What We Believe About Pathology and Relational Health

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

“Some of the most disturbing realities are not that pathology exists, but that so little public pathology education for the general public exists.”

—Sandra L. Brown, M.A., The Institute

The Problem with the Unrecognized Face of Pathology

 We live in an age where “Positive Psychology” has ingrained a mantra into society’s psyche—which is:

If you think it

                     (i.e., the narcissist/psychopath needs to change his behavior)

Then you can make it happen

                           (i.e., your relationship will be successful when he changes)

That may be true when you are with a person who has normal psychology.  But it’s a long way from being true for those who have pathology.

For many years, people have thought that if they focused hard enough, loved long enough, tolerated more, and carried a positive attitude, their partner would somehow become unaffected by the personality disorder—even the psychopathy they bore. People believed this because they were often told this by professionals—all under the guises of different therapy approaches and theories.

For years, people who had gone through traditional forms of couples counseling came to us bearing the scars from not only the pathology in their partner who abused them, but by the wrong application of couples counseling therapy.  When there was the pathology of having no conscience, a lack of remorse, impaired insight, or low impulse control in a partner, traditional forms of counseling proved unsuccessful.  What occurred were often techniques in Mirroring, Love Languages, Communication Building, Intimacy, or Spiritual Reflecting for a partner who had no insight and lacked empathy for what his partner had experienced.  Equally prevalent were ideologies that “the pathological came into my life to heal me,” or “this is a spiritual manifestation for me to grow by,” or “he is in my life to heal my issues from early childhood.”

Equally damaging, lack of public information often occurs through women’s organizations that lump problem behavior in one category (abuser) and leave the impairment of pathology out of the equation.  People are then forced to conform to theories that do not fit their dynamics in order to get help, and miss the crucial ability to understand which disorders hold hope for change, and which do not.

There is emotional, physical, and relational danger in applying pop psychology principles to something as aberrant as pathology.  Trying to attract the positive to the relationship so the pathology is transformed leaves people ignoring the traits of pathology that can seriously harm them.  It is no wonder we are not further ahead in being able to spot abnormal psychology in others and avoid it.

The truth is, nothing impacts non-pathological people as much as being in a relationship with someone who is pathological.  Add to that the lack of understanding of how pathology manifests in relationships, and the manipulative behavior of those with pathology—and you have partners, families, and children who are devastated almost as much by the lack of information, as by the destruction that happens at the hands of the pathological.  Without the education of what the disorder is, how it came to be, whom it affects, and why it harms others—partners, families, and children live in the shadows of unspoken confusion and pain.  This also “bleeds over” to family court, mediators, social workers, and judges, who also do not recognize pathology, or care to understand it, leaving cases in limbo and in danger, labeled as “contentious” or “high conflict.”

Many who have found The Institute’s programs and products have said, “This is the first time anyone has ever explained this to me in a way I can understand.”  I have seen that when people finally found information that described their partner’s pathology, the awareness often gave way to crying, and then to anger.  It was the information they wanted that was out there all along, but was not easy to find, or was sometimes not easy to understand or explained in layman’s terms.

Equally as frustrating is such poor and inaccurate training generated out of generic approaches to pathology in graduate schools which leaves professionals with the inability to spot pathology in others, and a total loss about how to treat the survivors.  Consequently, the mental health field has done little to train the public about what pathology is, the limitation of wellness it implies, and what it looks and acts like in relationships, because they themselves do not know.

The efforts of The Institute are to bridge the gap in public pathology education to both survivors and treatment providers.  One of our bridges in public pathology education is for survivors and is achieved by providing the best and most up-to-date recovery options for their unique aftermath symptoms.  The second bridge is our approaches for victim service providers in the fields of mental health, criminal justice, nursing/medical, pastoral, addiction, and law enforcement.  Our products for service providers as well as our trainings have equipped professionals in many fields from many countries with the tools they need to help heal the aftermath of pathological love relationships.

An M.D. said to me recently, “I consider pathology and its untaught concepts to be the number-one health crisis in this country.”

 We couldn’t agree more.  We hope that the work of the many professionals who are involved with The Institute will be the part of the solution to the unrecognized face of pathology and its victims.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Addictive Relationships

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

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

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

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

  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Franticness
  • Obsession
  • Loneliness
  • Despair
  • Anger
  • Feeling stuck

Addictive relationships have similar qualities to other patterns of addiction, which ‘rob’ people of the quality of their lives. They impact the ability to:

  • Have healthy communication
  • Have authentic enjoyment of one another
  • Love each other outside of dependency
  • Be their healthiest self
  • Be able to leave the relationship if it becomes unhealthy or destructive

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

As is true in other addictions, you lose the ability to constructively manage your own life. Like drug or alcohol addiction, addictive relationships show the same signs of:

  • Magical thinking
  • Helplessness to stop the addiction/relationship
  • Feeling bad about one’s inability to stop
  • Passivity
  • Low initiative to stop the behavior and/or relationship

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

Unmet childhood needs warp into adult ‘neediness’, which places a person at higher risk for developing dependent and addictive relationships as an adult.

If your childhood was affected by your parents’ relationship or someone your parent dated, please be aware that the same thing can happen to YOUR children. A good reason to work on yourself and to stop dating dangerous men is your children and to stop the damaging effects on them. Addictive relationships are always the destructive exploitation of one’s self and the other person which masquerades as love.

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

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

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

Robin Norwood, in her excellent book, Women Who Love Too Much, outlines a 10-step plan for overcoming your relationship addiction. While this book is directed toward women, its principles are equally valid for men. Stated here (reordered and sometimes paraphrased), Norwood suggests the following:

  1. Make your recovery the first priority in your life.
  2. Become “self-ish,” by focusing on getting your own needs met more effectively.
  3. Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
  4. Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself. Fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.
  5. Learn to stop managing and controlling others. By being more focused on your own needs, you will no longer need to seek security by trying to make others change.
  6. Develop your spiritual side. Find out what brings YOU peace and serenity and commit some time—at least half an hour daily—to that endeavor.
  7. Learn not to get hooked into games in relationships. Avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, such as rescuer/helper, persecutor/blamer, victim/helpless one.
  8. Find a support group of friends who understand.
  9. Share with others what you have experienced and learned.
  10. Consider getting professional help/counseling.

Some women get stuck trying to get out. Others get stuck trying to choose differently the next time by trying to not end up with a dangerous man AGAIN. Here are some signs you might need professional assistance for a short time to help you get unstuck:

  1. When you are very unhappy in a relationship, but are unsure whether you should accept it as it is, make further efforts to improve it, or get out of it.
  2. When you have concluded that you should end a relationship and have tried to make yourself end it, but remain stuck.
  3. When you suspect that you are staying in a relationship for the wrong reasons, such as feelings of guilt or fear of being alone, and you have been unable to overcome the paralyzing effects of such feelings.
  4. When you recognize that you have a pattern of staying in bad relationships and that you have not been able to change that pattern by yourself.

Know that, as your relationship addiction increases, it becomes more difficult to cope with anyone or anything else. This becomes all-encompassing. There is the rush of the addictive relationship that is absent from healthy relationships. Often women misread that sign to think it means there is a strong connection—it just might not be a healthy connection! Addiction is where two people use each other to fill their own loneliness. They are distractions from the inner pain of what someone is feeling.

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

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

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Real Love, Not Just Real Attraction

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

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

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

If you think back to what your “attraction basis” is, you may find some patterns there as well.  Attraction, however, can also be behavioral or based on emotional characteristics.  For instance, some women are attracted to guys with a great sense of humor.  The attraction is based on that particular characteristic.  Other women may be attracted to athletic guys, not because of what physical exercise does to their bodies, but because of the behavioral qualities of athletes.

Attraction can be subtle—like the unconscious erotic imprinting that makes us select men based on physical attributes—or attraction may lead us to choose relationships based on behaviors or emotional characteristics like displays of empathy, helpfulness, or friendliness.  (I have discussed your own high traits of empathy, helpfulness, and friendliness in Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

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

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

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

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

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Relationships Found On the Internet

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

With the need to date fast and find quick relationships, on-line dating and the internet have taken on the role of ‘hook-up’ locations. Unfortunately, it is also a potential stalking ground for relationship seeking gone awry.

There are some inherent problems with on-line and/or internet relationship seeking:

  • It is difficult to read body language, eye lingo, and verbal pacing of sentences via email.
  • One of the ways people can keep themselves safe in dating relationships is to feel and respond to their red flags. Red flags are greatly reduced by the inability to see firsthand someone’s immediate response to statements or questions.
  • Texting and email, which are usually how people first talk when they’ve met on-line or via the internet, impair the ability to get early insight into potential relationship problems.
  • You never know, for certain, that the other person is really who they say they are.

People have created false senses of intimacy via on-line and internet relationships. I know of one woman who met a man from Iran on the internet and went there to marry him without ever having met him in person. It was a disaster and hard for her to get back to the States. He was nothing that he had represented himself as.

A false sense of relationship intimacy contributes to rapid disclosure of personal information. The relationship connection with someone on-line (that you have no idea if he is safe or not or who he says he is) becomes privy to a bulimic-like purge of personal problems and detailed information. This is very common for women to rapidly disclose, and over disclose, personal and historical information.

Dangerous and predatory men have stated that “women who rapidly and overly disclose make my approach easy.” Men who are not highly verbal in person may be very verbal online and the woman mistakenly perceives this as a relationship, connection, truth-based knowledge about the person, and intimacy.

These dating venues increase relationship fantasy–anyone can be whoever they want you to think they are, and someone you aren’t sure you will ever meet. The increase in non-credible information about someone is significantly higher. People can lie about where they live, their marriage status, previous relationship history, career, appearance, or criminal history.

People who are unhappy in their marriage find on-line and internet relationships to be the perceived escape out of misery they have been seeking. Many are disappointed (or even horrified) to find the relationship on-line is all fantasy and not much reality. Women have left husbands for on-line men who never materialize. When it comes to who the person or what the relationship is, they find it’s more about what the person has projected and fantasized the relationship to be – not what it really is or will become in the future.

In the beginning of on-line dating, many women report it’s how they found their current husband and are very happy with him. But as time has gone on, more and more predators and con artists have learned that it is an easy place to hide their true self and identities and use it to find their next victim.

While it is unlikely that on-line and internet relationship seeking will ever disappear, women need to understand the risks of using these methods for meeting someone and the ways they put a woman at a distinct disadvantage in reading body language, hearing the tone of voice, and being alerted to red flags.

Be vigilant in your attempts to get back into dating and stay safe!

(**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

Ponerology 101: The Political Psychopath

By Harrison Koehli

(Originally published in Mr. Keohli’s guest column, Petty Tyrants, on October 12, 2010 and used with the permission of Sott.net)

  • How could a psychopath outshine other candidates and achieve success in politics?
  • Why would a psychopath want to enter politics?
  • How long could a psychopath successfully operate in such an environment?

Jim Kouri, who served on the National Drug Task Force, has trained police and security officers throughout the United States, and is currently the fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, answers the first question in an editorial for examiner.com:

Quite simply, most [psychopathic] serial killers and many professional politicians must mimic what they believe are appropriate responses to situations they face such as sadness, empathy, sympathy, and other human responses to outside stimuli. … If violent offenders are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.

Politics is a dog-eat-dog world. Not only must politicians be relatively thick-skinned to handle attacks on their character, they must be capable of dishing it out in return. Psychopaths lie with ease; they do not have any moral scruples when it comes to character assassination, empty promises, shameless self-promotion, cutthroat tactics, and using any means to justify the end. These qualities give them the leading edge over their more honest (and often naive) competition.

Politics is little different than any other con-job. In a Ponzi scheme, for example, the con artist targets members of an identifiable group, whether religious, racial or age-based. Regardless of whether or not the scammer is a member of the target group, he pretends to represent the group. While political psychopaths are instrumental in the rise of totalitarian political groups, they play an equally important role in apparently Democratic governments. Their use of a party mask (no pun intended!) is so common that it can easily be called their primary modus operandi.

But why would a psychopath enter politics in the first place? Simply ask the question, “Who is the most powerful person in the world?” and many will answer: ‘the President’. Psychopaths seek positions of power and influence, and politics offers publicity, prestige, and other perks. It also provides positions of ultimate authority over military, industry, and entire populations.

In a world where psychopaths are understandably viewed as morally repulsive, often finding themselves at home in the criminal world, politics offers an opportunity to create a new world, to be free from the ridiculous (in their minds) moral and legal rules of society.

Scanning headlines a few years ago, we regularly saw examples of the corruption and fraud typical of white-collar psychopaths:

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US-directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme. (Patrick Cockburn, “A ‘fraud’ bigger than Madoff”, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

Defense Department Cannot Account For 25% Of Funds – $2.3 Trillion – On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld … said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat. … “According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,” Rumsfeld admitted. … Rumsfeld promised change but the next day – Sept. 11– the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten. (“The War on Waste”, CBS, January 29, 2002)

Israeli police have recommended charging the country’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, with several counts of corruption as part of a bribery investigation, in a move that could lead to his resignation and a significant government reshuffle. Lieberman, head of a popular far-right party, is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and obstruction of justice in a case dating back over nine years. If charged and convicted on all counts he faces up to 31 years in jail. (Rory McCarthy, “Israeli police recommend corruption charges against Avigdor Lieberman”, The Guardian, August 2, 2009)

In 2008, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich came under similar media scrutiny, with several commentators speculating as to his mental health. Blagojevich was impeached for attempting to auction off newly elected President Obama’s vacant Senate seat. However, even before his impeachment, the signs were obvious. In his profile of the governor for February 2008 issue of Chicago Magazine, David Bernstein portrayed Blogojevich as narcissistic, arrogant, vindictive, charismatic, irresponsible, impulsive, untrustworthy, and with presidential aspirations (how typical!).

After interviewing more than 20 associates of Blagojevich (“from current and former members of the governor’s administration and his campaign staff to state lawmakers, Democratic benefactors and operatives, academics, pundits, and political prognosticators”), Bernstein noted that several “resorted to colorful, four-letter language when describing the governor. The list of printable insults included “greedy,” “dumb,” “paranoid,” and “phony.”” They described dramatic displays of temper over items as trivial as office stationary, “alleged illegal hiring and political kickback scandals”, his unapologetic lateness for meetings and even funerals, and a litany of political failures and embarrassments. As Bernstein puts it, for the man who once bragged of his “testicular virility” in standing up for himself against the offender in the stationary incident, “all the withering criticism, negative newspaper headlines, and next-to-nothing approval ratings should feel like a kick to the groin. But if he’s fazed, he doesn’t show it. In public, he looks easygoing, unshaken, even self-assured. He still cracks jokes and smiles that big, toothy grin.”

Cool under pressure, Blagojevich obviously saved his temper for more profitable situations:

“He can’t control himself,” says Miller. “I’ve heard people say that on his own staff.” A Democratic insider adds, “Rod sometimes just goes out of his way to have a fight, just because he can. It’s as though he relishes them.” … Last summer, the downstate newspaper the Peoria Journal Star declared that the governor was “going bonkers.” Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a “sociopath,” and they insist they’re not using hyperbole. State representative Joe Lyons, a fellow Democrat from Chicago, told reporters that Blagojevich was a “madman” and “insane.” “He shows absolutely no remorse,” says Jack Franks, the Democratic state representative. “I don’t think he gives a damn about anybody else’s feelings. He tries to demonize people who disagree with him; he’s got delusions of grandeur.” © M.C. Roessler 2010

 Called a “liar” and likened to a “used-car salesman” by lawmakers after one incident, “in an unprecedented move, they demanded that Blagojevich put any promises on paper in so-called memorandums of understanding.” In fact, he spent much of his time in office “fending off accusations of ethical irregularities within his administration.” But despite the rumors, innuendos, and outright accusations, “Blagojevich has claimed – sometimes indignantly – that he has done nothing wrong. He blames the scandals on “a few bad apples who violated the rules” and who deceived him.”

In short, Blagojevich shows all the hallmarks of a political psychopath, albeit a fairly obvious one. And he surely isn’t the only one. Just as the ‘best’ psychopaths are those who evade detection, living lifetimes of successful crime, the best political psychopaths operate in such a manner as to hold on as long as possible.

Robert Hare, in his 1970 book Psychopath: Theory and Research, as well as James Blair, Derek Mitchell, and Karina Blair in their 2005 book The Psychopath: Emotion and the Brain, observe that negative environmental conditions such as low socioeconomic status, abuse, and poor parenting, along with low IQ, are often associated with high psychopathy scores, particularly among those who engage in persistent, violent criminal behavior. These psychopathic offenders are often considered the worst of the worst in courts and prisons.

However, these factors seem only to affect the expression of psychopathy. As Dr. Hare says in filmmaker Ian Walker’s excellent documentary, I, Psychopath, on the diagnosed psychopath and self-styled narcissism guru, Sam Vaknin, while psychopaths often tell of some traumatic childhood that made them the way they are, psychopaths come from all backgrounds, good or bad. Speaking of successful psychopaths like Vaknin, he says, “If you’re very bright, know how to dress well; you have, say, the gift of the gab; you’re raised in an affluent family background; [then] you don’t go in the bank and rob it, you get in the bank and become a director…”

In fact, Vaknin makes a perfect case study for the type of psychopath that is most dangerous to political institutions, and thus entire nations. Best known as an Internet guru for “malignant self-love”, Vaknin was arrested in Israel in 1995 for major securities fraud. The documentary follows Walker, Vaknin, and Lidija (Vaknin’s wife) as they visit several European institutions to test if Vaknin is indeed a psychopath. Vaknin ends up scoring 18 (out of 24) on the PCL-SV

developed by Dr. Hare, a score higher than the majority of offenders in US correctional facilities, and the cutoff point for psychopathy.

However, according Walker, Vaknin, like many of the so-called successful psychopaths now being studied by Hare, Bakiak, and others, is not an “archetypal, textbook” psychopath. Contrary to the criminal populations, Vaknin is never physically violent. He has also been married to the same woman for ten years, while most psychopaths are seemingly incapable of such ‘commitment’, engaging in a string of short-term relationships. (His emotional treatment of her is another matter, however.)

Most interestingly, he is remarkably self-aware, and his insights agree with what the experts have to say. For example, in total seriousness, Vaknin had the following exchange with Walker:

Vaknin: “I like to present a facade of the self-effacing, modest person. It gives people the impression that, underneath it all, I’m human.”

Walker: “But you are human, aren’t you?”

Vaknin: “I firmly believe that you want to believe that, yes. … [The psychopath] regards people as instruments of gratification and as disposable things to be used. … The vast majority of psychopaths, like an iceberg, are underwater, and like an iceberg, they are inert. They do nothing. They’re just there. They torment their spouse by being unempathic, but they don’t beat her or kill her. They bully coworkers, but they don’t burn the office. They are not dramatic. They are pernicious. Most psychopaths are subtle. They are more like poison than a knife, and they are more like slow-working poison than cyanide.”

After subjecting Walker to a series of degrading insults (a regular occurrence during filming), and with Walker still visibly in shock, Vaknin coolly, and with disturbingly sadistic insight, described the process to him:

“Your body was flooded instantly with adrenalin and its relatives like norepinephrine … Now when these moments pervade the bloodstream, your brain reacts. It shuts down certain centers and activates others. This is called the stress reaction, or stress syndrome, actually. Then when the abuse recedes, the adrenalin levels begin to drop. As they drop, the entire system goes into mayhem. So what bullies usually do, they start and stop, start and stop. That achieves the maximal stress syndrome, and this is the great secret of bullying. Never overdo it. Small doses. The victim will do the rest. – Although you are shaking much less [now] … I must do something about that.”

This type of self-aware psychopath is perhaps the most dangerous to humanity. When his instinctive drive for domination of others is coupled with the means to attain to positions of power, he is not only free of the restraints of conscience by nature, but finds himself largely above (or indeed the architect) of the laws that are meant to protect normal human beings from the deviant impulses so clearly defined by the psychopathic mind. As a president, politician, military or corporate chief, a vast number of people are literally at his mercy.

More information about psychopathy can be learned in the 2015 BBC documentary, Psychopath

BBC Documentary 2016 – Donald Trump: A True Narcissistic Sociopath

Susan Murphy Milano Show: Interview with Sandra Brown and Harrison Koehli on Psychopathy

Just Because You Believe It DOESN’T Make It True

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

In the past we have talked about how your defense mechanisms affect your emotional suffering. We’ve looked at denial and fantasy. Today we are going to look at how your own distortions in thinking can also cause emotional suffering.

I am frequently reminded that this statement: “Just because you believe it, that doesn’t make it true” is accurate when it comes to denial in Pathological Love Relationships. There’s just something about narcissists and psychopaths that can make you forget all about their pathology and return you to your previous ‘fog’ of beliefs:

F.O.G. = Fear, Obligation, Guilt

Entrenched in your desires is to have a normal partner. Couple that with the NPD’s (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and PP’s (Psychopath’s) ability to convince you of their—at least fleeting—normalcy, and you have a woman who has dug her fingernails into the nanosecond of his normal behavior. And she’s not gonna let it go!

An otherwise highly educated, bright, and successful woman can be reduced to a blankly staring hypnotized believer when it comes to believing her mate is normal and can be normal, or that it’s her that is really the messed up one.

Just when you feel you have made substantial headway in understanding the nature of the ‘unchangeability’ of his disorder—wham!—out of nowhere, you are staring blankly, hypnotized yet again.

While pathology never changes, what does change is your belief system. Obviously, narcissists and psychopaths are not capable of true sustainable change. He didn’t change. Your desire to believe he’s normal and to deny his pathology is the only thing that has changed. It’s not so much a ‘change’, per se, as it is a return to straddling the fence about your belief system.

Most partners live a life of cognitive dissonance—this conflict between ‘he’s good/he’s bad’ which is so distracting they never resolve the internal conflict of whether he is MORE good than bad, or MORE bad than good. They live in a fog of circulating memories that support both viewpoints—remembering the good, but still feeling the bad. These circulating memories keep them straddling the fence with the inability to resolve a consistent faulty belief system about him.

This inability to hold a consistent belief system is what causes cognitive dissonance. It’s also what increases the cog diss and also causes intrusive thoughts. Dissonance is caused by thought inconsistency which eventually leads to your behavioral inconsistency—constantly breaking up and making up.

Inconsistencies in thought and behavior increase dissonance which increases intrusive thoughts. No wonder you can’t get symptom relief!

Your desire to believe it doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t make him normal. It doesn’t cure his NPD or Psychopathy. It only keeps you stuck straddling a belief system that has caused you emotional paralysis.

Joyce Brown (the mentor in Pathological Love Relationships for The Institute) once said, “The only thing that happens when you’re straddling a fence is you get a fence post up your butt!” Try moving when you’re paralyzed by a fence post!

Just because you believe it, doesn’t mean he’s okay, that he’s going to stop doing the things he said he’d stop, that counseling is going to work, that there never was anything wrong with him, that it’s probably you—or any of the other things you tell yourself in order to stay in a relationship of pathological disaster.

Even Benjamin Franklin said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” For us in the field of psychopathology, these self-evident truths are that pathology is permanent, whether you believe it or not.

(**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

How Long is Recovery Going to Take?

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

 

Raise your hand if you believe that, if you were run over by a train, you could reasonably expect to heal in 6 months, a year, even two years. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury from
being run over by a train, would a neurologist say to you, “You’ll be good as new – like nothing ever happened – in a year”? Highly unlikely…

You have been run over by The Pathology Train. And anyone hit by this train will have acquired a trauma disorder from it (re-experiencing it over and over). You will have medical conditions and a neurological impact. Your core self will have been shattered at a deep level and all those aspects will need to be treated.

Can you expect to treat a trauma disorder, medical conditions, a shattered self, and a TBI all in a year or some pre-conceived time frame? No one has a magic wand to wave over you to get all that damage zipped up in a short period of time.

The problem is your level of expectation is not equal to the level of damage you have experienced. This isn’t just “a bad break up”. You have been harmed emotionally, physically, psychologically, sexually, spiritually, financially, existentially at your core self level, and neurologically.

Survivors say, “I have been no contact for 2 years, why am I not better?” Or, “I have been out 4 years and dating why am I not better? Why do I still have triggers? Why do new triggers begin? Why am I triggered by dating?”

The question should not be ‘why.’ The answer is your experience–you aren’t well yet. You have a level of expectation that, because time has passed, you should be better – but you aren’t. That you aren’t better in a short period of time, in and of itself, points to the reality that this is extreme damage. Extreme.

There is no Oprahology positive psychology approach that wipes this away. It is the arduous task of rebuilding your life, not making symptoms simply go away. There is no drive-thru healing despite all the ridiculous books that claim simply to go no contact or breathe and it will all be ok.

Believing this is recovery from a bad break up sets you up for unrealistic expectations that, yet again, make you doubt your judgment which sets off more cognitive dissonance about trusting yourself and your recovery.

This is the most complicated form of trauma I have ever seen in 30 years. But among your Super Traits is resourcefulness and resilience. You will have some levels of recovery but obviously not as quickly as you think.

If it were easy, you wouldn’t be here. If everything else had worked, you wouldn’t be here. If you had gotten up and walked away from being run over by The Pathology Train, you wouldn’t be here.

‘Why’ is not the question, it’s the answer to the extremity of your experience.

Trauma is not only calculated by the depth of his disorder. It has just as much to do with your own previous levels of trauma (childhood, adulthood, etc.) and your own mixture of resiliency and inner resources. Everyone is different. Some people with earlier trauma are taken down hard and fast by these relationships while others, who had no previous trauma but might have had a more pathological partner, may fare better. You can’t judge, it just is what it is.

Recovery depends on previous traumas, inner resources, resiliency factors and other things that feed into the equation on recovery. Recovery is not linear with ebbing and flowing as periodic challenges highlight what is left to work on because trauma is like an onion. As you peel down the layers and get different symptoms in different layers, it might be getting to the core and some of the final symptoms that need treatment.

Some of these recovery challenges are due to the emotional dysregulation that comes from PLRs. It is either dysregulation from not having learned recovery skills or it is dysregulation that has been created from now being very sensitive to pathology in which you become highly reactive to situations that stir up those emotions. Either way, skills for dysregulation is what is needed. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is effective for developing these skills.

When you try to get people who have not experienced a PLR to affirm your situation, it’s like war vets trying to get others to know what it was like to have served in a war. It is a set up for non-affirmation and rightfully so because others never lived it. While they may have compassion for your situation, they cannot have empathy for something they haven’t experienced. It isn’t possible to get affirmation from people who haven’t walked in our shoes.

Survivors often get the recovery process backwards–they are still having symptoms and haven’t learned consistent symptom management but are dealing with loneliness or boredom and friends suggest the best way to get revenge is to get back out there in the dating scene. Or they are symptom managing but they haven’t learned how to rein in their super traits with normal people much less intimate others. They don’t understand or ‘hear’ their super traits. Their PTSD still has their intuition numbed or hyped up so either they don’t receive red flags or all they see are red flags.

All of these are indicators of work still to be done before you are ready to date. The Institute has some dating bylaws we go by or you can have a session with Jennifer who prepares people for dating and assesses whether they are ready. But until you have built a strong recovery and a GREAT and GENTLE Life and are living it, you are putting the cart before the horse.

Recovery requires the ability to reclaim your previous self and remove yourself from the storyline of victimization.

Recovery isn’t just about no contact with him or learning and using breathing exercises. It’s about disengagement from the whole topic. It’s about learning what your Super Traits are, what they ‘sound like’ in your interactions with others, and learning how to manage them in order to protect yourself from harm. It’s about learning how to calm your raging physical symptoms and how your physical health is at risk if these symptoms are left unmanaged. There are multiple facets to recovery.

Recovery is about building a new life, a different life – one in which you will be safe from this kind of harm in the future.

(**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

Testing the Edge

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

Women who end up in dangerous and pathological relationships often end up there because they like (or find interesting) “living on the edge.” They don’t like their boring lives, and that extends to liking men who are edgy as well.

No boring normal geek men—Nope! The more the edge/bad boy/outlaw/rebel (or the more you perceive they need some support to keep an honest life afloat) the more you like them.

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

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

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

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

His edge was pathology.

(**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

Triggers and Knee Jerk Reactions During the Holidays

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

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 reconnect with you–of course “just to wish you a Merry Christmas.” He has a million hooks he will use to get you back in…and here’s a big 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 doorstep isn’t a thoughtful gift–it’s a manipulation because being the good-mannered girl you are, you’ll call and thank him and then he’ll have you on the phone….and it all goes downhill from there.

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

He’ll be testing your boundaries to see if your no contact rule applies during the holidays. If it DOESN’T apply and you respond to him or send him a text/card/call, you have just taught him where your loophole is. You have 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? Not just one night with the twinkle of Christmas tree lights and a ribbon on a gift…that 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 can get from the season away. They get drunk, pick fights, say mean things to your family, yell at the kids, and don’t participate in the festivities.

Don’t react. Have a great Christmas while he wallows around in that puddle of pathology.

You know one of the things we found out in our research? You ladies tested unbelievably high in ‘sentimentality’. What are the holidays all about? SENTIMENT! If your sentiment is on caffeine, what do you think it will do? Be restrained or have a knee jerk reaction because all that sentiment is coursing 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 ‘lectured’ our readers about loneliness because this 4-inch stack on research sitting on my desk that you ladies completed tells me that you lapse and lapse and lapse again when you feel lonely. Holidays induce loneliness. Plan ahead and safeguard. “I was lonely” is not an excuse for starting something that will once again destroy your life!”

Instead, do something wonderful with your kids. Get outside, take a walk, go to a movie with friends, do some scrapbooking, get some of our books to read, go to a nursing home and visit someone! Sit in a chapel alone and count your blessings, walk your dog more, go to the gym!

Do anything except have a knee jerk reaction to your excessive sentimentality gene!!

Wishing you peace and joy this Holiday Season!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Damage They Do

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

For the unlucky women, months turn into years as they ride the roller coaster going nowhere. From heart stopping curves to death wish drops, they hate the ride but don’t know how to get off.

Interestingly, no matter how long women are in the relationship, the aftermath symptoms are the same. This means any exposure to pathology is psychologically devastating. The aftermath severity happens because the pathological uses forms of mind control. It is hard to fathom, but the pathological’s goal is to succeed in controlling and destroying a woman, not to have a successful relationship with her.

A pathological performs devious kinds of acts to try to make his woman think she is having a nervous breakdown or is mentally deficient so she relies on his “take” of reality. If mind control is psychologically damaging to prisoners of war, it is just as damaging to the intimate partners of pathologicals who will go to great lengths to inflict psychological devastation – simply because they enjoy the process.

He claims that he “knows people” who get information for him. This increases her paranoia and fear and adds to the psychopath’s mystique. He plays “nice guy” to make her doubt herself and to deflect her thoughts that there’s anything wrong with him.

He will gaslight her by agreeing to changes and then act as if they never had the conversation about those very changes. He will admit behaviors when caught and later deny he admitted them. He will get caught red-handed and later deny she ever heard or found out what he did. He will use other accomplices to validate his stories to increase her sensation that she is going crazy. Wealthy pathologicals will financially bribe others to control the outcome of situations that continue to support his mirage of lies.

Women may have PTSD symptoms resulting from mind control and coercion. All of these conditions result from a victim’s bonding and emotional connection to her captor/abuser, symptoms that are often seen in prisoners of war, hostages, and cult members.

But she is not an easy woman to take down. Self-control will hold her strong even in the face of these pathological-created delusions. Some women indicate they stayed far too long trying to figure out what was going on or to go toe-to-toe with him so he couldn’t get something else over on them. Most women say they are baffled by the strange dynamics in the relationship and stayed until they had some kind of cognitive understanding of what they had been living through.

As the emotional stress, physical, and sexual exhaustion are taking their toll, her failed reality testing continues. She begins thinking paranormal things are happening around her. The constant ups and downs of the relationship are now eroding this strong woman’s sense of self-confidence and resourcefulness – just what the pathological intended!

As she starts to psychologically decompensate, she experiences the same dynamics that are seen in Stockholm Syndrome:

  • She perceives (and has already experienced) a threat to her physical or psychological survival and believes he has the ability to carry out his threats. By now, she has already lived through months of him carrying out his ability to harm her.
  • Perceived small kindnesses from him set the emotional tone for her letting down her guard and. once again, seeing him as kind or even human. This also increases her relationship investment and hope in him.
  • Isolation from outside perspectives other than his. She has already experienced not only isolation from others but the indoctrination of his pathological world view.

As she decompensates, she is an easier mark for continued manipulation by the pathological. It is uncertain if psychopaths have a natural ability by nature of their pathology to simply unconsciously perpetrate these types of mental set-ups, or if the set-ups are systemically planned so that just watching her psychologically melt before his very eyes is a huge power pump for him. Our guess would be the latter.

If pathologicals didn’t like the game of manipulation, they would consistently choose women who are introverted and who would be a far easier capture than taking on powerful extraverted women. But that is, in fact, exactly why most (not all) pathologicals choose the powerful extraverted woman. To that end, we have to assume that the pathological predator enjoys watching a previously high-functioning woman turn into a reality-doubting, exhausted, bundle of nerves which he finds pretty erotic.

Sadly, some of the pathological’s women only make it out of their torment through suicide. The ultimate power triumph for a psychopath, he conquered her spirit and won. He scoops up and moves on to the next woman/victim.

Inevitable Harm

Every woman is harmed. “I realized I had been seduced by a con man and I spent months in shock, trying to figure out just who he really was.”

A relationship with a pathological man is not like any other failed relationship. The women who loved pathologicals are not just ‘bitter women scorned’. It is simply not possible to have a relationship with a pathological and not be harmed and damaged to a significant degree.

One woman expressed, “It has been over four years since our relationship ended and I still get anxiety attacks at the thought of dating. I am still single and have adopted a hermit lifestyle to make sure I never go through anything like this again.” The relationship with a pathological has resulted in many women living out their lives alone without a partner.

The medical side effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that many women develop from the relationship (as well as other acute stress disorders) will long manifest in her body. Medical side effects that continue on, long after the psychopath has left, include:

  • Auto immune disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Migraines
  • Digestive disorders
  • High blood pressure

As one survivor said, “This relationship has taken a grave physical toll on my body. I have several conditions and I look about 20 years older than I actually am.”

Sexual damage

Many women experience sexual damage and negative effects on their sexuality. This stems from having been exposed to deviant sexual practices, humiliated about their sexual performance or bodies, compared to other women, and often sexually harmed.

Long term damage

Women who have been in relationships with pathologicals universally experience some form of acute stress. The acute stress may have evolved into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other types of stress disorders. The lingering disorders serve as reminders of past pain and are likely to cause the women symptoms for years – and maybe for life.

(**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’s the Problem with Problem Partners?

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

Problem partners create problems which manifest as problem relationships. These relationships are often referred to as ‘bad relationships, ‘drama,’ or ‘dysfunctional’ when, in fact, often the dynamic at play is a result of what I have coined ‘Pathological Love Relationships.’

These relationships are related to the permanent personality structures and disorder of one (or sometimes both) of the partners. Mislabeled, undiagnosed, or misunderstood, these relationships churn out problems for the partners, their children, their families, and the therapists who try to help them.

Neuroscience has helped us understand some of the brain processes and problems involved especially in Cluster B patients referred to as the ‘Erratic and Dramatic’ disorders. The partners who are challenged by faulty brain processing and negative behaviors often associated with narcissism and anti-social personality disorders and the no conscience disorder of psychopathy make for some pretty lousy relational material.

I refer to this lousy relationship quality as ‘Inevitable harm’ because when someone’s brain processes are hard-wired, and they lack the ability to sustain positive changes through therapy or develop insight about how their negative behavior hurts others, there’s only one way this relationship is going to end up – harmful.

Even the court system now labels these relationships uniquely as ‘High Conflict Cases.’

In our work at the Institute, we have looked at Inevitable Harm related to partners who have problems bigger than what psychology can do for them and:

  • The traits of those with chronic personality problems that wreak havoc in the relationship
  • The unusual pathological love relationship dynamics specific to these disorders
  • The neuroscience about what is wrong with their brain
  • The elevated temperament or ‘super traits’ of those who have gotten into relationships with people with this kind of disorder
  • The affected language, communication and meaning in these relationships and how it drives the other partner crazy
  • Understand why these relationships feel more intense than others
  • Realize why break ups are so hard and why they are fraught with ‘Boomerang’ attraction.

Along the way we have reviewed the characteristics in the disorders related to impulsivity, sexual acting out, interpersonal exploitation, low to no empathy, excitement seeking, and conning. And of course, we have also looked at the physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual and financial harm of these emotionally lethal predators and parasites.

Next week we’ll talk in greater detail about the damage they do.

(**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

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