”

Her life lived well is what has impacted thousands of women worldwide and is the main thing women come away with who attend our retreats. Sadly, in this day and age, living a great life seems to be an extraordinary accomplishment. Her lecture on ‘Get a Great Life’ is what has spurred women on to not merely limp into recovery dragging their souls behind them, but to burst into recovery and fill their lives to the rim with all the things that their big personalities need in order to live fully. Lifeless living is what causes many women to seek the psychopath who’s so full of energy that it makes their lives seem so exciting and vibrant. Joyce said, “The problem is pointing to the solution. I loved the energy of those men! But what was that energy, and why couldn’t I have it another way? Was a psychopath the only way for me to feel life?”

Joyce learned that vibrancy came from a life that was full of the things that interested, motivated, supported, and challenged HER. If she wasn’t living a big enough, interesting enough, motivational enough, supported enough, and challenged enough life… she would drift again into the arms of pathology to fill that space.

Feel how big YOU are and fill your own life with a great life!

One of our readers memorialized Joyce on our Facebook page:

Thank you, dear lady, for your continued inspiration—a legacy you’ve left to many you never knew, but who have come to love you [posthumously] for your feistiness, tenacity, grit and that wonderful sense of humor!”

Feel how big YOU are and, as Joyce did, fill your own life with greatness. As she would say, “Get a great life,” and stop the cycle of 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.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Recovery: A Holy Place to Dwell

This is about spirituality and recovery—they are, after all, connected by an umbilical cord of hope. In Christianity, which is my practice path of hope, God, the only known unbroken thing which makes Him Holy, chooses to dwell in broken things. Someone undefiled with darkness, pathology, lethargy, hopelessness, depression, bone weariness, confusion, intrusive thoughts and cognitive dissonance chooses to infuse this purity into the chaotic whirlwind called ‘soul.’ I don’t understand that any more than the 50-some years I have read “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form and void.”

All I can see is that from the beginning God was going into things that were empty and dwelling there to infuse them with something holy. He found formlessness a good place to inhabit. God could choose to inhabit anything, anywhere, any one but seems to look for the empty places in which to stuff His hope. Our own brokenness from pathology is the place we want to recover from. It’s a dark, dank, hell hole full of disintegrated minds. Why anything so integrated and whole would want to park in there, I do not know. But I’m fascinated that Holiness wants to dwell inside people—and mostly broken people. God wants to prove that pathology does not have the last word—in anything. Everything stripped away from lying, cheating, and violence can be redeemed in its brokenness by the dwelling, the indwelling, of Holiness. Like a truffle-sniffing dog, God LOOKS FOR the place of brokenness that has made room for Him, and goes to that place.

The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous have given me such hope of this message – recovery as a holy place to dwell – because millions of people have sat in those rooms broken and ravaged by pain and have had God in the room with them, hanging with them in their recovery, then choosing to move right into their soul so pathology doesn’t win. If recovery were a place of hopelessness, God would not dwell there and it would not be holy. This brings a different view to recovery.

Our brokenness is the entry point, the point verge of coming to a holiness we would not have had any other way. It is not that we have learned from our stupidity of choosing a pathological partner, it’s that we get the gift of finding recovery as a holy place to dwell because it’s where the holy himself, dwells. Sure, take the insight that comes with the pain (otherwise the pain has been useless) but by all means see recovery as a holy place upon which God sees worthy of journeying with you. Kum-by-yah mountain peak experiences are not the only place to find God. He finds something of His heart in others when they are broken. When their soul is seeping out of the cracks of their broken heart vessel, it’s where he imagines His balm of Light that is needed.

Brokenness and dissociation does not feel like a place of recovery, much less a place the holy wants to dwell. But it is, in fact, exactly where the holy indwells—right there in the fetal positioned part of our pain. When we want to curse God and die, we have forgotten God lives in our recovery and that holiness is finding it’s home inside of our dissociation—something fragrant is germinating—hope, change, a different way of being. Every symptom we hate about the aftermath is a place where holiness dwells. When your brain fog is knee deep, wonder to yourself “this place right now, the way I am, is where Holiness is.” The issue of the ‘sacredness of place’ is not that we have to pilgrimage to a cathedral to have a goose bump encounter with a sacred place, it’s that our brain fog is as sacred a place as anywhere else. The chanting of the Book of Hours is perhaps not even as touching as your chanting of the laundry list of harm done by pathology.

I didn’t make the rules—I am just an observer and it appears God finds the broken a special place for holy and the path of recovery, the indwelling journey He prefers. Scoot over.

(**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

Recovery Tips, Part 2

Anxiety Triage – The 30-Second Check-In
Anxiety Triage begins with a 30-second check-in followed by one or more techniques that are easily done on the spot.

When you find yourself in the throes of an anxiety or panic attack, observe your physical sensations. What’s going on in your body?

  • To the best of your ability, make grounded statements about your symptoms. “My neck muscles are tight,” is a grounded statement. “My neck muscles are unbearably tight” is not.
  • Scan your body, starting with the crown of your head and moving down the neck, shoulders, back, torso, belly, hips, thighs, calves, and feet.

That’s the 30-Second Check-In. Perform this simple process and watch your anxiety attack begin to subside. It’s the key to Anxiety Triage, because it brings you back into the Creative Moment.

Once you’ve done a 30-Second Check-In, you’re ready to re-orient yourself and reclaim the energy trapped in the anxiety trance.

Now, pick one of the following techniques to completely break the hold of the anxiety attack.

Anxiety Triage Technique #1: What’s That Sound?

  • Identify the sounds you hear, one at a time.
  • Start by identifying the closest or more obvious sounds. Let’s say you’re driving in your car. So the first sound you identify is the radio. Listen to it for a moment, and pay attention to nothing else. Shift your attention then to the next sound, perhaps the whoosh of the wind rushing by your window. Next, listen to the sound of the tires on the road surface. Now direct your attention to the sound of the vehicles around you.
  • Finally, see if you can hear all the sounds at once, without focusing on any one in particular.

When done, you will be completely present — and much calmer.

Anxiety Triage Technique #2: Name That Thing

  • Name everything around you, speaking its name out loud.
  • Start by identifying the closest or more obvious items. Back in the car again, you might start with the black steering wheel… the red speedometer… the blue car hood… the green pickup truck that just passed… a silver Mercedes… a white Toyota.

Continue until you have returned to a calmer state of mind.

Anxiety Triage Technique #3: Tapping

Tap several pressure points on the body until the anxiety attack subsides. (DO NOT attempt to use this technique while driving or while doing other tasks that need your full attention.)

Start by finding the sensitive spot between and just above your eyebrows. Using the middle finger of your right or left hand, tap that spot 32 times. Use even pressure.

  • Now locate the tiny indentation in the eye socket just below your right eye. Gently tap this spot 32 times.
  • Repeat with the left eye.
  • Tap 32 times behind the right earlobe.
  • Repeat with the left earlobe.
  • Next, cup your right hand so all the fingertips touch. Find the spot on your sternum in the center of your body, in the location of the heart. Press that spot using the fingertips of your right hand with firm but comfortable pressure. Adjust the position until you feel a sudden release of tension in the shoulders.

Though this technique might seem a little odd, there’s nothing magical about it. You’re simply stimulating various pressure points and, in so doing, initiating the body’s natural relaxation reflex.

Other techniques:

  • Put your hands in cold water and direct your attention to how they feel. Keep your focus on your hands until the anxiety subsides.
  • Use lavender essential oil or Aura Cacia “Panic Button” (found online or at Whole Foods). Take a warm bath. Focus on what the warm water feels like on various parts of your body as you breathe in the relaxing aroma of lavender.
  • Stand in the grass in your bare feet. Focus on what that feels like.

(**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

Recovery Tips, Part 1

Each person needs to find their blend of techniques that creates their own well stocked tool kit. And each person’s tool kit is likely to be different than someone else’s because while each person may have anxiety (for instance), not each person will respond to anxiety techniques the same way. Don’t judge someone else’s use of what works for them or become adamant that what works for you MUST work for them.

Their trauma, their brain wiring, their neuro chemistry are all different than yours. As they say in the 12 Steps ‘take what works and leave the rest.’ So build the BEST tool box for yourself. And that means experimenting. Even though you may find a technique that works the first time you use it, don’t stop there! I can promise you there will be days when it doesn’t work as well so you need a variety of items in that tool box.

Mindfulness techniques for your tool box

One technique is the rubber band technique. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and gently snap it when you need to re-center or re-focus. Put that in your tool box. Or go online and download the mindfulness bell that will ding every X seconds/minutes which will serve as a reminder for you to return to the present.

Soothe yourself in nature. Put that in your tool box. Practice with it every day, long before you need to call on it in crisis. During your lunch break, go outside. Focus all your awareness on what you can see. Move your eyes around the landscape (don’t stare or you will go into a trance). Look deeply at things. See the texture – the ants crawling, the blades of grass, bark on a tree, the cloud formations. As your attention wanders, bring it back to your outside environment, even 50 times. You are strength training your ability to hold your mind on an object. The more you do that the more you recreate new neuro pathways that have nothing to do with your obsessional thinking.

Every day, every single day–even if it’s only for 10 minutes, go outside and work visually with your environment.

We don’t heal in isolation, we heal in community.

There are a lot of symptoms that drive people into isolation: trauma, depression, anxiety, fear, shame, and PTSD with its features of isolating behaviors due to dread of the future, and distortions about their future (I won’t live to have a normal life, healthy partner, be symptom-free, etc.).

PTSD, by its symptomatic nature, isolates. Recovery mandates that we find a balance between The Gentle Life with enough quietness for the anxiety and enough human contact for the depression. That is the fine line everyone struggles to find.

If you are isolating simply to reduce the external stimulation to ward off adrenaline surges, you have not yet found the balance of the need for human contact AND managing the stimulation at the same time.

“Live the Gentle Life”

Healing from the aftermath is not a destination. It’s not even merely a goal of ‘symptom reduction.’ For those who have been significantly altered by their Pathological Love Relationships, sometimes healing is a life style change–learning to embrace Living the Gentle Life. It’s not living the gentle life until you are symptom free, it is living the gentle life because your neurology, biology, psychology and theology have all been altered because of pathology. If you have lived the gentle life and think you are done because your symptoms are reduced, try stopping the gentle life. The symptoms return.

Aftermath is like a rolling wave — it comes in and goes out and you have to deal with those fluctuations for life. If Living the Gentle Life is simply to reduce your symptoms, you will soon be back with symptoms. Why not change your life and make Living the Gentle Life a life style change instead of a symptom management only technique!

We have, on our website, a series of articles covering the different aspects of Living the Gentle Life.

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the process of holding two opposing belief systems at one time. How best to describe the internal experience of trying to have a relationships with Jekyll/Hyde? At the same moment you are in a pathological relationship you must have simultaneous skill sets for two opposing ‘things’ – Jekyll and Hyde, for Wonderful and Horrible, for Loving and Loathing. To correspond to these dueling relationships, you shift back and forth between Jekyll and Hyde.

Our cognitive dissonance is simply a relational process of trying to be in relationship with two distinctly different people and to hold two opposing views of “He’s good/He’s bad” at the same time.

Today, just recognize that your cog diss as simply a NORMAL response to the pathological’s splits, to their sides, to their dichotomous parts. Anyone who comes to know the pathological must also respond to both sides thus increasing their own cog diss. Now imprint the experience of bouncing back and forth between the parts of the pathological. Know what it feels like emotionally, physically, spiritually, and verbally.

The next time you feel cog diss in yourself while with someone else, you are probably dealing with pathology. The cog diss is a learning template. Use it!

Next week we will talk about anxiety and panic attacks and some techniques that can help easily and quickly calm it down.

(**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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 7: Healing Sexually

Over the past month or so, we have been talking about healing from pathological love relationships and what is involved in this process.  It requires facing the damage that has been done and recognizing any stress disorders or PTSD that you might now have from the relationship. It then requires changing your life in order to heal – changing your physical environment and learning how to develop a lifestyle that helps you heal emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and sexually. Today, we’re going to talk about the sexual effect of pathological and dangerous relationships.

In an earlier article in this series, we talked about healing the spiritual effects of a pathological relationship.  Ironically, the sexual effects are also often spiritual effects. That’s because a lot of the spiritual effects have to do with attaching and bonding on many levels – including spiritually. In a spiritual sense, we have been designed to bond during sexual experiences – especially women.

(WARNING – THIS IS GRAPHIC!) Recent hormonal and sexual studies have indicated that orgasms achieved during sex release the same brain chemicals that are released during BONDING with your baby!

This phenomenal aspect gives great insight into WHY it is so hard to leave a relationship, even if it is dangerous.  Many of the dangerous types of men are hypersexual so there is A LOT of sex. A lot of sex equals a lot of opportunities for sexual bonding through orgasm and hormonal stimulation. Women are, by nature, NOT abandoners; they stay with those to whom they ‘attach’ or ‘bond’. So the more bonded you feel to him, the less likely you are to leave. The more sexually attached you are, which often feels like spiritually attached – “he’s my soul mate” – the more confusing and difficult it is to detach.

Additionally, many pathological men who are hypersexual bring to a relationship a lot of sexual deviancy. For the first time in your life, you may have been exposed to sexual behaviors or aspects that you had never experienced. Since the pathological is great at manipulation, guilt, and rewarding your loyalty, you may have been coerced into sexual behaviors that violated your own morality or normal sexual boundaries. Perhaps he introduced into the relationship pornography, sexual acts you were uncomfortable with, group sexual experiences, relationship rape, or other sexual violations. Additionally, most pathological men, in their hypersexuality, are NOT monogamous, so maybe you acquired an STD from him.

These deep soul wounds harm more than just your emotions. They harm you spiritually and infiltrate your sexual identity. A woman often feels so perverted in what she has experienced she may feel like she has to stay with him because no ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ man would want her after what she has done in the sexual relationship with him.

In some relationships, true sexual addiction may have occurred. You may feel as if you are addicted to him, the sex with him, or sex with anyone. What you have experienced IS sexual abuse in the relationship. However, pathological men have an uncanny way of making you feel like a willing participant, or that it’s YOUR deviancy he is responding to sexually. Remember – they twist and pervert every aspect of the truth!

The sexual side effects of the relationship can contribute to your overall stress disorder or PTSD. It is an aspect that should be treated in order to reclaim your sexual identity.  Untreated, your skewed sexual identity can cause you to continue to sexually act out, to cooperate in his sexual deviancy, or to use drugs or alcohol to numb your painful feelings.

It can also cause increased PTSD symptoms, anxiety and depression, or leave you despondent to stay in pathological relationships out of a sense of feeling dirty or unworthy of healthier relationships.

You can also be impacted spiritually – driving you away from the solace and help you find in your own connection to God.

From this standpoint, the ONLY way to live a gentle life is to heal your sexual side and to see the damage done to your sexuality as part of the overall picture of the after-effects of a dangerous and pathological relationship.

If you are in counseling, please talk to your counselor about the sexual effects of your relationship.

(**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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 6: Healing Your Own Worldview

Over the past month or more, I have been talking about healing from a dangerous and/or pathological love relationship. The chronic stress disorder and often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs from the damage done in the relationship requires a serious change in lifestyle in order to heal.

We have been talking about those changes – what needs to change physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In Part 5, we discussed the negative ‘worldview’ effects resulting from pathological exposure. The negative worldview impacts how you now see your post-pathological relationship world. This includes how you NOW see yourself, others, the world, your future, and God.

One of the seriously undertreated effects of pathological love relationship exposure is the healing of the personal worldview. The untreated aspects mimic PTSD symptoms with increases in depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, dread of the future and other similarly related PTSD side effects. Healing your worldview is critical to a healthy future.

Another often untreated effect of pathological relationship exposure is the ‘unconscious adopting of the pathological’s worldview.’ Not only was your worldview altered from the damage done to you IN the relationship, but your worldview was also altered from the damage done to you THROUGH the pathological. One of the unrelenting side effects is the ‘learned experience’ of seeing the world through his eyes.

One of the things that makes pathologicals pathological is the effect of their pathology on how they see themselves in relation to the world and others. Pathologicals are noted for their over/under sense of themselves, over/under opinion of others, and their unusual view of what the world should do for them.

While you may not have adopted these exact views like the pathological, chances are your views have been tainted with the pathological’s viewpoint. This can include normalizing abnormal behaviors or dissociating pieces of reality AWAY from you. Normalizing can make womanizing, over/under employment, drug dealing, alcohol/drug abuse, domestic violence, lying, cheating, stealing, or other overtly wrong behavior ‘marginal,’ when you have taken on his view of life and right/wrong. Pathologicals don’t operate by the rules. They create them for their unique situations and break them for fun.

When your grip on societal boundaries begins to slip, you have been affected by his view of the world. When his behaviors become ‘just a little different’ than other people’s or ‘all people are like this’ – your worldview has been infiltrated. When you begin to think of other people like he does, or define others by his warped definitions, when you believe his ‘take’ on things or tell yourself only partial truths so you don’t have to really see his real self – your worldview has been penetrated. When you become numb and lethargic to the things he has done, your worldview has been violated.

This is just one more aspect of your wounded worldview that needs healing if you are going to recover. A wounded worldview does not allow for living the gentle life. And the gentle life is probably not even possible until the way you see yourself, others and the world becomes ‘gentle.’

Pathologicals are harsh. They leave people feeling irritated, rubbed raw, and chapped. Your interior does not feel ‘gentle’ – it feels rough.

Pathologicals are notoriously negative, so you may have found your mood, thinking, and reactions to have taken on his negativity. It’s hard to heal when everything looks like he told you it looked – bad (and it’s all your fault!). It’s hard to live the gentle life for yourself when your emotions are anything BUT gentle.

This is the point about the necessity of healing the worldview – it’s a critical part of your recovery. Because having been warped by a pathological, ‘HOW you see determines WHAT you see.’

(**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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 5: Soul Tearing, the Spiritual and Worldview Effects

The last few weeks we have been talking about the necessity of living a gentle life if you are recovering from a pathological love relationship. The damage it does to a person is profound and many are often diagnosed with a chronic stress disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These disorders respond best to a “gentle life” that allows the body, mind, and spirit to rest from the overload of adrenaline and stress it has experienced in the pathological relationship.

We have talked about how to physically adjust your environment if you have a stress disorder, and we have also talked about the emotional effects – anxiety, depression, and other aftermath effects associated with PTSD. Today, we are addressing the spiritual effects.

Dangerous and pathological relationships violate at a deep soul level. That’s because they touch on the core building blocks of our concepts about relationships – hope, love, and trust. Deception is evil and sick, and when you realize ‘who and what’ you have been with, there is a violation that cuts to the deepest part of a person – one’s spirit. Because of this, I devoted a portion of Women Who Love Psychopaths to the subject of spiritual evil and its correlation to some of the symptoms associated with pathology. There is an interesting chart in the chapter that connects psycho/spiritual evil.

Often these kinds of pathological relationships have already ‘played into’ your soul connection, leading you down the path of believing that your ‘connection’ was spiritual in nature. There were probably a lot of promises of the ‘life together’ and all of the “reasons God brought [you two] together.” In the end, they were lies. But before you knew they were lies, they were HOPES.

~ “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul.” ~ (Emily Dickenson)

So many pathological love relationships have an ‘intense attachment’ that feels like a ‘connection’ or ‘passion,’ when, in reality, it is just the intense game of the pathological sucking you in and hoping you will confuse intensity with something healthy.

Hope, love, and trust are all core spiritual values. When you have invested these core values and beliefs in someone, and then the heinous deception is revealed – that the ‘goal’ of the relationship was to manipulate you all along – something ‘rips’ inside of you. This ‘soul tearing’ brings a spiritual skepticism, a distrust that permeates everything you EVER believed… sometimes even about God. It’s a disastrous wound to your worldview – how you see yourself, others, God, and the world at large.

These mortal wounds to your worldview can last a long time because, in effect, they are the ways you have come to believe about yourself (I can’t trust my intuition), others (everyone is evil), the world (it’s a sick place), and God (He didn’t protect me). This profound shift in your worldview can increase the symptoms of PTSD – depression, anxiety, alienation, loneliness, isolation, and a fear or dread of the future.

So often the spiritual effects of the dangerous relationship are overlooked both by the victim and by the therapist. This ‘worldview earthquake’ has shaken the foundation of your belief system. Without repair to the foundation from which you build your self-concept, healing is limited to only symptom management. Spiritual healing of your worldview is paramount to your overall recovery.

If you are in counseling, please address the issue of spiritual effects with your counselor.  This is an area so often undertreated by many counselors. I teach on this aspect a lot during professional conferences, and therapists are eager to understand this facet of the spiritual side effects of the pathological relationship and their impact on chronic stress disorders.

(**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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 4: “Ah, Just Get a Life”

“Ah, just get a life!”

Have people ever told you that? Sometimes from the chronic stress and upheaval the pathological love relationship caused, people can get very one-dimensional and hyper-focused on him, their relationship, or the problems surrounding the relationship. They stop doing the kinds of things in their lives that could help them be LESS obsessed, depressed, or anxious. That’s because survivors tend to ‘lose themselves’ in the pathological relationship. It’s a testimony to the strength of pathology and the almost labyrinthine maze of hypnotic lull that occurs in these relationships.

The crazier it gets, the more the survivor feels like she needs to “try to understand it,” or “try to make him understand what he is doing,” or “do something that will help the relationship feel less pathological.” These ideas can create a 24/7 obsession – it can take up your whole life trying to balance the relationship, which you have probably figured out, cannot be balanced.

Getting lost in a very dark tunnel can draw people away from the actions, behaviors, thoughts, people, and resources that previously allowed them to live a happier and more balanced life. The pathological relationship is all-consuming, and soon, any level of your own self-care is abandoned for the insane focus on how to help him, or mend the relationship.

It isn’t very long before others around you notice the myopic and single-focused person you have become – that can’t think or talk about anything except the pathological relationship. This myopic view of your relationship has now blocked out any other part of your life. Consequently, people are bailing out of your life, and emotional resources are dwindling, as your life has become the size and shape of him.

Women in the most dire situations (especially in domestic violence cases) are those who have lost physical and emotional resources and can find no way to get out. The less support a woman feels from others, the more likely she is to stay because it takes support to get out, to break up, and to not go back. So, by the act of myopia, her life and resources just dwindle away.

One day someone says to her, “Man, you need to get a bigger life than THIS,” and something really hits her about that statement. Like coming out of a deep freeze, the lightbulb goes on. She notices her lack of a life and says, “What happened to me? Where is my life?”

The last few weeks in the newsletter, I have been talking about ‘living the gentle life,’ especially if you are someone who has lived in a pathological love relationship, or has a chronic stress disorder or PTSD. A gentle life is a full life. It is a life that includes the kinds of things that nurture you and bring you peace. The gentle life is healing, because the feeling of joy is sending the right kinds of signals to your brain that fight depression and anxiety. This gives the sensation of well-being. In order to heal, you need to be a ‘joy hunter.’

The fact is, women go back, or choose poorly again, because they fail to build a life for themselves. They know how to ‘invest and invest’ in him and in the relationship, but do not know how to ‘invest’ and build a life of their own – without him. Women who have healthy lives on the outside of the relationship are more likely to get out and to stay out.

Loneliness is one of the key risk factors that cause women to return to the relationship or one that is similar. There are so many ways to get your needs met for friendship, fun, support, beauty, or whatever you love in life. Building a life – especially a gentle life, is the best prevention for relapse a woman can do.

But sadly, many will not do this. After more than 25 years of doing this type of work, I can pick out who will and who will not invest in themselves by building a life. Those who don’t are in the same boat years down the road – either with the same pathological person, or another one just like him. Those who do build a life are less likely to feel pressure to date or, worse yet, to phone him out of loneliness.

The gentle life isn’t even possible unless you have a life and a mindset that is ready for transformation. Living with a pathological or picking another one is just about as opposite a gentle life as there is. Will you be one who rebuilds a fabulous life?

Joyce Brown, who inspired our work and who happens to have been my mother, said, “I’ve got to stop focusing on him and get a great life!” At 60, she went to college. At 70, she took up belly dancing. And after 70, she sailed her own boat to the Bahamas, traveled to Paris and beyond. She proved the point that creating a great life was, in and of itself, learning to create a gentle life.

Much healing to you!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Living the Gentle Life—Part 3: The Emotional Effects

Last week I began talking about recovering from a pathological love relationship. The toll it takes on people often leaves them with symptoms of chronic stress. For extremely bad relationships, often the result is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—a diagnosed anxiety disorder. The long-term stress from the pathological love relationship (with narcissists, abusive partners, socio/psychopaths) affects people emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually.

I have been talking about what the body does when it is under chronic stress and the results of this unrelenting stress. The last newsletter discussed how to deal with the physical ramifications of stress. I also talked about changing your physical environment to embrace the needs of a stress disorder.

Today, we are going to discuss emotional effects and how to create the gentle life for your emotional needs as well.

PTSD is an emotional disorder that falls in the category of anxiety disorders. Therefore, someone with chronic stress of any kind needs to learn the types of techniques that help reduce emotional anxiety. The problem is, by the time people ask for help with chronic stress or PTSD, they have often lived with it for a long time and the symptoms are then extreme.

The emotional effects of untreated PTSD can include tension, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, or hyper-startle reflex. All of these are distressing and, over time, a combination of these symptoms can normally occur at the same time.

Relaxation techniques are a way of managing the physical symptoms of PTSD. Relaxation techniques are not ‘optional’ in the recovery of chronic stress/PTSD. That’s because these techniques have a dual purpose. These same relaxation techniques also help manage the emotional and physical symptoms. Learning correct breathing to ward off anxiety and panic attacks can be done through relaxation techniques.

Likewise, these same techniques can help with sleep disruptions and tension. Chronic stress and PTSD are disorders that should be treated by a professional therapist. Especially with PTSD, the symptoms tend to increase over time if not treated. People make the mistake of waiting until it is totally unbearable, and then it takes time to ease the symptoms. People are often hopeful it will just go away when the pathological relationship has ended or contact has ceased. These aren’t called the worst relationships in the world for nothing! They are labeled as such because they produce horrible side effects!

Unfortunately, PTSD is a chronic disorder meaning you are likely to have symptoms off and on for years, maybe a lifetime. This is all the more reason to learn how to manage the symptoms when you may need to. Intrusive thoughts are one of the most complained-about symptoms.

This is when unwanted thoughts of the pathological person or relationship keep popping up in your head. No matter how many times you try to not to think about them, they keep coming back. The problem with the images in your mind is that each time they pop up, they have the ability to trigger you. Your body responds to the trigger with adrenaline and starts the whole stress cycle over again. So managing the intrusive thoughts and flashbacks is imperative to emotionally regulating yourself and living the gentle life.

Living the gentle life means removing yourself from personalities that are similar to the pathological relationship. We often tend to migrate BACK to the same kinds of people and relationships we just left. These kinds of abusive people can cause an emotional avalanche. It is important that you understand the kinds of traits in people that should be avoided if you have PTSD or high-level stress. These could be people who remind you of the pathological person, loud or aggressive people, or those who violate your boundaries or bother you in other ways. Stress and PTSD do mandate that you develop self-protective skills such as setting boundaries—learning to say no or leave environments that increase your symptoms. Learn to migrate instead to people who are serene or leave you feeling relaxed and happy.

Creating your gentle physical environment will also help you emotionally. An environment that is soothing, calm, quiet, soft, and comfortable has the best chance of allowing an over-stimulated body to relax. Changing your physical environment for your emotional benefit, and adding relaxation techniques can greatly impact the amount of emotional symptoms you experience. Learning ‘emotional regulation skills’ for stress and PTSD is a must.

If you are in need of the following:

  • Pathological love relationship education
  • Healing the aftermath symptoms of intrusive thoughts, obsessive thinking, flashbacks, anxiety, depression
  • Learning to manage PTSD

…The Institute is just the place to get your life back! For information on the services we offer, go to www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com. We’ll be happy to help you find a treatment modality that is right for you.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Living the Gentle Life—Part 2: The Physical Effects

Last week I began talking about the normal aftermath of pathological love relationships—Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is often reactivated by ‘triggers’. These can include people, places, things, or sensory feelings that reconnect you with the trauma of the relationship. In the last newsletter, I talked briefly about the gentle life and how an overtaxed and anxious body/mind needs a soothing life. I cannot stress this enough: people MUST remember that their PTSD symptoms CAN BE reactivated if they aren’t taking care of themselves and living a gentle life.

What IS a gentle life? A gentle life is a life lived remembering the sensitivities of your PTSD. It isn’t ignored or wished away—it is considered and compensated for. Since PTSD affects one physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually—all of those elements need to be considered in a gentle life. Just as if you had diabetes you would consider what to eat or what medication you need to take, so it is with PTSD.

Interestingly, although PTSD is listed in the psychiatric manual as an emotional disorder, PTSD has some very real physical effects as well. In fact, there has been some discussion among professionals about having PTSD listed in physicians manuals as well, because the untreated, ongoing effects of acute stress are well-known in the medical community. Since PTSD has both components of emotional and physical symptoms, someone recovering from PTSD must take those aspects into account.

Physically, PTSD often becomes a chronic condition by the time you get help. That means you have been living with it for a while and it has been wreaking havoc on your physical body during that time. Unbridled anxiety/stress/fear pumps enormous amounts of adrenaline and cortisol into your body. This over-stimulates your body and mind, and causes insomnia, paranoia, hyperactivity, a racing mind/intrusive thoughts and the inability to ‘let down’ and ‘rest’.

A body that has been living on adrenaline needs the adrenal glands to ‘chill!’ People often complain of chronic insomnia, which also leads to depression. Depression can lead to lethargy, overeating, weight gain and hopelessness. It is possible to have both anxiety and depression occurring at the same time. Unmanaged stress, anxiety, and adrenaline can lead to long-term medical problems often associated with stress—lower GI problems, migraines, teeth grinding, aggravated periods, chest pain, panic attacks, and most auto-immune disorders like fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and MS.

So, CLEARLY, PTSD is something that SHOULD be treated. Physically, that means going to someone who can diagnose you—a therapist or psychiatrist. In the early part of treatment, it is normal to take anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants or sleep aids in order to rectify your depleted brain chemistry and to allow the adrenal glands to rest and stop pumping out adrenaline. Your doctor is the best person to tell you what will help to relieve your physical symptoms. Some use alternative medicine to deal with those symptoms. What is effective for each person varies.

Additionally, you need to help your body and brain produce the ‘good stuff’ in your brain chemistry. This means exercising, eating well, and learning relaxation techniques. Too much adrenaline has been pumping through your body with no way to get utilized.  Excessive adrenaline makes you feel jumpy and restless. Exercise (even moderate walking) helps to produce endorphins in your brain, which produce those feelings of well-being and help to burn off the adrenaline and any extra weight you might have gained.

Although during depression you often don’t FEEL like exercising, you will always feel bad if you don’t get your body moving. Stress is even stored at the cellular level of our bodies. You must, must, must get moving in order to feel better.

Eating well means not trying to medicate your depression and low energy with carbs. When you are depressed your body craves carbs as a source of quick energy, but the spikes in blood sugar add to the sense of mood highs and lows. You’ve already had enough ‘junk’ in the relationship—think of it as nurturing your body with good food to replace all the ‘junk’ that it has been through. You can greatly help mood swings by eating well.

It’s also necessary to deal with the negative habits you have acquired as coping mechanisms. Many people with PTSD try to medicate their anxiety and depression. This could be through smoking, relationship hopping, sex, eating/bingeing/purging, drugs (legal and illegal), and the increased use of alcohol. In fact, one of the devastating side effects of PTSD is how many people develop alcoholism as a result. Any habits you are prone to right now tend to increase when you have PTSD, because the particular habit becomes more and more a way to manage your PTSD symptoms. Finding positive coping skills instead of negative habits is a great step toward your recovery.

Physical recovery also means paying attention to not reactivating your symptoms. Your physical environment in which you live, play and work must be conducive to low stimulation. That means low light, low noise, low aggravation. Sometimes that means making big changes in the people you hang out with—getting rid of the loud, noisy, overactive, aggressive and pathological. And sometimes it means making big changes in a job where the environment does nothing but trigger you.

Lastly, learning relaxation techniques is not optional for people with PTSD. PTSD is a chronic state of hyper-vigilance, agitation, and restlessness. Your body has been over-ridden with adrenaline for a long time and has ‘forgotten’ its equilibrium in relaxation. It must be re-taught. Re-teaching means doing it daily. Take 5 to 10 minutes a day to use relaxation breathing and allow your mind to unwind. Give positive messages to your body to relax to help you tap into this natural relaxation, even during times you are not actively trying to relax. The more you use these techniques, the quicker your body can relax—even at work or when you are doing something else because it has ‘remembered’ how to.

There are many tapes, CDs and videos you can buy on relaxation that walk you through the process of relaxation. We have products created especially for managing PTSD on the magazine site—www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com/category/audio-products.

Taking yoga will also teach you how to use correct breathing techniques that help correct the shallow/panting breathing that is associated with PTSD and anxiety. Shallow breathing or panting can actually trigger panic attacks. Learning to breathe well again is a metaphor for ‘exhaling’ all the junk you’ve been through and releasing it. If you don’t have a relaxation tape, you can download our mp3 audio on relaxation techniques. Most important is to just become acutely aware that PTSD is as physical (and often medical) as it is emotional.

Next week we will talk about PTSD and the emotional effects.

(**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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 1: Be Gentle with Yourself

 

“Be gentle with yourself. The rest of your life deserves it.”  (Sandra L. Brown, MA)

As we’ve discussed before, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma-related anxiety disorder, and is often seen as an aftermath constellation of symptoms from pathological love relationships. Exposure to other people’s pathology (and the corresponding emotional, physical/sexual abuse) can, and often does, give other people stress disorders, including PTSD. Our psychological and emotional systems are simply not wired for long-term exposure to someone else’s abnormal psychology. Often the result is a conglomeration of aftermath symptoms that include PTSD, which is described as a normal reaction to an abnormal life event.

The profound and long-term effects of PTSD create what I refer to as a ‘cracked vessel.’ The fragmentation caused by the trauma creates a crack in the emotional defense system of the person. While treatment can ‘glue the crack back together,’ and the vessel can once again function as a vessel, if pressure is applied to the crack, the vase will split apart again. This means that the crack is a stress fracture in the vessel—it’s the part of the vessel that is damaged and weakened in that area.

There are numerous types of therapies that can help PTSD. If you have it, or someone you care about has it, you/they should seek treatment. PTSD does not go away by itself, and if left untreated, can worsen. People often have missed the opportunity of treating PTSD when it was still relatively treatable and responsive to therapy. The sooner it’s treated, the better the outcome. But any treatment, at any time, can still help PTSD.

However, what is often not recognized is the ‘continual’ life that must be lived when living with the aftermath of PTSD. Because the cracked vessel can crack again, a gentle and balanced life will relieve a lot of the PTSD symptoms that can linger. I have often seen people who have put a lot of effort into their recovery and NOT put a lot of effort into the quality of a gentle life following treatment. This is a mistake, because going back into a busy and crazy life, or picking another pathological, could reactivate PTSD.

As much as people want to ‘get back out there,’ and think they can return to the life they used to live, often that’s not true. Wanting to live like you did in the past or do what you did before does not mean that you will be able to. I know, I know… it ticks you off that the damage is interfering with the person you used to be… before pathology exposure (BPE). But wanting it to be different doesn’t make it different. If you have PTSD, you need to know what to realistically expect in your prognosis.

Consequently, many people’s anxiety symptoms return if their life is not gentle enough.  Much like a 12-step program, ‘living one day at a time’ is necessary, and understanding your proclivity must be foremost in your mind.

Living the gentle life means reducing your exposure to triggers that can reactivate your PTSD. Only you know what these are. If you don’t know, then that’s the first goal of therapy—to find and identify your triggers. You can’t avoid (or even treat) what you don’t know exists.

Triggers are exposures to emotional, physical, sexual, visual, auditory, or kinesthetic reminders that set off anxiety symptoms. These triggers could be people, places, objects, sounds, phrases (songs!), tastes, or smells which reconnect you to your trauma. Once you are reconnected to your trauma, your physical body reacts by pumping out the adrenaline and you become hyper-aroused, which is known as hyper-vigilance. This increases paranoia, insomnia, startle reflex and a lot of other overstimulated and anxiety-oriented behaviors.

Other triggers that are not trauma-specific, but you should be on the alert for, are violent movies, TV, or music, and high-level noises. Also, be alert to lifestyle/jobs/people that are too fast-paced, busy environments, risky or scary jobs, bosses or co-workers who have personality disorders and are abrasive, or any other situations that kick-start your anxiety. Women are often surprised that other people’s pathology now sets them off. Once they have been exposed to pathology and have acquired PTSD from this exposure, other pathology can trigger PTSD symptoms. Living ‘pathology free’ is nearly mandatory—to the degree that you can ‘un-expose’ yourself to other known pathologies.

The opposite of chronic exposure to craziness and pathology would be the gentle life.  Think ‘zen retreat center’—a subdued environment where your senses can rest… where a body that has been pumped up with adrenaline can let down… and a mind that races can relax. Where the video flashbacks can go on pause, and fast-paced chest panting can turn into slow, diaphragmatic breathing. Where darting eyes can close, soft scents soothe, and gentle music lulls. Where high heels come off and flip-flops go on. Where long quiet walks give way to tension release … quieting of the mind chases off the demons of hyperactive thinking… so when you whisper, you can hear yourself.

Only, this isn’t a retreat center for a yearly visit… this is your life, where your recovery and your need for all things gentle are center in your life. It doesn’t mean you need to quit your job or move to a mountain, but it does mean that you attend to your over-stimulated physical body. Those things in your life that you can control, such as the tranquility of your environment, need to be adjusted. Lifestyle adjustments ARE required for those who want to avoid reactivating anxiety. This includes psychological/emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual self-care techniques.

The one thing you can count on about PTSD is, when you aren’t taking care of yourself, your body will SCREAM IT! Your life cannot be the crazy-filled life you may watch others live. Your need for exercise, quiet, healthy food, spirituality, tension release, and joy are as necessary as oxygen for someone with PTSD. Walking the gentle path is your best guard against more anxiety and your best advocate for peace.

(**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.)

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