Keep the Turkey on the Table

By Susan Murphy-Milano

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

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

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

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

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

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Rocking the Relationship Boat

By Susan Murphy-Milano

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

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

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

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

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

More information on this topic can be found at:

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

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Caution: Relationship Lane Changes, Part 2

By Susan Murphy-Milano

Last week we began the story of Susan Powell, a married stockbroker and devoted mother to two young sons. Over time, Susan’s husband Josh became more and more controlling. Their marriage deteriorated. At this point in a relationship, many abusers begin to formulate a plan born of anger and desperation.

This plan remains in the abuser’s mind until they notice subtle signs of movement. Perhaps Josh walked into the room as Susan whispered into the phone. When she realized he was in the room, she quickly changed her tone or ended the phone call. Perhaps he learned Susan had set up a bank account, and decided she was hiding money so she and the kids could leave.

The signs of movement spark Josh, or any potential abuser, to think of the next level. They think to themselves, “OK, she is going to leave me. I will not let that happen”. He acts as though nothing is wrong. When she goes to sleep, however, Josh leaps into action. He may:

  • rummage through her car looking for evidence of her plan–a bank receipt or an unusual transaction or charge check
  • her cell phone for any unusual numbers he does not recognize
  • search her computer, checking to see which websites she visited

He finds something. Inwardly his anger skyrockets and his heart races. Outwardly, he remains calm and says nothing to Susan. A smile comes to his face. He “caught her,” and he figures in the future, she will pay one way or another.

Susan begins to email a trusted circle of friends about Josh’s abuse and threats. Maybe she keeps a detailed log containing dates and times of the incidents.

Next, Josh does what I label the “smell change.” Susan acts strangely. Josh, like most abusers, literally senses, or “smells” when his environment has shifted. Perhaps Susan verbalizes her unhappiness more often. Maybe she stands up for herself during a fight, where months before she would have backed down and gone to her room without incident.

Most abused women have difficulty hiding that “spark of empowerment” from a clever abuser. The abuser smells the spark, like a fox scents prey as he enters a coop full of chickens.

On December 7, 2009, Susan Powell of Utah disappeared. Law enforcement personnel consider her husband Josh a person of interest.

Susan Powell’s case appears no different from millions of cases of intimate partner violence we never hear about, until women disappear and someone finds their bodies. Often no “official documentation” of the abuse exists because the terrified women did not contact police or obtain a court order of protection. Why? Better than anyone, the victims know the court order of protection would not help. The court order of protection would only escalate the level of danger.

A Special Note from Susan…

Before you announce your thoughts about how unhappy you are or that the relationship simply is not working for you any longer, have a solid plan in place. Women often fail to plan ahead in leaving, underestimating what the abuser can and actually ends up doing.

October, 2015 update on the Susan Powell case:

  • Susan Powell, from West Valley City, was last seen in December 2009
  • Authorities focused on husband Josh who was suspected of murdering her
  • In 2012, in the middle of the investigation, Josh blew up his house while he and his two sons were locked inside
  • Susan’s sister-in-law says she believes her brother Josh and her father Steven were both involved in Susan’s death
    • She also believes her other brother Michael, who committed suicide, knew about the murder
    • With two brothers and two nephews dead, she hopes her father – who was released from jail in 2014 after servicing a sentence for possession of child porn – will come forward with the truth

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3291154/Sister-law-Susan-Powell-breaks-silence-Utah-mother-s-disappearance-says-pedophile-father-brother-involved-death.html#ixzz3tHML1K52

(**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

Criminal Record Searches: “No Results” Doesn’t Mean Their Records Are Clean

 

by a Survivor who learned the hard way

At some point in a relationship with a pathological, a person stops and asks themselves a very basic question: “Does the person I love have a criminal record?” The question may arise as doubt about their character comes to light.

Many people then turn to online court record systems to try and answer this question. They type in the person’s name and click search. When the search brings no results, they breathe a sigh of relief. “It must be me,” they think, “I am worrying over nothing.”

The fact that the search results came back empty does not mean the person did not commit any crimes.

As convenient as it would be to type in a person’s name and retrieve a “Santa’s List” of every crime they ever committed, with the date it was committed and the location where the crime was committed, the free online systems just don’t work that way.

There are many reasons the online criminal court records can present an incomplete picture of their history. They include, but are not limited to:

  • The person committed a crime under an alias, or a different derivation or spelling of their name, e.g. Mike vs. Michael, Jack vs. John, Pat vs. Patricia.
  • The records exist under another jurisdiction than the one you are looking at – e.g. city vs. town vs. county, county sheriff vs. state police, federal agency (FBI, DEA, IRS), military, or tribal court. To further complicate matters, sometimes charges start out with one agency and are transferred to another.
  • The jurisdiction in which you are searching does not participate in an online records system or may have stopped participating at some point.
  • The record system you are searching is incomplete because original paper records were destroyed (fire, flood, mold), or due to budgetary constraints, all records were not computerized.
  • Local politics regarding open records laws.
  • The person was charged as a juvenile and the records were sealed when they turned 18 or the court record was sealed for other reasons.
  • Failure to Prosecute – The person is wealthy, their parents are wealthy, or well-connected, and charges were dropped.
  • The victim, police, or the District Attorney’s office chose not to press charges.
  • Someone (defense or prosecution) missed a filing deadline.
  • Plea Bargains – A deal was cut in place of sentencing, e.g. the defendant chose to join a branch of the military.
  • Concern over people (and employers) jumping to the wrong conclusion over online court records has led some states to add disclaimers or even limit or remove records from their online records systems.

Any or all of these, among other things, can lead to an incomplete picture of someone’s background. The results may only represent partial information taken out of its original context, and that can be a dangerous thing.

And that’s just the criminal court part of the picture. Other parts that bear on someone’s character may include:

  • Family court records – failure to pay spousal or child support
  • Marriage records – often not available online
  • Civil records – mortgage foreclosures, small claims verdicts for debts, car repossessions, maliciously and repeatedly suing others, etc.

The bottom line is that the average online court records available to the public may not give you a complete picture of a person’s past. The person is the only one with that. As a pathological, they will most likely lie about their past, editing out events that make them look bad, or provide you with excuses that seem plausible.

If you can’t get a complete and accurate picture of their past, but you suspect something may be wrong, what can you do? Change the questions you ask yourself. Rather than asking, “Do they have a criminal record in the past?” ask, “Do they demonstrate any of the “red flags” in the present?” and “Should I get out of this relationship?”

You can find a basic list of red flag warnings in Sandra’s book “How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved”.  And her book, “Women Who Love Psychopaths” will help you learn about your own traits and behaviors and how they play into your being targeted and getting involved with a dangerous man.

(**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

When a Divorce is Unexpected

By Susan Murphy-Milano

 You are now in a position where all your decisions will most assuredly impact your future. You must think logically and strategically while going through this period. If you feel you don’t know which way to turn and need advice, you may want to consult a relationship strategist or divorce planning expert before you take the first steps and consult an attorney. Be sure that the professional is someone who has your best interests at the forefront and represents you well. They should be able to advise you on a number of things, especially how to choose the right attorney and how to prepare yourself for your first consultation.

Follow these steps to keep on track:

  • Consult a lawyer immediately (consultation for the first half hour or so is usually free).
  • Bring with you to the lawyer a list of prepared questions to ask.
  • Try not to spend that free time crying or talking about your marriage. A lawyer is not there to be your therapist. Stick to only the facts as it pertains to children, finances and property. You are there to interview and possibly hire them.
  • Copy or scan all documents including wills, car titles, etc., and anything you find on the computer.
  • If you have an iPod, video camera or camera, take two pictures of everything including appliances, cars, artwork, antiques, jewelry, furniture etc.
  • Whatever you do, do not pack up and move out until the divorce is final (consult a lawyer first).
  • If you have never had a credit card in your own name, start applying now to establish a credit history of your own.
  • Try to remain as calm as possible when you tell the children. Do not speak negatively of or badmouth the other parent.
  • Do not use your children as a confidant. Do not involve your children in divorce preparation.
  • Try to keep the kid’s regularly scheduled activities and routines as normal as possible.

Consulting with a legal professional before you are served with divorce papers will better prepare you in the days and months that follow. A good attorney will be able to provide you with a clear understanding of your legal rights.

For more information refer to “Moving Out, Moving On.” You can order the e­book from http://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/movingoutmovingon.

Important Note: If you have been in an abusive marriage you should inquire as to the lawyer’s expertise as it relates to domestic violence, orders of protection, stalking, and whether or not s/he has represented women who have been abused.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 4

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Lying in Family Court

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

When I became a family law attorney/mediator after a dozen years as a therapist, one of the biggest surprises was the extent of lying in Family Court – lies about income, assets and even complete fabrications of child abuse and domestic violence. Why would people lie so much, I wondered? How did they get away with it? The following is my psychosocial analysis of what I believe has become an epidemic:

Men Lie

It was a sad phone call from a relatively new client. He informed me his father had just died. He had quit his job and was moving back east to wrap up his father’s affairs. He asked me to tell his wife’s attorney that he would not be able to pay child support for their three young children for a long time. (There was no support order yet.)

The next day, his wife’s attorney called me back and described how upset she was to learn of her father-in-law’s death. So upset that she had called his father- — and had a nice chat!

Women Lie

A mother involved in a custody battle told the court in dramatic detail about physical abuse at the hands of her husband. She even submitted reports of visits to doctors and emergency rooms for her bruises. However, a court-ordered psychological evaluation determined the allegations were false. The court agreed and awarded custody to the father. A few weeks later the mother picked up the children from school and disappeared for a year. She was caught, sent to jail for parental kidnapping, and the children were returned to the father.

Societal Increase in Lying

Surveys show that lying has increased over the past decade. In 1999 alone, the President was tried in Congress for perjury; a popular journalist in Boston was publicly fired for fabricating heart-rending stories; and a scientist was exposed for falsifying research on a high-profile safety issue.

We have become a society of individuals where personal gain is more important than community values. In this mobile “information age,” we rely on strangers and are easily fooled. In business, politics, and the movies, winning is everything. Successful manipulation and deceit are admired. In court, lying is often rewarded and rarely punished.

No Penalty for Perjury

Divorce Courts rely heavily on “he said, she said” declarations, signed “under penalty of perjury.” However, a computer search of family law cases published by the appellate courts shows only one appellate case in California involving a penalty for perjury: People v. Berry (1991) 230 Cal. App. 3d 1449. The penalty? Probation.

Perjury is a criminal offense, punishable by fine or jail time, but it must be prosecuted by the District Attorney -who does not have the time. Family Court judges have the ability to sanction (fine) parties, but no time to truly determine that one party is lying. Instead, they may assume both parties are lying or just weigh their credibility. With no specific consequence, the risks of lying are low.

Personality Disorders and Patterns of Lying

Family Courts see everything – from small deceptions about income to the complete fabrication of abuse. The increase in lying seems to correspond with the rising number of people with personality disorders. They often have internal distress, less empathy for others, a highly adversarial world view, an intense and manipulative nature, and a sense of victimization which they use to justify harming others. Studies show they have identifiable and predictable patterns of lying:

  • A party with a Borderline Personality Disorder may lie out of anger or even self-deception in an effort to maintain a bond with their child or spouse- or to retaliate for abandonment. Battles over custody and visitation are common.
  • One with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder may lie to boost themselves or to put other people down. They enjoy manipulating the truth and other people’s lives. They may experience excitement and a sense of power by successfully fooling the court and dominating the other party.
  • An Antisocial Personality Disorder is characterized by deception, manipulation, and disrespect for authority. Commonly known as “con artists,” they are skilled at breaking the rules. They fabricate detailed events and use the courts to get revenge or money. Their lack of empathy makes them constant liars – and often violent.
  • A Histrionic Personality Disorder is often highly dramatic and demanding, with superficial charm and seductiveness. They are skilled at lying and self-deception. Fabrication is also common.

 

(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.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 3

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How Family Court Fits Personality Disorders

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

Family Court is perfectly suited to the fantasies of someone with a personality disorder: There is an all-powerful person (the judge) who will punish or control the other spouse. The focus of the court process is perceived as fixing blame — and many with personality disorders are experts at blame. There is a professional ally who will champion their cause (their attorney — or if no attorney, the judge).

A case is properly prepared by gathering statements from allies — family, friends, and professionals. (Seeking to gain the allegiance of the children is automatic — they too are seen as either allies or enemies. A simple admonition will not stop this.) Generally, those with personality disorders are highly skilled at — and invested in — the adversarial process.

Those with personality disorders often have an intensity that convinces inexperienced professionals — counselors and attorneys — that what they say is true. Their charm, desperation, and drive can reach a high level in this very emotional, bonding process with the professional. Yet this intensity is a characteristic of a personality disorder, and is completely independent from the accuracy of their claims.

What Can Be Done

Judges, attorneys, and family court counselors need to be trained in identifying personality disorders and how to treat them. Mostly, a corrective on-going relationship is needed — preferably with a counselor. However, they usually must be ordered into this because their belief systems include a life-time of denial and avoidance of self- reflection.

Family Code Section 3190 allows the court to order up to one year of counseling for parents, if:

  • “(1) The dispute between the parents or between a parent and the child poses a substantial danger to the best interest of the child.

[or]

  • (2)The counseling is in the best interest of the child.”

Therapists, in addition to being supportive, need to help clients challenge their own thinking: about their role in the dispute; about the accuracy of their view of the other party; and about their high expectations of the court. Further, therapists should never form clinical opinions or write declarations about parties they haven’t interviewed. Likewise, attorneys need to also challenge their clients’ thinking and not accept their declarations at face value.

More time should be spent educating them to focus on negotiating solutions, rather than escalating blame. The court should make greater use of sanctions under Family Code Section 271 for parties and attorneys who refuse to negotiate and unnecessarily escalate the conflict and costs of litigation.

The court must realize that the parties are often not equally at fault. One or both parties may have a personality disorder, but that does not necessarily mean both are offenders (violent, manipulative, or lying). A non-offending, dependent spouse may truly need the court’s assistance in dealing with the offender. The court should not be neutralized by mutual allegations without looking deeper. Otherwise, because of their personality style, the most offending party is often able to continue their offender behavior — either by matching the other’s true allegations for a neutral outcome, or by being the most skilled at briefly looking good and thereby receiving the court’s endorsement.

The court is in a unique position to motivate needed change in personal behavior. In highly contested cases, counseling or consequences should be ordered. Professionals and parties must work together to fully diagnose and treat each person’s underlying problems, rather than allowing the parties (and their advocates) to become absorbed in an endless adversarial process. Because their largest issues are internal, they will never be resolved in court.

In next week’s article, we will cover lying in family court.

(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.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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.

Projection

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.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Cortisol—What You Need to Know, Part 2

joanmarielartin

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.)

 © www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Cortisol—What You Need to Know, Part 1

joanmarielartin

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.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

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.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Neurofeedback Training and PTSD – Part 2

By Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN

Last week we looked at neurofeedback training as a method to calm the brain and reduce a wide-ranging variety of symptoms associated with PTSD. A person with PTSD has the unfortunate challenge of living with constant hormonal and neurotransmitter disruption. Why is this the case, even when the trauma is in the past? We know from Sandra’s work and that of others in the field of personality disorders, that the trauma does not necessarily stop once the relationship is over.

There are many legitimate sources of ongoing re-traumatization for the person formally involved with a disordered individual. For example, legal matters, shared custody of children, the process of rebuilding a life, all contain unique triggers.

But how can we understand the extent to which the person’s body continues to be in overdrive, even when these triggers are reduced? One answer lies in an understanding of what happens physically to a person under constant stress and/or trauma.

The cell membranes in various parts of the nervous system become literally worn out over time and unresponsive, which means the normal shut-off process in those experiencing constant stress is not working. Thus, we have a biochemical and nervous system on overload, spinning down into further and further dis-regulation in the absence of effective interventions.

This is one reason why we see neurotransmitter and cortisol imbalances, and imbalances in brain functioning in PTSD. The brainwaves of persons with PTSD are often characterized by a great deal of activity in the zones related to anxiety, intense emotions, overthinking (obsessing) and hypervigilance. There is usually reduced activity, and therefore reduced functioning, in areas associated with memory, focus, analytic capability, and the ability to relax. The regions associated with sleep are usually disrupted, as is the ability to ‘be in the body.’ The implications for ongoing emotional, physical and interpersonal problems are clear.

Neurofeedback training, which takes about 30-40 minutes per session, can help the nervous system to get back into balance. Most clients find some relief after 2-3 sessions, and may do as many as 30 or 40 sessions over the course of a year. Many find that about 20 sessions makes a big difference in their ability to get on with their lives. The cost varies from region to region, as does the availability of insurance coverage.

This site will help you find a practitioner, using your geographic location: http://directory.eeginfo.com.

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

 © www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Neurofeedback Training and PTSD – Part 1

joanmarielartin

By Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN

 

This week we take a look at the biochemical impact of PTSD and sustained stress. Neurotransmitters and cortisol are two interrelated responses to the threat of—or actual—physical and emotional harm. When a person lives under constant stress (of a pathological love relationship, for instance), his or her biochemistry almost always becomes unbalanced, leading to a host of emotional and physical symptoms. This stress response often takes on a life of its own and in doing so creates further problems such as cortisol and/or serotonin depletion. Neurologically, the same kind of thing happens in the nervous system and the brain’s frequencies get stuck in the ‘red alert mode.’

The nervous system, composed of bundles of brain cells, is an amazing communications system more complex than just about any system known. Brain cells communicate with lightning speed using neurotransmitters and electrical signals. Particular groupings of signals or frequencies are more active under certain conditions such as sleep, relaxation, or being on red alert.

Neurofeedback training, based on the early success of fingertip-based biofeedback, uses a number of aspects about the brain’s ability to self-correct, or retrain, under specific circumstances: The person/client doing the training has sensors placed on the head and ears to pick up information from the scalp-brainwaves. A computer program is designed to both read and interpret these signals and to determine to what degree things are out of balance.

Meanwhile, the computer’s music file is opened and a recorded piece of music or a CD is played. The music is stopped by the computer program when it detects a pattern that is essentially out of balance. This interruption is perceived by the brain as a signal to interrupt what it was doing—in the case of PTSD, being on red alert.

When the brain is given this information many times for many weeks, it gradually stops the pattern of overreacting to things that are not particularly threatening. For example, many partners of disordered persons have an overly sensitive startle reflex. A relatively harmless situation can trigger an extreme reaction, especially if the person is used to walking on eggshells with a disordered partner.

Neurofeedback training—a proven noninvasive method—helps the client regain the ability to relax, which can:

  • reduce hypertension
  • reduce dependency on chemical self-soothing patterns (medications, drugs)
  • reduce dependency on behavioral self-soothing patterns (overeating, overspending)
  • promote healthy sleep patterns
  • promote constructive problem-solving as the brain is less controlled by anxiety and fear

There are many, many benefits to neurofeedback training. Next week’s column will provide a more thorough description of the process and the results.

In the meantime, here are a couple of links to sites that will provide further information:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ-wX7kLBr4

 

www.aboutneurofeedback.com/conditions/ptsd/

For more information about Joan-Marie, visit www.joanmarielartin.com/

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

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com