Bearing Witness to Suffering and Recovery

I have spent over 25 years huddled up bearing witness to other’s incredible pain caused by pathology. Honestly, I don’t know (and don’t need to know) how many thousands of hours and hundreds of stories I have heard of mind-destroying evil.

I have been called ‘a counselor, a writer, a researcher, a pioneer in pathology’ but really all I am is someone who has bore witness and sat with those who are tormented by someone else’s directed evil. That’s all. I opened my soul and my ears and I listened. I opened my mind to comprehend. I opened my eyes and watched tears fall and hearts break and I just sat there and felt it with others.

There are those who have worked the trenches of Bangladesh with starving children and leprosy-ed adults. I have worked the pathology trenches of those discarded by remorselessness. I have faced my own powerlessness to stop evil or repair intrusive thoughts. I have embraced the not knowing of what to say why evil exists. I have struggled against knowing if a person will succumb to the desire to die and be out of pain.

There are those who sit with the dying in hospice. I sit with those who have died and are still alive. I don’t administer morphine, I administer the balm of being heard. All I bring to anyone is the ability to bear witness and see them, see what happened to them, see their suffering. To say yes, I see you are nearly dead. To say yes, your soul is gashed—I feel it. To say yes, evil blew its devil breath on you, it scorched your edges, but you are still here.

I work the ER of the psyche, the critical care unit of the soul, the rehab unit of the walking wounded who were scourged by what all that is holy calls a seared conscience. I don’t even know why except it’s where God put me and never moved me (and I think I will retire or die, whichever comes first) doing what I do. I am quite sure (and my body confirms it) that I have heard way too much pain for one powerless person to witness.

But that’s what we are all here for—to simply bear witness to the suffering of life. Jesus said “you WILL have tribulation.” He was quite sure of that. And that ‘the poor will always be among us’—which did not mean merely financial, but the poor in spirit – all those who were disheveled from brushes with darkness. That’s what darkness does—it tries to break the spirit because spirit is strongest.

And He also reminds us ‘Blessed are those who are poor in spirit for they shall see God.’ Because where else would God be but bearing witness to real life? Not bearing witness to life’s mountainous experiences but to real life lived in the trenches of pain—the places where everyone else wants to bail—when you can’t rise from your bed, or stop crying, or wanting to kill yourself for loving a psychopath. Yeah, that trench of a life. That’s where you need a witness—someone to say you are bleeding but breathing, out of your mind with pain but conscious, gas lighted but not insane. This bearing witness is simply validating reality. Sharing in someone else’s suffering and being present to it is being present to what really IS….and reality can be quite holy. It is watching each other’s lives and walking each other home—all the way to bearing witness to recovery.

And that’s home—the recovery part. Home is not suffering. Home is recovery.

People ask me how I’ve done this work for so long…how I have managed to bear this much pain with patients over the years, how my own psyche doesn’t collapse from facing evil day in and day out—bearing witness to the monumental amount of darkness in the world. This much I know is true—bearing witness is not just about the suffering because suffering rarely has the last word.

If I have learned anything from thousands of hours of this work and a God that is my wing-Man, it is that I am not only bearing witness to suffering but to the dawn that breaks afterwards. Suffering is not the end of the story. It’s the introduction, it’s the fore word, it’s the prelude, it’s the chapter titles, but it is not the conclusion. Holiness trumps pathology. Light makes darkness recede.

I have lived by Psalm 27:13 which promises that I will not be swallowed up in staring at evil my whole career. It says, “I remain confident of this: I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” And this too is the bearing witness of your recovery—that the goodness of the Holy is that recovery happens and that we all are here to validate that you are less numb, less distracted, less in flash backs.

Our community of helpers and survivors is here to do just that—simply to bear witness. The path back needs a witness—because we all are just walking each other home—to recovery. Don’t mistake the journey for your destination.

(**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

Pacing and Planning Your Own Recovery

We have been focused on discussing your recovery in great detail. Because the power of pathology saws people off at the knees, you need to have a plan for your own recovery in order to heal. We consider this so important that a portion of all of our coaching whether it be in-person, or during retreats, is focused on how to pace and plan your own recovery.

Women fantasize that somehow getting over this pathological relationship will ‘just happen’ and don’t realize they should be planning their recovery, or even how to go about planning it. In fact, most women have done zero to plan or facilitate their own healing process. Those of you who have found the website are at least that much further ahead than the women who haven’t even begun reading about the topic of their relationships yet! So finding the information is a great first step. But, it’s only a first step, and too many women stop there only to relapse and get into yet another pathological relationship.

Previous newsletters have spent a lot of time examining the depth of damage done at the hands of your pathological. In them, we have discussed PTSD, The Cracked Vessel and the need for Living the Gentle Life, intrusive thoughts and obsessions, healing spiritually, healing sexually, and about fantasy and hatred. We have looked very deeply at the issues of how this relationship has hurt you emotionally, physically, medically, spiritually, sexually, and financially.

There will always be those women who won’t do anything about their lives except continue to be victims of them. How do I know this? I get the same e-mails from the same people, week after week, asking me the same ‘loophole-based’ questions like, “do you think I should leave him because, after all, he SAID he would change?” Week after week, the same people with the same questions who haven’t read the book, who haven’t spent time working on the Dangerous Man workbook, who haven’t listened to one of our mp3s or CDs, who haven’t spent one hour in counseling… keep asking the same questions, expecting things to get better, but getting the same results.

Any 12-stepper knows that the only way they can stay away from something so life-gripping like drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex is with a concerted daily focused recovery on themselves, and the behaviors, habits, and beliefs that led to the life-damaging events that have altered them. Women who will recover from pathological relationships are those who take the same serious and focused approach to the life-gripping and life-damaging relationship that has altered their lives.

We spend 40-plus hours a week at The Institute developing ways to strengthen YOUR recovery—after all, this isn’t about US! We do this by writing books, e-books, making mp3s and CDs and other products, and by giving workshops and conferences, training therapists so they can counsel you, operating a retreat center so you can get specific and unique treatment for your issues, and intense research so we understand WHAT you need in order to heal from this.

It is our hope that you will knuckle-down and focus on your recovery—taking the steps you need to heal from the life-damaging experience at the hands of the pathological. Why? First, we don’t want pathology to win by destroying the lives of strong and wonderful women. We exist to kick butt on this issue! Secondly, WE NEED YOU!

  • If you don’t teach the woman you sit next to, how will she learn to spot and avoid pathology?
  • If you don’t heal and recover, who will be a teacher to others?
  • Who will run support groups?
  • Who will give community lectures?
  • Who will operate an outreach?

It’s not us. Our focus is to educate YOU. Your job is to recover and heal! Now is the time for you to heal so you can eventually reach others.

(**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 Illusion of Managing (Or Controlling) a Pathological Person

Part of how people convince themselves to stay in a pathological love relationship is that they think they are making “progress” by managing the pathological’s behavior. Once there is a glimmer of doubt about the pathological’s behavior, the partner begins to do one of two things: they either change their belief system or they change their own behavior. Most of them will change their belief system. That means they will tell themselves there are “ways” to manage the pathological’s lying, infidelity, addictions, sexual acting out, or whatever negative behavior they bring to the relationship. If they can manage the behavior, they can change the person. If they change what they don’t like in them, they have a shot at being happy.

That means they will change how they see the pathological. If they are noticing too much negative behavior, they might look the other way, rename it, minimize it, deny it, justify it, or use any other defense mechanism that allows the partner to change how they see the pathological.

When there is the thought that, by enforcing strong “rules” for the relationship, or by “demanding” their own rights, the pathological will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that by enforcing the “three-strike rule” for the relationship, or by “demanding” the pathological attend church, counseling, or treatment which will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that, by “putting the pathological on a short leash,” and checking on them frequently, calling their cell, sending people out to find them, breaking into the pathological’s phone or computer, that the fear of being caught will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that the pathological is “now working” or staying at home, or being kind, or saying the kinds of things you always wanted to hear, and that the previous behavior is now gone, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

Pathologicals and/or addicts are not managed. Shortening the leash, making demands, watching closer, hiring a P.I. is not managing a person’s acting out.

Pathology is noted for three things:

  • the inability to grow to any emotional or spiritual depth
  • the inability to sustain the changes that you have demanded
  • the inability to develop insight about how their behavior harms or affects others.

People with pathological disorders are not managed—not by you, not by jail or prison, and not by church. The inability to sustain change may show that the pathological APPEARS to do whatever it takes to stay in the relationship, but the disorder itself means they cannot sustain the change that will please you.

People embrace the truth of pathology when they realize that the idea they are ‘managing’ the pathological’s negative behavior or addictions is simply an illusion. Jails and prisons are packed full of personality disordered and pathological individuals because probation ‘management’ or ‘psychological management’ did not work. As they say in 12 steps, ‘When nothing changes–nothing changes.’ Pathology has an inability to change which means nothing consistently changes in the pathological individual except maybe new ‘ideas’ about how to con others.

Managing manipulative behavior, drugs or alcohol, porn or sex addictions, infidelity, lying, and conning are an illusion used by the partner in order to ‘buy a little more time’ to try to figure out how to make the pathological be ‘more normal.’ In the end, it’s your defense mechanisms telling you that by changing your belief system (he can be different, he can do better) you can ‘help them find the resources they need in order to grow into their full potential.’ If you’re over 30, falling in love with ‘potential’ is a crap game risk. People not living up to their potential in adulthood are called–pathologically disordered. By adulthood, either you ‘have the ability for life skills and success’ or you are ‘life challenged’ by addictions or pathology. In either case, partners need to understand there is no ‘managing’ someone else’s negative and pathological behavior. That is an illusion!

Additionally, playing with the illusion of management increases cognitive dissonance in you. It causes a miserable symptom of your thinking “ping-ponging” back and forth between “he’s good/he’s bad.” This is simply responding to both sides of his Jekyll/Hyde nature. The longer you play with the illusion, the more cognitive dissonance (CD) you overload your mind with.

If you have CD, make sure you get treated for it. It increases over time and makes the symptoms worse. Getting a handle on the “illusion” is a first step toward managing your CD.

The Institute always treats the cognitive dissonance—in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone coaching —the issue of cognitive dissonance is always addressed. We are the leading provider of CD treatment for aftermath symptoms from pathological love relationships.

(**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

Feeling Sentimental?

Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, your birthday, your anniversary, the birth of a baby, a promotion, a graduation … feeling sentimental? I bet you are! You might be feeling a bit of tenderness, compassion, joy, sadness, anger?? It doesn’t take much. Just the idea of these holidays or events can elicit a wave of emotion. Sentimentality is a feeling. That’s it. It is you, responding to a memory. Feeling sentimental is not the memory but the feeling that it elicits. That is important to understand. Pathologicals want you to feel. When you feel, they are in control. Herein lies the risk: He used your sentimentality against you. Think about how many times you were in a disagreement and he brought you roses. In that moment, your emotion instantly shifted away from his offense and on to the first time he brought you roses. He might have manipulated your sentimentality when he talked about your children—their births, their accomplishments, their struggles. In those moments, your attention turned away from his betrayal or lack of parenting and towards the idea of “family” and the bond that was crafted. He would send loving cards to you while he was wooing someone else. He used your sentimentality as a distraction. When you were overwhelmed with the feeling of sentimentality, you certainly struggled with staying angry or confused or disgusted. Additionally, when the cognitive dissonance of “he’s good/he’s bad” is in full swing, this strategy of sentimentality manipulation is one of the things that pulls you back to his side. It’s the part of the relationship that you buy into with so much intensity. You have 5, 10, even 20 years of memories that he can draw on to pull you back to him. Each one of those memories is a point of manipulation on its own … but then he uses them over and over again to reinforce his mask. And you thought it was just another Christmas!!! Herein lies the benefit: Let’s face it—it is healthy to feel sentimental. Your sentimentality is a reminder that you can bond, in a healthy, emotional and equally connected way. That’s good news. You also have the ability to rationally reflect on the reality of those dates. If you can step back and be an observer of those days, you can see the pathology. Being an observer means that you look past how you felt to see what you saw. When you look back at the facts, the pieces come together. You see the flowers he brought with the shifty smile as if he got one over on you. You see the pretty birthday jewelry followed by the night he didn’t come home. You see the holiday dinner that included insults, projection and persecution. By the time the relationship ended, your sentimentality had been drained. He kept you spinning with the emotions of sentimentality so much that now … when it’s over, you probably want to run and hide as these dates approach. It’s this disdain and disgust that contributed to you leaving. Again, it’s a good thing—that is the benefit. It was part of your awareness process that leads to a full awakening. As hard as it is to look back at those dates, it is powerful to know that SEEING the pathology is what freed you from it. And once you saw it, you left. Ultimately, if sentimentality is just a feeling, then the dates are just dates. He doesn’t own them—you do. They are just days in the past, events in time in which you were manipulated into believing the picture he painted. Once you begin to separate those days from the new dates ahead, healing can be enhanced. Easter this year will look nothing like Easter 2009 looked. Your birthday this year will look nothing like your birthday did in 2002. This year, this date, this event—you will be in control. You will be in the place you want to be, with the people you want to be around, accepting and giving gifts of your choosing in a fully present and genuine way. No manipulation, no gaslighting, no devaluing, no cognitive dissonance. Don’t ever run away from your emotions. They are powerful tools; you need them and should treasure them. They do help us give meaning to every moment, every event, every day. They are a part of a very valuable human experience. Together with rational thoughts, reflection and perspective, emotions can create strength in you like you have never known. This year, be strong. Take on each event with a new sense of vigor and excitement. Take your days back—make new memories. The further you get from pathology, the more your mind will become filled with a genuine feeling of sentimentality. Each year that passes you can look back at the events that happened with tenderness and joy—because it was the year you ROCKED IT! (**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

Happiness vs. Joy, Part 2

In my last article, I talked about the issue of happiness, and how happiness is hinged on external conditions such as relationships, things, careers – stuff. … Our happiness is largely conditional based on “if things go the way we think they should go” or “if people act the way we think they should act.” This leaves a lot of our own happiness tied to someone else’s shirt tails and when he leaves, your happiness goes right out the door with him.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

(**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, on-on-ones, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Joy vs. Happiness, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(**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, on-on-ones, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

How to Not Go Back During the Holidays

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

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

The holiday season is an extremely stressful time. It’s a time when it is more likely for:

  • Domestic violence to occur or recur
  • Dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional
  • Pathologicals to be overt and blatant, and to target your joy and ruin your holidays
  • Former pathological partners to magically reappear and try to hook you back in
  • People to eat, drink, and spend too much
  • People to not get enough rest
  • People to feel pressured to “be in a relationship” and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons “just until the holidays are over”

It’s an idealistic time when people have more depression and anxiety than at any other time of the year because they think their lives should be like the picture postcards and old movies we see this time of year. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, and to cope, they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not. But you can’t make a “picture postcard memory” with a psychopath or a narcissist!

Those with the super trait of “sentimentality” will focus on the past — when they had that one perfect Christmas with the pathological.  The other drunken, absent, or abusive 14 Christmases are forgotten, forgiven or overlooked. But what IS focused on is that one year when it was nice and the pitbull stronghold on the hope it will be this way again.

But you and I both know that pathology is permanent. The bad 14 years are a much better and more realistic presentation of what pathology is like during the holidays than the one fluke of a year he held it together. Pathology is very stressful to experience under any circumstances. Add to it the expectations for a pathological to be different (i.e., act appropriately) this time of year, and the pathological’s and everyone else’s stress is then through the roof. Sometimes even our hope can be “pathological” when it is focused on something that cannot and will not change.

The glittering fantasy that resembles your Christmas tree lights places not only you in the path of misery, but all those you plan to spend Christmas with—your family, friends, kids and pets.  It is much kinder to unplug your glittering fantasy and tell yourself the truth of what will happen if you expect a serene and joyful time with a pathological than it is to drag others through your fantasy.

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

“I want to be with a psychopath/narcissist for the holiday.”  Say that three times to yourself out loud …  NO!! That’s not what you want. That’s what you got LAST YEAR. You want to be with a nice man/woman/person for the holidays. And, as you VERY well know, they’re not it.

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

Peace, gratitude, and all the spiritual reflections that are supposed to happen during this time of year cannot be found in pathology. They were not created there, but they do end there. If your goal for the holidays is to find some peace, joy, hope, and love, don’t spend it where and with whom it cannot be found. After the holidays, you will be a lot happier for not having attempted, for the millionth time, to find happiness where it does not exist.

Here’s a real gift for you—some tips!

TIPS FOR A HAPPIER/HEALTHIER HOLIDAY

— Stop idealizing—you are who you are, it is what it is, pathology is pathology. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. Accept yourself and others for who they are. This includes accepting that pathology cannot, and will not, be different during the holidays simply because you want the Christmas fantasy.  “Emotional suffering is created in the moment when we don’t accept what ‘is’.” (~Eckart Tolle)

— Don’t feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself that you have choices and the word “No” is a complete sentence. Don’t be held hostage to exhausting holiday schedules.

— Take quiet time during the season or you’ll get run over by the sheer speed of the holidays. Pencil it in like you would any other appointment. Buy your own present now—some bubble bath—and spend quality time with some bubbles by yourself. Light a candle, find five things to be grateful for, repeat often.

— Take same-sex friends to parties and don’t feel OBLIGATED to go with someone you don’t want to go with. People end up in the worst binds going to parties with others, and get stuck in relationships they don’t want to be in, because they feel obligated. Find a few other friends who are willing to be “party partners” during the holidays.

— Give to others in need. The best way to get out of your own problems is to give to others whose problems exceed yours. Give to a charity, feed the homeless, buy toys for kids and those who are in need.

— Find time for spiritual reflection. It’s the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a church service, pray, meditate, reflect.

— Plant joy—in yourself, in your life and in others. What you invest in your own recovery is also reaped in the lives of those closest to you.

— Pick ONE growth-oriented issue you’d like to focus on next year for your own growth beginning on January 1. It creates hope when you know you have a plan to move forward and out of your current emotional condition. Invest in your opportunity to grow past the aftermath of this pathological love relationship.

Happy Holidays from The Institute!

 

(**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

Awareness is Not Enough

The new mantra—awareness is not enough.

Our goal has been Public Pathology Education but it does not END there. It’s like Step 1 of the 12 Steps which is a statement of awareness “I am powerless (thus aware) over the effects of someone else’s pathology. I have been powerless (thus aware) over my patterns of selection due to my Super Traits.”

These are the FIRST steps of recovery. They are NOT recovery. Awareness is not action.

LOTS of people come to retreats to become aware of his pathology or her super traits and never put ACTION behind it–they don’t stop contact or work with our counselors to better understand how their super traits impact all aspects of their lives.

Action is recovery. You have to DO something in order to change.

Capture

Cognitive dissonance is created by holding two differing belief systems. “He’s good/He’s bad. I’m smart/I’m stupid.” It’s called COGNITIVE because it messes with your thinking abilities and impairs neuro pathways which create recurring thinking patterns. You aren’t going to use that same messed up thinking pattern to THINK your way out of the relationship. “More understanding” of pathology, or just being aware of ONE MORE act of betrayal isn’t the magic line in the sand that becomes the ‘aha’ moment when you start No Contact.

You can’t think your way out of cog diss. You have to WORK your way out. It is counter intuitive or everyone would have already done it to get well. You have to STOP the behavior so you STOP the thinking. Thinking aligns with behavior, which is why the No Contact mantra. NOTHING happens until it is reduced to its least possible amount (i.e., parenting). Cog diss is thereby cured NOT by awareness, NOT by rethinking a million times of the things he’s done, NOT by journaling, NOT by retelling the story in therapy, but ONLY by taking an action and changing what you would normally DO (read another book, tell another person, check his email another time, answer his text again).

Most people have not considered that recovery for cog diss is the opposite of what they have been doing which is why nothing has happened in their recovery. New neuro pathways are created when you change your behavior. New neuro pathways are created in your thinking AFTER they are created in your behavior.

Recovery is both action oriented and awareness based. But if awareness is not leading you to action, you are stuck in your recovery process and need help to change gears.

(**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

Learn How to Starve the Vampire

Pathological people are energy and emotional vampires. They live off of your emotional content. Part of their personality deficit is the lack of a stable and consistent inner core of a self-concept, so they need constant attention, distraction, and identity management from which they draw their identity.

Most of their identity is acquired from their relationships since internally there is so little core self to draw from. This is part of the reason they are so exhausting. In order to get their emotional ‘blood supply’ from you, they hook you into conversations or arguments or any kind of response they can get from you. They live vicariously through your own emotional expressions of love, frustration, confusion, etc. It doesn’t always matter what emotion is fed to the vampire (although narcissists like adoration) but just that there is SOME content is enough for them—even your tears, or your screams, or your insults. It doesn’t matter… they just need something—anything—from you in the way of content. If they don’t get the blood supply/emotional content from you, they will seek it elsewhere. (Remember Dracula? He just moved from town to town taking it where he could get it.)

When you begin to break up (read my e-book, How to Break Up From a Pathological Relationship), he will fear the loss of emotional supply. He won’t fear losing you so much as losing getting his identity and his sense of self from you and/or the relationship. He fears the loss of self or, ‘who am I without her?’ This is a very fragmented ego state—one which only exists through relationships with others.

So when you try to break up, he will continue to contact you, which is why pathologicals are hard to break up with (read my book). They are predictable in their approaches to get you to respond to them (you are feeding the vampire his emotional blood supply every time you talk to him). These are some of his approaches, and if you can get a bag of popcorn and just watch it like it is a Lifetime movie, and detach from it, you will see a whole movie pan out like this:

First contact, he’s angry, blaming, shaming.

 

When you don’t respond to that, verbally or emotionally (imagine you are lobotomized with no facial expression—that’s what I want women to do with these men…)

…he’ll contact you again and he’ll be sweet, loving; he’ll buy you things.

 

When you don’t respond…

…he will promise to do what you’ve asked for years… go to counseling, go to church, go to anger management, take meds, be nice.

 

When you don’t respond…

…he will get angry again—say you aren’t working on the relationship, which is why it’s going to fail.

 

When you don’t respond…

…he will quit calling for a while to make it look like he’s moved on. (They are boomerangs, they ALWAYS come back a few times.)

When you don’t respond…

…he will indicate he’s found someone else or had sex with someone else.
When you don’t respond…
(Are you enjoying the popcorn and movie about now??)

…he becomes ‘sick’—he doesn’t know what this ‘mysterious illness’ is, or he has prostate cancer, MS, or some other lethal disease.

When you don’t respond…
…he will just go back to drinking/drugging/dealing/driving too fast, etc.

When you don’t respond…
…he will threaten to kill himself or to leave the area and never see you again.

When you don’t respond…

…he will take the kids, drag you through court, threaten to physically harm you.

When you don’t respond…

…he will tell you he’s dating someone you hate or his previous girlfriend/wife.

When you don’t respond…

…it will come full circle and will begin again, at the top of this list.

When I talk with survivors, it’s the same story, over and over. I know that women think their experiences are unique. But pathology is all the same—these people aren’t very creative and don’t deviate much from the strict internal structure that is associated with pathology. They ONLY react in certain ways, so for me, it’s pretty easy to predict. Once you are able to understand this, you can predict his sad/silly/stupid reactions to a breakup.

Since they live off of your emotion and NEED it, you need to starve him by having no contact. If you have to be in contact because of your kids, make sure no words are exchanged and no emotions show on your face, and then the vampire will flee to the next available source to be fed.

When you don’t disconnect once you understand the feeding and maintenance of pathologicals, you are doing it because YOU want to remain connected. The ball is then in your court to figure out where you are still hung up so you can disconnect. This is not a judgment about women not being able to leave. It is a POINTER to a place where the dis-engagement has hit a snag. Simply notice where the snag is so that something can be done.

As soon as you are ready to really make the break, buy the Break Up e-book and then STARVE THE VAMPIRE. Make a fridge magnet with that on it so you remember daily to not feed the vampire who is lurking nearby.

 

(**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 Predictability of Pathology

“You are describing my relationship EXACTLY!”

 “He has said those exact words to me.”

 “How do you know what my relationship is like—how can you know this?”

I accurately describe people’s relationships because, to a certain extent, parts of pathology and their behavior is predictable. Pathology is related to certain personality and psychological disorders. Each one of these personality disorders has its own set of behaviors, dysfunctions and, for some of the disorders, neurological abnormalities.

To know the personality disorder is to know the behavior—either now or in the future. This is why Public Pathology Education is information for everyone because anyone can learn to predict, to a certain extent, the kinds of behaviors that are likely to manifest in the pathological in their life.

Criminal profiling, to a large extent, is exactly that—knowing what the behavior is likely to be given their probable diagnosis of antisocial, sociopath or psychopath. Although your pathological might not be criminal, this approach still applies. His behavior is predictable.

Each personality disorder has its own set of behaviors. Pathology is related to:

  • The inability to sustain consistent positive change
  • The inability to grow to any authentic emotional or spiritual depth
  • The inability to develop deep insight about how their negative behavior affects others

Once you understand the behaviors related to what Otto Kernberg calls the ‘dangerous and severe personality disorders,’ and you apply the Absolutes of Pathology—the inability to sustain change, grow, or develop insight—then you can pretty much take the behaviors now and apply them to the future in ANY relationship. His behaviors related to his specific personality disorder are permanent. The neuroscience that now supports abnormalities in Cluster B disorders and psychopathy also highlights the issues that, since these are brain-region problems (not just brain chemistry/medication problems), their permanence is much more a factor.

If someone cannot grow or change, their behaviors aren’t going to change. If the behaviors aren’t going to consistently change and stay changed, they will be the same today as they were 10 years ago — in a relationship, career or interaction — and they will be the same 20 years from now.

If they don’t have the ability to develop true insight about their behavior, then I can tell you what it’s like to communicate with someone who can’t see their own faults. If their brain regions that affect impulse control, bonding/attachment, and the inability to learn from past mistakes are faulty, we know what the future will be like for them.

Our goal in Public Pathology Education is for others to understand that you, too, can learn to loosely predict pathological behavior based on past or current behavior. Once you understand the symptoms of the personality disorder, you can expect these behaviors to continue. The more you understand the Absolutes of Pathology, the more clearly you can understand what their future is likely to hold for them and others in their life. It isn’t hard to predict something that doesn’t change!

The exception to that rule is when violence is, or has been, involved. Pathologicals with violence issues can be erratic and unstable. Predicting their ability to be currently non-violent based on past nonviolent episodes is too risky and may not follow the patterns they normally follow. Pathologicals who are addicts are hard to predict because of the instability of the person in an addiction. With violence, sexual offenses or addiction the rule of thumb is that the predictability factor is likely to be too risky to judge. When in doubt, doubt his predictability in violence, addiction or sexual offenses.

Otherwise, pathology is fairly easy to call. When someone doesn’t change, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you’re wondering what your pathological was like in the relationship before you or will be like in the one after you, just gauge from where they are today.

 

(**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

Fantasy and Its Effect on Your Reality

In a previous article, “Denial and Its Power,” we talked about the power of denial, which is a defense mechanism. Here, we look at one of the most commonly used defense mechanisms that are employed by women who actually enhance their own emotional suffering. You’ve suffered enough from the Pathological Love Relationship, and the last thing you need is for your own psychology to work against you. Today we’re going to talk about fantasy and how that, too, can play with your mind and cause emotional suffering. Eckhart Tolle said, “Emotional suffering is created in the moment we don’t accept what is.”

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

A woman will often stay in a Pathological Love Relationship because she feels panic or fear of abandonment when she or the pathological tries to end the relationship. She ends up re-contacting, or allowing him to re-contact her, because of these feelings of fear, panic and abandonment.

Abandonment is an early childhood feeling. As adults, we don’t technically feel ‘abandoned’, nor are we really capable of being abandoned (unless you are, for instance, medically dependent). The reason we aren’t capable of being abandoned as adults is that, as mentally healthy adults, we really can’t be abandoned in the ‘childhood sense’. That feeling is an early-childhood feeling usually associated with a time of adult or parental abandonment. It is an age-regression feeling—something that pulls you back to your childhood or to a very young emotional state.

The feeling of ending an opposite-sex relationship often subconsciously sets off childhood feelings of abandonment. These are past associations and they tap into the fantasy that the abandonment is happening all over again when it really isn’t. The childhood abandonment by a previous male in your life is not the same thing as a pathological leaving your adult life.

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

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

Women stay in relationships with pathologicals based on a lot of ‘fantasy future betting’ —that is, “he might stop acting pathological”, “he might marry me”, “he might stop cheating”, “he might tell the truth”. Fantasy betting is a lot like gambling… betting on a future that is not likely to happen with a pathological.

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

But women also stay in Pathological Love Relationships based on ‘projected fantasies’. They fantasize that he will be happy with the NEXT woman and SHE will get all his good traits and none of his bad. This too is fantasy… that his pathology somehow will not affect HER the way it affects you. (Pathology can’t be turned on and off like a light switch!)

Here are the facts:

Pathology affects EVERYONE the SAME!! (Unless the woman is pathological as well— then who cares if he goes on to have a relationship worthy of a Jerry Springer Show?)

  • Women fantasize that this ‘abandonment’ feeling will affect them the way the childhood abandonment did. But, FYI: it will not!
  • Women fantasize that he will be different with them. But if he is truly pathological he is hardwired; this IS his DNA.
  • Women fantasize that he will be happy in the future and they are missing out on something. But if he is truly pathological, his patterns don’t change.

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

 

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

4.

 

5.

 

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

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

Your life is right now—not back there and not up there 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

 

Beyond Power and Control

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

Intimate partner violence is not just about power and control. As valuable as the Duluth Model has been in helping us to make a turn in the right direction towards saving women’s lives, we must allow our work to evolve. The good news is that it has evolved – we now know much more about how people work, the brain and neuroscience and the delicate intricacies of intimate partner violence today than ever before. And if we expand our understanding to meet the science, we can make real changes in our world and improve on our efforts to build a safe society for all of us.

In the 1980’s the Duluth Model explained domestic violence based on what the perpetrator was doing. It helped make the shift away from blaming the victim and towards holding the perpetrators responsible (What is the Duluth Model?, 2011).  For decades women had carried the full burden of accountability.

The belief that has driven the Duluth Model is that societal power is what drives batterers to use violence. The innate idea of power within our society for hundreds of years, that men are more powerful than women, is at the source of the violence perpetrated against women. This power differential that continues has been handed down and sanctioned generation after generation. There is no denying that this power exists and is certainly a piece of the problem – a large piece. But, what we know now is far beyond society’s power structure. We now know, because of neuroscience, that there are human pieces of society’s structure that are broken and unfixable. We can no longer turn away from this fact.

Neuroscience and our efforts in understanding the human brain have taken us towards a deeper understanding of the human experience. For hundreds of years we have done the dance between nature and nurture. And for most of our time, we have struggled to validate the nature part and as a result, defaulted to nurture. This argument has not left us, even with neuroscience closing many of the gaps. However, the argument for the causes of human experiences related to nature are much, much clearer today.

What we know today, as it relates to perpetration of intimate partner violence, is that there are disorders of the brain that limit a person’s ability to have empathy and to have a conscience. Without these things one would have:

  • The inability to sustain positive change
  • The inability to have insight about how their negative behavior impacts others
  • The inability to develop any emotional or spiritual depth

There are specific areas of the brain that are responsible for these functions and brain research has now been able to identify that these areas of the brain are different. The differences could be in size, shape or volume. This is not an issue of brain chemistry or circuitry, but an issue with the organ itself – a problem for which we have no treatment. To date, we do not have treatments that change the size, shape or volume of a part of the brain. It is a permanent mal-formation (Fallon, 2006).

And these brain disorders are not new. In fact, we have known about them for decades. It is simply the addition of the neuroscience that creates a new layer of understanding. These disorders – personality disorders (specifically cluster b disorders which include antisocial, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders along with sociopath and psychopath) – highlight the idea of what it means to be a perpetrator of violence. They also teach us that there are many layers to how these disordered people do what they do. And although being motivated by power over others is a piece, there is so much more.

What survivors of cluster b disordered people will tell you is that the explanation of “power and control” as a cause or framework for understanding what happened to them is simplistic at best. Further, continuing with the idea of power and control as a cause does not offer a solution or a way out. For many survivors, hearing that the violence is about power and control implies that change is possible. Just finding the right mix of giving them what they need will lead to a solution. And for those who have heard “he will not change”, there is no follow up. Domestic violence professionals are not sharing the details of why they won’t change. In fact, often perpetrators are sent to Batterer Intervention Program and survivors are told that he can change – if he attends the group.

The evolution of the information about perpetrators requires that we share all of what we know as clinical professionals. What we have known for decades is that there is a group of people – approximately 4-6% of the US population (Hare, 1998) (Stinson, et al, 2008) (Grant, et al, 2008) – who have no empathy and no conscience. This group of cluster b disordered individuals cannot change and there is no treatment for their disorder. As clinical professionals, we have available to us a breadth of information about the patterns and a categorical list of behaviors that we can share with survivors to help them identify if their partner is a cluster b. Finally, we can share the permanent nature of these disorders to inform survivors, once and for all and with certainty, that their partner will not change.

This information is being used for risk assessments related to intimate partner homicide but it must also be used by every domestic violence professional from the moment a survivor walks through the door. This information can help determine what type of safety planning is needed and ultimately the path of recovery. Over and over again, survivors share with us the first time they were told that their partner had a cluster b disorder. Having been given this information by a clinical professional shifted everything for them. Today, survivors head to the internet and see for themselves that their disordered partner meets every one of the items on the checklist. Then they leave – for good.

The history of the domestic violence movement is a solid foundation on which all of us stand. It provided a way forward and a way out for uncounted millions. But there is more – more information and more work to be done. We cannot stop and rest on one piece of the puzzle when survivors know there is more to the story. We must not be afraid to share what we know – say what we see – and give every survivor a chance.

Sources:

Fallon, James H. (2006) Neuroanatomical Background to Understanding the Brain of Young Psychopath. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. Vol 3:341.

What is the Duluth Model? (2011). Retrieved August 19, 2015 from www.theduluthmodel.org.

Robert D. Hare. (1998). Psychopaths and Their Nature: Implications for the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems in Psychopathy: Antisocial, Criminal, and Violent Behavior. ed. Theodore Millon, Erik Simonsen, Morten Birket-Smith, and Roger D. Davis. New York, NY: Guilford Press. 188-212.

Stinson FS, Dawson DA, et al. (2008). Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV narcissistic personality disorder: results from the wave 2 national epidemiological survey on alcohol and related condition. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Jul; 69(7): 1033-45.

Grant, B. F., Chou, S. P., Goldstein, R. B., Huang, B., Stinson, F. S., Saha, T. D., et al. (2008).

Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV borderline personality disorder:

Results from the wave 2 national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions.

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 69, 533-545.

(**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 Without Justice

At the heart of the victims’ rights movement I was involved in, during the 1980s after my father’s murder, was the concept of judicial justice that would lead to psychological justice. It’s a great concept and, in a perfect world, it would work in all situations. If the pathological person wronged you (physically hurt you, conned you out of money, screwed up custody situations, cheated on you, spiritually abused you, etc.), he would be held accountable in the courts for his behavior and, more importantly, he would be forced into victim restitution in which he would have to repay you for your pain or do something to acknowledge his guilt and assuage your pain.

Of course, restitution in and of itself really doesn’t heal anything. It’s just that the victim or person who was harmed feels like the scales of justice, which were so grossly leaning in the abuser’s direction, got balanced in their direction for once. For a moment in court, and for however long it takes the abuser to pay or make restitution, he is officially ‘guilty’ and everyone knows he was charged as such. He is “paying his price to his victim” for his actions. For a moment in court, a judge believes you! He or she believes the monster really did what you say he did. That, in and of itself, is often the psychological justice that victims really look for and it helps them to heal.

In murder trials that I’ve often attended, the family could obviously not be compensated in any true way that relieved their pain and suffering. Their loved one was murdered. No amount of restitution touches a human life. The best the family can hope for is physical payment, prison, the death sentence, or some other act that the court assigns for the monster to repay the victim’s family.

The judicial system acts as the conscience of this country. Victims seek solace in the courtroom and chambers hoping that justice will alleviate the pain, horror, and stigmatization of being a victim of the monster. But we know that in many cases and, I dare say, in most cases, that’s not what happens. Restraining orders are not granted, arrests are not made for stalking or violence, children are given over to the pathological who is an overtly violent, sick, drug-addicted, or an otherwise inept parent. When the pathological doesn’t pay child support, nothing is done and the child is still sent to him. The thousands of dollars he conned out of you or stole from you is never returned. When alimony isn’t paid, he gets away with it. Repeated visits to the courts do nothing to convince them or to open their eyes to the true nature of his behaviors. Anything that is court-ordered he defies and laughs at. You stand, mouth gaping, and wonder, “Where is the justice? HOW does he get away with this?”

I have repeatedly said that the universe is strangely tilted to the benefit of the pathological. If ANYONE will get away with a con or a criminal act, it will be the pathological. The universal scales of justice are tilted in their favor and, ironically, somehow influence the judicial scales of justice. In the 25+ years of doing this work, I have seen them literally get away with murder, rape, embezzlement, breaking and entering, stalking, domestic violence, child abuse, and more. This ranks as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’—how pathological people can con their way out of the most vicious deeds and often never pay in any way for their behavior.

In these cases, women’s hopes of justice are dashed as it is connected to part of their psychological healing. The scales of justice will never be balanced—they are not vindicated in the way that helps them to heal. Even if he is found guilty of something, he is rarely ever held to the standard of the law it’s connected to. If he is supposed to pay a fine, he doesn’t. If he is supposed to go to jail or prison, it’s postponed or overturned. If custody is denied, he receives it by another judge. If he embezzled, it’s forgiven in exchange for an admission of guilt.

Victims’ rights and their connection to judicial and psychological justice will not often get played out in Pathological Love Relationships. The psychological justice that the victim is counting on in order to validate her—her moment in which the conscience of this country believes her—doesn’t happen. Since we understand that psychological justice is what is most likely to help victims heal, now what?

Sternly, I tell victims of Pathological Love Relationships that they sometimes must recover without justice. We are not discussing ‘what is fair,’ because the pathological has already skirted the issue of ‘fairness.’ He doesn’t live with the concept of fairness and the law doesn’t use it as a concept with him. If you desire to recover, heal and move forward with your life, it will require that you just might have to recover without judicial justice, without victim restitution, and without the conscience of this country validating your story.

You have to recover without a second of judicial support. Women who hinge recovery on judicial justice, or waiting for their day in court, or “when he gets what’s coming to him,” will never recover. Your own recovery must be a daring adventure in the face of a lack of victims’ rights. Sometimes the only personal justice IS recovering and living a great life. What he has done to you doesn’t define you, hold you down, or stop you from succeeding in your own spiritual outlook.

In the end, the only thing you really have control over is how you choose to see your situation. If you see it as a victimization and are unable to move past that view, you won’t recover. If you see it as horrible things that happened to you but those things don’t define or restrain you, you will move forward—with or without justice.

The unfair situation is what you have lived through and the aftermath of the effects of the Pathological Love Relationship. In the face of this grossly dehumanizing experience is the indomitable ability to recover that can guide you, not only to survive, but also to thrive in the face of great pain. I have every confidence you can heal, even without justice.

 

(**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’s 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

Telling Yourself the Truth—You Don’t Have to Tell Me—But at Least Tell it to Yourself…

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

 

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

 

Telling yourself the truth means several difficult things:

 

1. It means you stop covering for him—stop making excuses for his behavior, quietly and secretly looking for loopholes he just might fit into (“he doesn’t met ALL the criteria for pathology, only 10 out of 12. Psychology could be wrong in his case”).

Instead of looking with the eyes of safety and seeing how many ways he DOES fit in, you scour every square inch of your memory and his behavior looking for ONE redeeming trait that is supposed to wipe out the 25 absolutely pathological things he does. You aren’t telling yourself the truth about him and his pathology or your own loophole hunt and what your real motives are—to find a reason to stay.

 

2. It means telling yourself the truth about how you need to take responsibility for your choices and your recovery.

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

 

Recovery means movement and progress. We have to tell ourselves the truth

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

 

3. It means taking responsibility for relapses.

Sometimes women secretly want to relapse. Have you had that feeling? They just want to go back to what feels normal—which is often dysfunction. It is human nature to want what is comfortable even when it’s painful. That makes recovery all the more difficult because when you are tired, lonely, and sick of the pain you are in, it would be great to believe the fantasy again—wouldn’t it? Just ONE night where he pretends it’s gonna be good again (and even though you know it’s not true, and for that night you don’t really even care if he’s lying), and both of you know how to fake it to ward off the pain and loneliness. So there’s that night of passion that has been fueled by fear and abandonment, but the next day when everyone is past the fantasy, it all starts again. Then you think: since you gave in, and you really don’t have what it takes to end this and leave anyway—you sigh and resign yourself to just living in hell.

 

Telling yourself the truth is pointing to the ways you sabotage yourself. When you are tired, lonely and sick of pain and you feel the old feelings of relapse sneaking in and your head is wanting the fantasy back—you don’t pick up the phone and call someone who can remind you what reality is. You don’t plan something for that evening that will help you get through that night without sabotaging yourself. The video is replaying all the fragments that only show the ‘good parts’ of the relationship. It’s warm and cozy. You pick up the phone and call him, or you answer when he calls. Telling yourself the truth is about how long you had planned to self-sabotage.

 

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

 

Recovery is a life change. It’s not a quick fix to get out of pain like Ativan or Xanax. Women who take a whopping 6 weeks or a few months off from dating and jump right back in are shocked to find themselves back in the same thing again—but it’s usually with someone even WORSE than the last one. The most common factor is each man is more dangerous than the one before. That’s because women think time heals wounds and if it’s been a few months, SURELY it’s time to date again. Recovery heals wounds. Sitting out for 5 years and doing nothing about gathering insight about your weaknesses, relationship patterns, and problems will not magically make you ready for a relationship because you waited 5 years.

 

Time is time. It just passes. You have to change your life in order to change your choices. Recovery, or changing your life, is a new way of seeing yourself, your previous relationships, your past, your choices, your coping skills and—most importantly—a future filled with different choices and healthier relationships.

 

I KNOW you ladies are up to the challenge. In the 25+ years that I have been doing this and kicking butts (referred to as Sandra’s Bootcamp!), I am always AMAZED at the quiet strength that grows in women as they take the chance to detach, be alone, and heal. It’s your strength that has kept me doing this for so many years in the face of great odds (and often danger) to myself. But ALL of you are worth it!

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (and for The Institute, Pathology Awareness Month!), so I am starting the kickoff with this article on “Telling Yourself The Truth.” If we can help you dig down into the truth for you and help you start your recovery, just let us know! We make it easy—phone sessions in the privacy of your own home and in the comfort of your fuzzy slippers! Or gather over coffee in one of our support group and meet other ladies going through it too. Or jump on a plane or get in your car and go to the beautiful Carolinas, and begin your healing journey directly with Sandra. Whatever you do… tell yourself the truth so your recovery can start!

 

(**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