How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 2

billeddy1Personality Disorders Appearing in Family Court

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

Probably the most prevalent personality disorder in family court is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) –more commonly seen in women. BPD may be characterized by wide mood swings, intense anger even at benign events, idealization (such as of their spouse — or attorney) followed by devaluation (such as of their spouse — or attorney).

Also common is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) — more often seen in men. There is a great preoccupation with the self to the exclusion of others. This may be the vulnerable type, which can appear similar to BPD, causing distorted perceptions of victimization followed by intense anger (such as in domestic violence or murder, for example the San Diego case of Betty Broderick). Or this can be the invulnerable type, who is detached, believes he is very superior and feels automatically entitled to special treatment.

Histrionic Personality Disorder also appears in family court, and may have similarities to BPD but with less anger and more chaos.

Anti-social Personality Disorder includes an extreme disregard for the rules of society and very little empathy. (A large part of the prison population may have Anti-social Personality Disorder.

Dependent Personality Disorder is common, but usually is preoccupied with helplessness and passivity, and is rarely the aggressor in court — but often marries a more aggressive spouse, sometimes with a personality disorder.

Cognitive Distortions and False Statement

Because of their history of distress, those with personality disorders perceive the world as a much more threatening place than most people do. Therefore, their perceptions of other people’s behavior is often distorted — and in some cases delusional. Their world view is generally adversarial, so they often see all people as either allies or enemies in it. Their thinking is often dominated by cognitive distortions, such as: all-or-nothing thinking, emotional reasoning, personalization of benign events, minimization of the positive and maximization of the negative. They may form very inaccurate beliefs about the other person, but cling rigidly to those beliefs when they are challenged — because being challenged is usually perceived as a threat.

People with personality disorders also appear more likely to make false statements. Because of the thought process of a personality disorder, the person experiences interpersonal rejection or confrontation much more deeply than most people. Therefore the person has great difficulty healing and may remain stuck in the denial stage, the depression stage, or the anger stage of grief — avoiding acceptance by trying to change or control the other person. Lying may be justified in their eyes — possibly to bring a reconciliation. (This can be quite convoluted, like the former wife who alleged child sexual abuse so that her ex-husband’s new wife would divorce him and he would return to her — or so she seemed to believe.) Or lying may be justified as a punishment in their eyes. Just as we have seen that an angry spouse may kill the other spouse, it is not surprising that many angry spouses lie under oath.

There is rarely any consequence for this, as family court judges often believe the truth cannot be known — or that both are lying.


Just as an active alcoholic or addict blames others for their substance abuse, those with personality disorders are often preoccupied with other people’s behavior while avoiding any examination of their own behavior. Just as a movie projector throws a large image on a screen from a hidden booth, those with personality disorders project their internal conflicts onto their daily interactions — usually without knowing it. All the world is a stage — including court.

It is not uncommon in family court declarations for one with a personality disorder to claim the other party has characteristics which are really their own (“he’s manipulative and falsely charming” or “she’s hiding information and delaying the process”), and do not fit the other party. Spousal abusers claim the other is being abusive. Liars claim the other is lying. (One man who knew he was diagnosed with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder claimed his wife also had an NPD simply because she liked to shop.)

In next week’s article, we will discuss how family court fits Personality Disorders.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced; however, feel free to put a link to this page.)

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes


* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of 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.)



How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 1

billeddy1William A. (”Bill”) Eddy is co-founder and president of High Conflict Institute, LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with more than fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

 He is the author of several books, including “High Conflict People in Legal Disputes” (Janis Publications, 2006), and “Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist (Eggshells Press, 2004). Bill has become an international speaker on the subject of high-conflict personalities, providing seminars to attorneys, mediators, collaborative law professionals, judges, ombudspersons and others.

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 1

By Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

I was first exposed to the concept of personality disorders in 1980 when I was in training as a therapist at the San Diego Child Guidance Clinic at Childrens Hospital. The DSM-III had just come out and Axis II of the five diagnostic categories required the therapist to diagnose the presence or absence of a personality disorder. (The DSM-IV used the same approach.)

I quickly learned (often the hard way) that the presenting problems on Axis I (e.g. depression, substance abuse) were simply replaced by new ones, if an underlying personality disorder was not addressed in therapy.

Now that I have completed several years as a family law attorney, I have frequently witnessed the same underlying issues in hotly contested family court litigation — yet these remain undiagnosed and, therefore, misunderstood. As those with personality disorders generally view relationships from a rigid and adversarial perspective, it is inevitable that a large number end up in the adversarial process of court.

Since more flexible and cost-conscious people nowadays are resolving their divorces in mediation, attorney-assisted negotiation, or just by themselves, those cases remaining in litigation may be increasingly driven by personality disorders.

The Nature of a Personality Disorder

Someone with a personality disorder is usually a person experiencing chronic inner distress (for example fear of abandonment), which causes self-sabotaging behavior (such as seeking others who fear abandonment), which causes significant problems (such as rage at any perceived hint of abandonment) — in their work lives and/or their personal lives. They may function quite well in one setting, but experience chaos and repeated problems in others. They look no different from anyone else, and often present as very attractive and intelligent people. However, it is usually after you spend some time together — or observe them in a crisis — that the underlying distress reaches the surface.

As interpersonal distress, fear of abandonment, and an excessive need for control are predominant symptoms of personality disorders, they place a tremendous burden on a marriage. Therefore, intense conflicts will eventually arise in their marriages and the divorce process will also be a very conflictual process.

In contrast to people who are simply distressed from going through a divorce (over 80% are recovering significantly after 2 years), people with personality disorders grew up very distressed. It is the long duration of their dysfunction (since adolescence or early adulthood) which meets the criteria of a personality disorder.

Usually they developed their personality style as a way of coping with childhood abuse, neglect or abandonment, an emotionally lacking household, or simply their biological predisposition. While this personality style may have been an effective adaptation in their “family of origin,” in adulthood it is counter-productive. The person remains stuck repeating a narrow range of interpersonal behaviors to attempt to avoid this distress.

In the next segment we will discuss the different types of personality disorders and what it’s like to be in court with them.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced; however, feel free to put a link to this page.)

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of 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.)


Helping Women Find Effective Strategies for Court

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

Leaving a pathological is never easy—they aren’t wired to allow for easy separation and disengagement.  What they value most is drama, trauma, and the perpetuation of misery at any cost.  High on their entertainment list is any legal activity—especially divorces, separations, and custody battles. Pathologicals get bored easily and have a high need for entertainment. They are high-excitement seekers and have low impulse control.  This all equals great legal combativeness coupled with great enjoyment of the process.

Pathologicals are highly litigious, meaning they LOVE to sue and go to court.  They are entertained by the drama of the court scene and love anything associated with being the victim in a legal process. Therefore, they are different than normal people in that they will keep this process going as long as necessary. They will even spend more money than they will ever recover JUST to be in court, JUST to be heard, and JUST so you won’t win.

There is no rationale when it comes to why they find court so enthralling. It’s almost like “legal malingering.” Malingering is a psychological disorder that means a person remains symptomatic because they get something out of it that we refer to as a “secondary gain.”  So it is true with the pathological in court—67 times to court for one case is not unheard of.

But the bottom line for you is that court is often traumatizing. Facing him can bring on flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares and anxiety. The faces he makes, his posturing and his stares can often leave you highly ineffective on the witness stand. Or you are unable to think in the courtroom in order to give your attorney correct input.

Some women are followed by the pathological after court. He may stalk her in his car or call her cell phone, belittling her about the court proceedings. Taunting her before the court date can bring a woman’s functioning level to an all-time low. She may miss work and, as a result, lose pay. She may have to pay and repay court fees as he switches dates around just to make a show of power.

Women who already have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), other chronic stress conditions, or autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or lupus, can end up bed-bound from the stress of the court drama and him. Since pathologicals love your debilitation, they are likely to stretch out the process by asking for more depositions, postponing court dates, adding more needed appearances, or even refusing a settled offer that is everything they asked for—anything to create more stress and havoc for you. Women will often do ANYTHING to avoid this kind of exposure to further abuse.

Since the pathological is rarely acknowledged for what he is, the court is not likely to identify his manipulative behaviors and so his requests are granted. You are tormented with more and more unproductive court appearances as he acts like the perpetual victim.

A woman can get PTSD-like symptoms just from how she’s treated in court or in depositions. The criminal court is known for favoring criminals, so anyone who is not criminal often finds the process abusive and traumatizing. A woman will often give away her rights, property, and money just to avoid him and court all together. She and her children are then exposed to poverty, marginal employment and a reduced quality of life ALL because she wants to avoid being traumatized by him and an unbalanced court system.

I have said for many years that the universe is strangely tilted to the benefit of the pathological. They get away with more dirty deeds, especially in court, than any normal person would ever get away with. For this reason, women come to know that their chances in court with a pathological, who is so dramatic, convincing, and unnerved by the process, is nil.

Women have had very ineffective means for balancing the scales of Her-vs-The Psychopath in family court. That’s because few women know about one VERY effective strategy that helps her regain her court composure—using a PTSD diagnosis to receive special accommodations during court proceedings.

As we have constantly mentioned, many of the women who come through our program have PTSD that was acquired during the pathological relationship or was made worse by the relationship. PTSD is a trauma disorder—meaning you were traumatized in some way, which is how you acquired it.

PTSD symptoms can last for short or long periods of time and are almost always increased by stress—such as stress by being in court or stress created by his behavior while in court. These types of recurring symptoms can negatively impact your effectiveness in court and can require special accommodations so you are able to function during court. Some of these special accommodations include:

  • Having the woman speak over a speaker phone in another room so she doesn’t have to face him.
  • Not having him in the courtroom.
  • Having him detained so she can leave early from the courtroom.
  • Calling in to the courtroom from home to avoid having to attend the hearing in person.
  • If she has to attend—having a disability advocate present with her.
  • Having him not be allowed to speak directly to her when walking past him from the courtroom.


All of these special accommodations can greatly ease the stress normally associated with court, but are not granted unless a special ADA (American with Disabilities Act accommodation is granted.

Accommodations can also be made for:

  • Emotional triggering caused by discussing the situation
  • Memory recall problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Flexibility with deadlines because of amnesic symptoms or recurring trauma when having to testify in front of him
  • Emergency hearing to enforce court orders
  • Rehabilitative alimony for treatment of PTSD for you or your children

PTSD is the disorder most associated with pathological love relationships. A diagnosis of this can help women acquire accommodations that are associated with the ADA accommodations offered. You simply have to have a diagnosis that requires special accommodations in order for you to function. (In our article, “PTSD as Trauma Disorder—NOT Psychiatric Illness,” we discussed the differences between mental illnesses and emotional, trauma-based disorders such as PTSD.) provides information about writing your PTSD Accommodations Request Report for the court. This is a HUGE breakthrough for women because once you have received ADA accommodations, the judges and attorneys MUST adhere to protocols developed for ADA which are federally based and help accommodate your needs in order to function in court. Protocols not followed are prosecutable, making the courts highly attentive to meeting federal protocols. This could also apply to your children if they have PTSD, and could hopefully impact how they are to be treated in court and how their needs must be met.

Before we get a FLOOD of letters and emails about this, here is what you need to know:

  • You must legitimately have PTSD. If you have already been diagnosed with PTSD, you have already jumped one hurdle.
  • If you need to be diagnosed, you must be evaluated by a licensed professional such as a mental health professional or a psychiatrist.
  • Once you are diagnosed, you will need to draft your PTSD Accommodations Report. This is a time-consuming and lengthy report of approximately 10-15 pages. It is a highly specialized report. It is unlikely that your doctor or health care professional will construct something of this nature as it addresses specific areas to meet the criteria for ADA. (There are ADA Advocates, professionals, who can help with this but, of course, they charge for this report; however, we believe that what the report renders to you is highly worth the investment.)
  • This is NOT the same thing as being declared “disabled,” and has nothing to do with physical or mental disability or acquiring disability payments.
  • PTSD, if diagnosed, does become part of one’s medical and/or psychological record.

We believe that these Accommodations Reports are the beginning of leveling the playing field when it comes to being in court with pathologicals. We also believe that children who are diagnosed with PTSD and who have acquired it from living with the pathological may have a far more arguable case about custody when courts try to mandate visitation with the very one who caused PTSD.

(**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.)





Fantasy Re­runs or ‘Obsession Interruptus’

Everyone knows what ‘coitus interruptus’ is–but what you really need to know is what ‘emotional obsession interruptus’ is!

In the past, I have talked about the inherent traps, pitfalls, and perils of how people get roped back in to the pathological relationships during ‘weak moments’ of family or relationship fantasizing about normal relationships. There are no Normal Rockwells, oh, I meant ‘Norman’ Rockwells with narcissists and psychopaths. As much as you want to paint the picture of a happy family, that’s not what you got.

What you do have is a pathological dynamic. Discussion about family fantasizing stirs up many people who want to remain in the fantasy. Loneliness is subjective. You’re with them but you are STILL lonely because pathology doesn’t pay attention to anything other than itself.

One of my brilliant proteges, Carol, has SOOOO understood the issue about pathology, personality disorders and the lies you tend to tell yourself —wrote me this brilliant analogy of people who don’t want to ‘get it.’ She is speaking for the people who get offended when you discuss ending the relationship or when the newsletter hits them hard on some aspect of their denial. (read this with some sarcasm….)

“I am offended that someone shed the light on psychopathy in the newsletter. I am offended that I might be set free from my psychopath. I am happy and joyous to be in the secret and dark world of my psychopath. I am happy to unsubscribe from the very thing that might set me free from my soul destroying psychopath. I am happy to continue on the path through hell with my charming psychopath. I enjoy my time more when I spend it with a pathological.”

This ‘emotional obsession interruptus’ as I like to call it, is a re­framing technique that works incredibly well when said out loud. Repeat Carol’s often…but say it OUT LOUD and not merely just read silently.

Fantasizing normal family life is nothing new. The truth is, people want healthy families. They want what they see others have– enjoyable and meaningful relationships. Then they try to reproduce that with their own families who may not have the same capacity for normality.

Pathological people have challenges that interrupt their ability to sustain the consistent positive change you want them to make. ‘Wanting’ to have JUST ONE occasion in which everyone gets along, there is no fighting, no one gets drunk or hits someone, or no one overtly insults others doesn’t mean that the pathologicals in your life have the ABILITY to give that to you.

Repetition compulsion is often re­enacted within relationships. This is repeating the same event over and over trying to get a different and satisfying outcome. This is, sadly, what we often see in Adult Children of Pathological Parents. At 43, they are STILL trying to have that ONE Christmas with a narcissistic mother or a borderline father so that a healing can take place in them. Each year they start with the same hope that this year the parent, sibling or partner will do something kind and sweet or will ‘behave.’ They desperately feel like they need one restorative experience to heal their dysfunctional family memories.

Repetition compulsion can leave adults trapped in this never ending desire for just one good experience, but, now they have pulled their own children into the same cycle creating an inter­generational experience of exposure to pathology. (Ever see the movie ‘Stuart Saves His Family?’)

While it is painful to face the reality that pathology is related to the inability to change, grow, or have insight about their own behavior, it is less painful than putting yourself and your children through another cycle of hope and despair. Pathological parents, siblings, or partners can challenge you in ways that are kinder to yourself to just avoid.


(**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.)




Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

In many other newsletters, I have written extensively about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and recovery. Much of learning to heal from, or live with, PTSD has to do with learning to live a gentle life that is less stressful. You can read about PTSD and the “Living the Gentle Life” series of articles in past newsletters and on our website.

However, PTSD as a stress disorder is an indicator of extreme stress. If you have it, that means you have suffered an emotional, physical, spiritual, sexual, and/or psychological trauma that was severe enough, or long enough in duration, to significantly impact your health.

Having a stress disorder means two things:

  1. You were significantly stressed or traumatized.
  2. The stress and/or trauma has affected your functioning level.

PTSD can be short-term and resolved with treatment within a few months, or it can be chronic and life-long, often reactivated by MORE stress or MORE traumatic events. In my case, I have chronic PTSD that is reactivated when I am worn down, too stressed, not living a gentle life, or when other challenging life events reactivate it. A few years ago I lost my mother, my foster son, my mother in-law and my sister, all in a very short timeframe. Losses that are coupled close together can have a similar effect.

With PTSD, whether it’s short- or long-term, you are likely to have a reduced level of productivity. You can have impaired concentration or sleep disruptions, become hyper-vigilant and have an exaggerated startle reflex. You can have anxiety mixed with depression, intrusive thoughts, emotional numbing, flashbacks and panic.

None of this lends itself to being able to work well in a consistent or productive way.  Even if you are unemployed, the quality of your daily life is disrupted and your life productivity in your day-to-day living is reduced. This is why people often need treatment for PTSD, which could be short- or long-term treatment in the form of weekly counseling, group counseling, inpatient treatment, or any combination of these.

PTSD as a stress disorder has its long-term outcomes in medical conditions as do many other stress disorders. Unresolved stress and trauma (whether it’s PTSD or everyday stress) can, and most often does, manifest into medical conditions. Part of seeking rehabilitative alimony in court with a PTSD diagnosis is because of the loss of productivity and because of the long-term effects on your health. Now more than twenty-five years after the murder of my father, I am continuing to see the medical outcome of chronic PTSD in my health.

Often in court, women are unaware they can have their attorneys argue for rehabilitation alimony or medical coverage for treatment FOR THE FUTURE. So many don’t realize how their health could be impacted now and for years to come. Stress and PTSD have many long-term medical possibilities, including:

Autoimmune disorders:  fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein-Barr, lupus, multiple sclerosis

  • Various forms of arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Migraines and TMJ
  • Female reproductive problems
  • Ongoing anxiety and depression
  • Thyroid and adrenal fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Diabetes
  • And, most commonly, a combination of these

Settling your divorce or court case with the pathological and NOT considering the future medical outcome of the stress he produced in YOUR BODY is unwise. We do know that many of these stress disorders and/or PTSD will continue on long after he is gone and in the end, affect your health in some way because, at the heart of the medical conditions that develop, is adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue is the culprit most likely associated with medical disorders that go on to develop. Treating and managing adrenal fatigue could actually prevent many of the disorders that will later develop because of untreated and unmanaged fatigue of the adrenals. Here is a link on the topic and the book from which we took the adrenal fatigue quiz:

Chronic stress wears out the adrenal glands that support other healthy functioning in your body. When stress, poor diet, lack of sleep and unresolved problems wear out the adrenal glands, your body is in a downward spiral and cannot heal from stress or PTSD. To find out if you have adrenal fatigue, here take the quiz at

If you do have adrenal fatigue, this is a stepping-stone to other medical conditions if not treated immediately. More importantly, your body has started down that path. If you are in a court case, please advise your attorney of this disorder as you may be able to argue for your need for continued medical coverage and care regarding stress disorders.

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



By Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Survivor Services

I’m not wise, but the beginning of wisdom is there; it’s like relaxing into —and an acceptance of—things.” ~Tina Turner  Untitled-1

Think about standing under a waterfall. Feel the power of the water hitting your body. Now picture yourself attempting to hold that water back. Stop the water from flowing over the rocks. You fiercely and intensely use all of your power and strength to prevent the water from touching the rock or yourself. You engage yourself in a task that has no payoff. You work to achieve a goal that is unachievable. In that attempt, you create in yourself physical (pain of the attempt), psychological (belief about the attempt) and emotional (feelings of the attempt) exhaustion.

Now picture yourself standing under the same waterfall and allowing the water to do what it does.  There is awareness that you are interrupting the flow of the water but not stopping it. You can sense the water, feel the water and know what the water’s intention is. And because you accept it, you do not resist. Ahhh… relief.

At any given moment you can accept “what is”. It is a choice. It becomes a choice the minute there is conflict and pain. It is then that you have awareness—your mind, your body and/or your spirit is speaking to you. It’s a choice to listen.

So what is it that you need to accept? It could be his pathology, or the pain that it has/is causing. It could be accepting that because he is your child(ren)’s father, the contact will never end (so you’d better learn how to disengage), or accepting that each time you have to see him, or hear about him, it will be a challenge. Maybe you need to accept that you have been negatively impacted by the relationship; that what is happening to you, your changes in behavior, or mood, or thinking, are PTSD and not you being crazy. And it might just be that you accept who he is and accept the consequences of who he is, but the gift of acceptance needs to be given to you. Is it in accepting that you are a good, whole person filled with love, compassion and honesty who needs to accept that something bad happened to you and not because of you?

Whatever IT is or wherever the acceptance is needed, I beg you to release yourself from it. In accepting there is freedom. I offer this blessing for acceptance to you:

Turn your face to the sun and accept the warmth.
Release your own resistance to what is.
You are worth the peace that comes.
There is value in you and all that you know.

Blessings to you for freedom through your acceptance.


(**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.)



Am I Under His Spell? Part 3

In our last two articles, I have been talking about trance states, dissociation, hypnotic suggestion, mind control… all ways the pathological controls your mind, thoughts, feelings and, ultimately, your behavior.

This is not hocus-pocus stuff. Trance states, dissociation and hypnosis are all normal ways our bodies and minds respond to certain conditions. The only argument is if these pathologicals KNOW they are doing it to others! My answer would be YES—they are MASTERS at noticing what works on other people. So, to that degree, they tweak what works.

Additionally, many of you may be aware of the seminars, books, websites and TV shows about seduction and the techniques that are taught men about coming in under the radar to seduce women through hypnotic methods. My guess is that the pathologicals are teaching their findings to others…passing on the horrid knowledge of their own disorders and how to covertly and subconsciously attract women into sexual relationships. Appalling? You bet! Just one more big WAKE-UP CALL to women—pay attention and guard your minds.

Trance, mind control and hypnotic suggestion also are based on one’s own level of suggestibility. This is related to how responsive you are to the suggestions and opinions of others. The more responsive you are, the more suggestible and more easily you are mind-controlled or hypnotizable.

A women’s suggestibility is often influenced by her own biology. Women who are highly cooperative and value how others perceive them are likely to be more suggestible. Also, women’s fatigability highly influences her suggestibility.

Almost all women report high levels of emotional, physical, sexual, financial, and spiritual fatigue within Pathological Love Relationships. They take a toll on them—wearing them down until their emotional reserves, that would normally not give in, are repressed. At that time when a woman’s fatigue level is high, her suggestibility is also high. Tired and spaced out, it’s easy to be controlled by him. Messages told to her during tired and spaced-out times are recorded deeply and often subconsciously. “Can’t get him out of my head” is very real.

The women who participated in our research survey on “women who love psychopaths” showed us just how susceptible women can be to suggestibility, fatigability, and the resulting mind control. Almost all of the women experienced some form of trance, hypnosis, or mind control of “spellbound” symptoms.

Women must understand that “staying in the relationship to figure it out” or “see what happens” or “wait until he works on himself and gets better” is absolutely risky for you. Your ability to be covertly controlled by him is significantly higher than with other females in his 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.)



Am I Under His Spell? Part 2

In last week’s article, we started talking about the very REAL issue of trance in a relationship with pathologicals. Women have described this as feeling “under his spell,” “spellbound,” “mesmerized,” “hypnotized,” “spaced out,” “not in control of my own thoughts…” All of these are ways of saying that various levels of covert and subtle mind control have been happening with the pathological. And why wouldn’t it be happening? These are power-hungry people who live to exert their dominance over others. That includes your body, mind or spirit. Mind-control techniques, either physical or mental, are used on prisoners of war, in cults, and in hostage-taking. They obviously work or there wouldn’t be ‘techniques’ and bad people wouldn’t use them.

Mind control, brainwashing, coercion… are all words for the same principles that are used to produce the results of reducing your own effectiveness and being emotionally overtaken by someone intent on doing so. The result is the victim’s intense attachment to her perpetrator. This is often referred to as Betrayal Bonding or Trauma Bonding.  This is created by:

  • Perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the captor/perpetrator would carry out the threat.
  • Perceived small kindness from the captor/perpetrator to the captive.
  • Perceived inability to escape.
  • Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor/perpetrator.

Mind control then produces dissociation which is a form of trance state. Dissociation is when your mind becomes overloaded and you need to ‘step outside of yourself’ to relieve the stress. Dissociation and trance are common reactions to trauma. For instance, dissociation happens during abuse in childhood as well as during adult traumas like rape. Prolonged mind control in adults will even produce trance states where adults begin to feel like they are being controlled—and they are!

If you have experienced mind control in your relationships, treatment and recovery for it includes:

  • Breaking the isolation—Helping you identify sources of supportive intervention, self-help groups or group therapy, hotlines, crisis centers, shelters and friends.
  • Identifying violence—As a victim in an abusive relationship, minimization of the abuse can occur, or denial about the different types of violent behavior that you encounter. Confusion about what is acceptable male (parental/authority) behavior is often common. Journal-keeping, autobiographical writing, reading of first-hand accounts or seeing films that deal with abuse may be helpful for you to understand the types of abuse you experienced.
  • Renaming perceived kindness—Since abuse confuses the boundaries between kindness and manipulation, you may need to develop alternative sources of nurturance and caring other than the captor/perpetrator.
  • Your ability to validate both love and terror—Because pathologicals often are dichotomous or have polar-opposite behaviors such as kind and sadistic, there is often a split by the victim in how they see the abuser. Treatment may be needed to help you integrate both dissociated sides of the abuser and will assist you in moving through the dreamlike state in how you view and remember him.

In next week’s article, we’ll continue our discussion on other forms of trance states and spellbound conditions.


(**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.)








Am I Under His Spell? Part 1

Time and again women allude to the mystical aspects of the pathological with whom they are involved. They describe them as “being under his spell,” “entranced with him” or “hypnotized by him,” even “spellbound” or “mind-controlled”.

Women aren’t exactly able to define what they are experiencing or even to accurately describe what they think is occurring, but they do unanimously conclude that something is happening that feels like it’s hypnotic. Beyond the ‘hocus-pocus’ of hypnosis lies real truth about what IS probably happening in those relationships.

Trance happens to every person every day. It is a natural lull in the body when many of its systems are resting, or a state we enter when tired. Blood sugar levels, metabolism and other natural body functions can affect the sleepy states of trance that we enter all day long.

You’ve probably heard of ‘highway hypnosis’. This occurs when you have been driving and are so concentrated on the driving or, when you are getting sleepy while driving and watching those yellow lines, that you forget about the last few miles, and—all of a sudden—you’re aware that you’re almost at your destination. Highway hypnosis is a trance or light form of self-hypnosis. No one put you in that state of hypnosis—you went into it on your own. Check in with most people around 2 p.m. and you’ll see lots of people in sleepy trances.

But pathology can cause people to enter trance states frequently. Pathological Love Relationships are exhausting and take their toll on your body through stress, diet, loss of sleep, and worry. While you are worn down and fatigued, you are more suggestible to the kinds of things that are said to you while you are in that state of mind during which these words, feelings and concepts sink in at a deeper level than other ideas and statements said to you when you are NOT in a trance state.

If he is telling you that you are crazy, or gaslighting you by telling you that you really didn’t see him do what you think he did, or that the problems of the relationship are because of you… those statements said to you when you are suggestible stay filed in your subconscious and are replayed over and over again, creating intrusive thoughts and obsessive thinking.

If he tells you positives when you are in trance states, such as “I need you” and “please don’t ever leave me”, those phrases, too, are stored in a subconscious location, working you over without your knowledge. When it’s time to redirect your beliefs about him, disengage, or break up, women feel like ‘old tapes’ are running in their heads. It’s very hard for them to get these messages to stop activating their thinking, feeling, and behavior.

Women who have strong personality traits in suggestibility and fatigability are more at risk of trance-like states in which words, meanings, and symbols are more concretely stored in the subconscious. Women feel relieved to find out that they really aren’t crazy—it really DOES feel like you are under his spell, because, in many ways, you are.

More information on trance states in Pathological Love Relationships is covered in detail in my book, Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists.

In our next newsletter, we’ll talk about other ways that trance states can be affected in the Pathological Love Relationship.


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


Cortisol—What You Need to Know, Part 2


By Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN

Part one of this article (last week) described three phases of adrenal disruption that occur in chronic stress. We are hard-wired to respond to acute crisis with an ‘adrenaline rush,’ which describes how the adrenal glands respond to stress—they produce cortisol which gives the body a sugar boost in order to fight or flee. If there is chronic stress and not much flight or ineffective fighting—i.e., issues are not resolved—the stress response—i.e., cortisol production—continues. Small wonder that women living with disordered men have more than their fair share of problems, such as thyroid imbalances, anxiety, sleep disturbances, irritability, weight gain, sex hormone imbalances, and auto-immune diseases.

If you are experiencing any of the above problems, how can you determine if, in fact, your adrenal function is out of balance?

Here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Click on these links for a number of helpful articles on adrenal imbalance and adrenal fatigue, and also check out this self-administered questionnaire.
  2. Make an appointment with your health-care provider to discuss your concerns. Bring printed copies of any material or online test results you may have. There are many traditionally trained health-care providers that do not agree with these theories and dismiss research that has been conducted to explore these connections. Perhaps they are right or perhaps they are using an outdated paradigm.
  3. Make sure you eat as well as possible, and exercise—no matter what it takes—a small bit each day.
  4. Take a good multivitamin.
  5. GET EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP if humanly possible.
  6. Bow out of any unnecessary commitments that you have taken on for at least 6 months.
  7. Do something restorative—a brief nap, a short walk, a hot bath, a chat with a friend— every single day.

Eventually, each person has to choose his or her providers on their own. One of the goals of this column is to provide enough information to readers so that you can ask providers questions, read further for yourself or consult with practitioners who have or are adopting these new approaches.

If you wish to pursue naturopathic avenues to address these problems, consult an established practitioner in your area, one who has earned an ND (naturopathic doctor) degree and is licensed to practice. He or she will evaluate your symptoms, usually have a sympathetic ear and acknowledge the sources of stress in your relationships, and proceed to have some tests done in order to get some objective information on which to base suggested treatment.

If you do not already have an excellent support system and an excellent therapist, run—do not walk—in the direction of making these happen. Again, there is some controversy in the medical community about this approach, and insurance companies in the U.S. may not reimburse you for these services. In my personal and professional experience, I find the concepts about adrenal fatigue to be valid and the treatments to be very effective.

Chronic stress makes demands upon body and soul. We have learned to identify the signs and symptoms of serious, ongoing stress and there are many effective and not-so-effective ways to deal with these problems. As readers of this column may have figured out, I am no fan of treating symptoms and ignoring underlying problems. I strongly urge any of you who have had an ongoing relationship with a disordered individual to consider checking out the self-administered tests available on the sites referenced above. If your adrenal functioning is disrupted, it may take 6-12 months to get back into balance, so don’t hesitate to get started!


(**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.)



Cortisol—What You Need to Know, Part 1


By Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN


What is cortisol? Cortisol is a chemical messenger produced when the brain tells the adrenal glands, “Hey, we need some energy, now!” Cortisol triggers a release of insulin into the blood stream, mobilizing the body’s fight-or-flight response.

After the initial alarm, cortisol production winds down. However, when there is chronic, sustained stress, the body may begin a descent “down the rabbit hole” into adrenal imbalance, creating many different types of problems.

Early-Stage Stress Response

Ongoing stress initially creates a great deal of cortisol production. If the person does not fight, flee, or otherwise use up the excess energy, he or she may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • weight gain
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • insomnia
  • poor concentration

A stressed-out person may take substances, legal and illegal, to calm down, think straight and focus. In my clinical experience, a very high percentage of kids and adults who believe they have symptoms of ADD or ADHD are, in fact, experiencing chronic stress. Most likely, their cortisol levels are very high.

Sometimes, constant stress damages the cortisol receptors. As this happens, the body shuts down the override or feedback mechanisms and the blood levels of cortisol remain high. At that point, the body’s natural feedback process isn’t working well. If the stress continues, the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, start to become depleted.

 Mid-Stage Stress Response

When the adrenal glands continue to secrete cortisol over a sustained period, the person enters an early stage of adrenal depletion. Cortisol levels start to decrease as the brain’s receptor cells become damaged.

The person begins to show these signs:

  • low energy
  • fatigue
  • easily overwhelmed
  • mild depression
  • a degree of mental fog
  • and many other symptoms

Cortisol imbalances are frequently associated with disruptions in other key areas, such as the endocrine hormones of the thyroid and the ovaries (mainly estrogen), and the immune system, as well as neurotransmitter levels.

At this point, if the stressors are not resolved the person keeps up a hectic pace. If there is little nutritional, nutraceutical, or other support, the next, fairly drastic stage, is adrenal fatigue.

Late-Stage Stress Response

This depleted stage, also known as late chronic stress, is often termed ‘adrenal fatigue.’ Cortisol levels, once very high, are now very low. The person may suffer these symptoms:

  • very low levels of energy
  • brain fog
  • reliance on carbohydrates and caffeine
  • chronic infections
  • gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • salt cravings

Small wonder that women living with disordered men have more than their fair share of problems. These problems include:

  • thyroid imbalances
  • anxiety
  • sleep disturbances
  • irritability
  • weight gain
  • sex hormone imbalances
  • autoimmune diseases

Because the adrenal glands play such an important role in the development of many of the body’s biochemicals, some clinicians question whether extreme, ongoing stress plays a role in women developing estrogen-sensitive tumors.

Next week I will provide more information on cortisol imbalances, including further reading and treatment options. Meanwhile, you may want to check out this website that I recommend on women’s adrenal health.


(**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.)




Determination in the Life of the Survivor

I’ve seen the look many times—hundreds of times over the past 25+ years, working with (mostly) women who are surviving a Pathological Love Relationship. There is a ‘look.’ Initially it’s a timid look—before she grasps that she really CAN survive and thrive. The look then begins to change, morphing into real belief and real power.

Ironically, I scaw the look this past week in an unlikely, but stunning face. I saw her gentleness—as did the pathological that was in her life. Your Super Traits of empathy, tolerance, caring and compassion are what make you the wonderful woman you are. These are also target traits for pathological individuals. You can just see the gentleness in the face.


Then I saw her powerlessness.


It’s that look—like you don’t know if you will ever get out, ever survive, ever find your power again. It feels as if you are being held against your will—when you remember once that you were so different—so self-assured, confident, and capable.

Many people have seen the face of unbelievable stress and worry—when you no longer trust your own judgment, ping-pong back and forth between loving and loathing him. When you can’t concentrate, focus, sleep, or even want to get up each day.


But, the greatest thing about doing this work is when women really ‘get it’ about pathology. When they understand that what’s wrong with him has nothing to do with her, and what she did or didn’t do. When she gets that ‘wild-eyed look’ that says her reality has shifted, and she realizes that what has happened to her is simply that she’s been knee-deep in pathology, and she is powerful enough to walk away.


I love that part—the paradigm shift—when a woman turns the corner in understanding, and her whole future opens up like a flower blooming!

Over the years, I have watched hundreds of women storm off into their futures having recaptured their lives, their dignity, their self-belief, and their ability to function well. It’s a beautiful and strong presence when you get to witness that happen.


Why all of the horse photos? This is Rachel Alexandra—I love her expressive face. She is a reminder to me of all the women I have worked with. She was the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness. It awed me to see her many faces of gentleness, powerlessness, worry, thriving, and power. It reminded me that even though so much is often against you in your race to recovery from pathology, that you too—like Rachel Alexandra—can defy the odds even when they have been stacked against you that way for years! There really is something to be said for the power of belief, destiny, and desire. I believe in you!

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







Gentle Healing From Trauma: The Care and Feeding of the Nervous System

By Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN

Imbalances in neurotransmitters are related to many symptoms of PTSD: anxiety, obsessions, irritability and rage responses; cravings for carbohydrates, alcohol, and other compulsions (shopping, gambling, and sex, for example); insomnia, panic attacks and depression.

Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder or, as it sometimes feels, Ongoing Stress Disorder, affects us spiritually, emotionally, cognitively, physically and behaviorally. Of course, since we are whole persons, these aspects overlap to some degree.

Fortunately, recent advances in brain science have created options for helping to heal trauma that are safe, noninvasive, natural and very effective. As a therapist with over 35 years’ experience in general, and with over 20 years’ experience helping traumatized people of all ages, I have found amino acid therapy and neurofeedback training to be powerful tools in healing from trauma.

I have had my own experiences with trauma—the suicide of a family member, marital infidelity and a number of relationships with disordered men. PTSD is not an academic subject for me, and my experiences have shaped my approach to clients who come to me for help with problems related to emotional trauma.

One of the most useful ways I have found of thinking about emotional trauma is that it is a serious threat, or ongoing threat, to well-being that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. Coping mechanisms just can’t do the trick, and so the person’s behavior and emotional, cognitive, and physical states show evidence of being overwhelmed.

The symptoms of PTSD,  even though they are serious and even debilitating, are just that—

symptoms that something is very wrong. It is of course crucial to provide relief for the symptoms such as insomnia, overeating, panic attacks, and depression. It is also crucial to place these symptoms in a larger context so the cause(s) of the problem—being overwhelmed by a Pathological Love Relationship, for example—can also be addressed and changed.

One of the most far-reaching innovations in treating PTSD that I have seen is supplementation with amino acids and related substances. Since PTSD disrupts these fundamental physiological processes, it makes sense to provide a person with PTSD symptoms with these building blocks so her body can recover, and in doing so, reduce or eliminate some of the symptoms that are directly or indirectly related to neurotransmitter imbalances created by being chronically overwhelmed.

In PTSD, the person is physiologically overwhelmed, especially in the nervous system, and often moves into overdrive and then sometimes exhaustion. The stress response—fight, flight, or freeze—can also go into overdrive and become a permanent, rather than a temporary, situation. This makes it particularly difficult to calm the nervous system—it is as though the stress response has taken on a life of its own and is in overdrive.

It’s no wonder traumatized people self-medicate with food, drugs (prescription and street), alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, shopping, and the like. The anxiety level seems to be set on ‘high’ all the time, whether there is an external threat or not. For partners or former partners of disordered persons, of course the stress is often ongoing and severe, making it exceedingly difficult, and perhaps risky, for the person’s physiology to lower the threat response.

But the threat response, the fight/flight/freeze, has its upsides as well as its downsides. From a positive perspective, this response ensures that the person will react quickly to threats to safety and well-being. He or she may also overreact to situations that are not really threatening. But if this response is calmed down and essentially ‘reset’ it will be there when needed. Being on red alert—hypervigilant—is not really healthy. We are not wired to be in overdrive all the time, and when this occurs, the toll is high.

For example, neurotransmitters are chemical messengers which ensure that the person responds to and recovers from all kinds of situations. There are fundamentally two kinds—excitatory, which help us get going, and inhibitory, which help us to calm down. Prolonged stress related to emotional trauma triggers the constant release of both kinds.

Over time, the body cannot sustain this and it becomes depleted and out of balance. Serotonin is one of the key inhibitory neurotransmitters, and it is almost always very low in traumatized individuals. Traditional antidepressants may recycle what little there is but do not help the person to produce any more.

Reduced serotonin levels can lead to insomnia, irritability, headaches, carbohydrate cravings and depression. High levels of excitatory neurotransmitters can lead to increased anxiety (as if there weren’t enough to begin with!) and insomnia.

So we can see how it is that PTSD leads to physical overdrive, which leads to many problems, neurotransmitter imbalances being an important example. The good news is that it is now possible to measure many of the key neurotransmitter levels, directly and indirectly. However, neurotransmitter testing is now often covered by many health insurance companies, and the very specific amino acids that are suggested are usually easily available.

Just as a woman who is having heavy periods may take iron tablets for a time until the cause of the excessive bleeding is determined, so we can take supplements that will help balance our neurotransmitters. Most of these supplements are amino acids—naturally occurring substances that the body uses as building blocks for most neurotransmitters.

While there is currently some controversy about this in the traditional medical community, it may well be related to the recent nature of these discoveries as well as the limitations and blind spots of the existing medical paradigms. Time will tell.

Another naturally occurring substance in our bodies is cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands in response to the fight/flight/freeze response. A discussion of cortisol imbalances will be presented in a forthcoming column; suffice it to say that if a cortisol imbalance exists and is not corrected, just as is true for neurotransmitter imbalances, recovery from emotional trauma will take much longer to occur.

In my practice, I combine neurotransmitter testing with psychotherapy as well as neurofeedback training. Using the amino acid supplements alone, which I am frequently asked to do outside of the client-therapist relationship, is not advisable for many reasons.

For starters, these supplements are not a magic bullet and the use of them alone can reinforce the belief among Americans that if we just take the right pill, everything will be OK. As Sandra L. Brown’s research and clinical work have demonstrated, there are many, many other aspects of healing from life with a disordered person and the predicable emotional trauma that is a part of the picture.

But the very good news is that amino acid supplements, after a specific test or tests to determine if and where imbalances lie, as well as neurofeedback training in conjunction with psychotherapy and other modalities such as yoga, massage, EMDR, offer a very gentle and extremely effective path for getting your life back on track. What a blessing.


(**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.)




Grieving the Pathological Loss, Part 2: The Personal Side

In last week’s article, we began talking about the grief process as it pertains to ending the relationship with your dangerous (and often, pathological) person. Even though the relationship was damaging, and maybe you even initiated the breakup, you cannot sidestep the necessary grieving. Women are shocked to find themselves grieving at all, given how abusive, damaging, or horrible the relationship was. They tell themselves they should be grateful to be out and this negates their own feelings of loss. The end of a relationship always constitutes a loss, whether he died or whether the relationship merely ended—the heart recognizes it as the same—a loss.

I also mentioned in the last article that grief is natural. It’s an organic way the body and mind tries to rid themselves of the pain. That’s why it’s so necessary, because if you did not grieve, you would have no way to eventually be out of pain. Grief is the way a person moves through the loss and to the other side of health and healing.

Without grief there wouldn’t even be a POTENTIAL for healing because grief must occur in order for healing to follow. To stuff your grief or try to avoid it is to sabotage your own ability to heal. So for every person trying to work through the ending of a relationship, grief is the healthiest response.

Some of the losses associated with the end of the relationship were discussed in the previous article. The ‘personal side’ of grief—the other aspects that were lost because of the pathological relationship and must be grieved include the loss of:

  • your own self-respect
  • your own dignity
  • your self-identity
  • your self-confidence
  • your self-esteem
  • your ability to trust your own instincts
  • respect of others
  • trust of others
  • hope
  • joy
  • the belief that you can ever be different or better

These significant personal losses may not always be recognized as ‘grief’ but more as all the deficits that have been left behind because of the pathological relationship. Although he is gone, this is his mark upon your life and your soul. These losses reflect the loss of your self and your own internal personal resources.

Stripped away is your ability to recognize your former self, the ability to tap into what was once the strength that helped you in life, and to respect your self and your life choices.

Of all the things that need grieving, women indicate these personal losses are the most devastating. Because in the end, you are all that you have left—when he is gone, you must fall back on your self for your healing. But what is left has been described by survivors as “an empty shell of a former life”… “a garden that is overgrown with weeds and in disrepair”… “a once-stately estate that has been vandalized and abandoned.”

To begin the arduous task of healing and repair requires that you turn inward and draw on your resources. But what was there feels like it is gone. You may want to begin the healing from the pathological relationship, but you are stopped short in your tracks by the necessary grieving of all things internal that are now gone or damaged.

Clearly, the first step is to grieve. Let us know if we can help you take that first step.

(**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.)


Grieving the Pathological Loss, Part 1

Over and over, women are shocked to find out how badly they feel about leaving a dangerous/pathological man. As horrendous as the relationships has been, as hurt as they have become at his hands, and with the emotional/physical/financial/sexual/spiritual cost it takes to heal… “Why in the world am I so sad and in so much grief?”

One of the things we have discovered from our research project (Women Who Love Psychopaths) is that ‘loving’ a pathological (not just a psychopath, but any person with a pathological disorder), seems to involve having a very intense attachment to the relationship. Most women report that ‘loving’ them is nothing like anything else they ever experienced. They indicate that it’s more intense than other relationships, there are more mind games that keep them very confused and unable to detach, and a kind of hypnotic mesmerizing that keeps them in the relationship LONG after they know they should have left.

Because of this intense bonding, mental confusion, pathological attachment and a hypnotic connection, the woman’s grief is likely to be HUGE. This is often confusing to her because she has suffered so much damage by the time she leaves that she thinks she should be ‘relieved’ to simply be out of the relationship. But when the paralyzing grief mounts, she is aggravated with herself for being in so much pain and grief over the ending of something so ‘sick’ to her.

Lots of women are confused as to ‘who’ or ‘what’ it is they are actually grieving over. Grief can seem so ‘elusive’—a haunting feeling that is like a grey ghost but can’t be nailed down to actually ‘what’ the loss is.

The end of any relationship (even a pathological one) is a loss. Within the ending of the relationship is a loss of many elements. There is a loss of the ‘dream’ of partnership or togetherness, the loss of a shared future together, as well as the loss that maybe he would someday ‘get it together’ or actually ‘love you.’ When the relationship ends, so does the dream of being loved (even if he is technically not capable of truly loving anyone). There is a loss of your plans for the future—maybe that was buying a home, having children, or taking a big trip. There is the loss of shared parenting (if that occurred), loss of income, loss of being touched or held, loss of sex.

Although a lot of women may actually see a lot of these hopes and dreams as ‘illusions,’ it still constitutes a loss and women are often surprised at the kinds of things they find themselves grieving over.

Some women lose their pets in the breakup, or their house or career. Some lose their children, their friends, her relatives or his. Some have to relocate to get away from him because of his dangerousness, so they lose their community, roots, and home.

No matter what it is you perceive you no longer have… it’s a loss—and when you have loss you have grief. People spend a lot of time trying to stay on the perimeter of grief—trying to avoid it and stay away from the pain. But grief is the natural way to resolve conflict and loss. It’s the body’s way of ridding the mind and soul of ongoing pain. It’s an attempt at rebalancing one’s mind and life. Grief is a natural process that is given to you as a pain management tool. Without grief there would never be a way of moving through pain. You would always just remain stuck in the feelings and you would always feel the same.

Don’t avoid grief. While no one likes grief it’s important to allow yourself to feel the feelings and the pain. To suppress it, deny it, or avoid it will mean you will never work through it. I don’t know anyone who wants to live in this kind of pain.  There is only one way through the pain of grief and that’s through the middle of it. There are no shortcuts, quick routes or other ways ‘around’ the pain and grief. There is only through it—like a wilderness. But on the other side of it is the promise of healing, hope and a future.

Don’t judge your grief. What hurts, hurts. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you (he was horrible, why am I grieving HIM?)—it’s your body’s way of moving through it, so let it. Get help if you need it—counseling, group, medication, a grief group—whatever it is you need.

Don’t set a predetermined ‘time’ that you think you should be ‘over it.’ It probably takes longer than you think it will or you want it to. But that’s how it is—grief takes its time.

Grief can look like depression, anxiety, PTSD or a lot of other types of symptoms and sometimes it’s hard to know where one starts and the other one ends. That’s because you oftentimes aren’t having one or the other, you are having some of both.

Journal your losses, talk about them, tell others, get help when you need it. (We’re here too!!) Most of all, know that grief is a God-sent natural way of working through the pain so you can move on.


(**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.)