Acceptance

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.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

The Challenge of Being Thankful

“Rest and be thankful.” ~William Wordsworth

 During this month of Thanksgiving it is certainly appropriate to evaluate what you are thankful for. Now that might be a little challenging considering the wreckage of a pathological relationship, so be thankful this article has arrived in your inbox!

We would like to offer some reminders of the blessings of pathology.

Be thankful for your new filter.

What the psychopath has given you is the ability to spot. That is a gift. Many people don’t know what pathology looks like and, as a result, they move forward despite the patterns of behavior that are present. Once you move toward a psychopath, it’s like you’re a fly in a web… stuck. The ability to spot the spider and the web keeps you far, far away from danger. If you made it out, then knowing the power of pathology is a gift. You have a new filter to lay over your own perceptions and understanding of the world and this filter will ultimately keep you much safer.

Be thankful for the peek deep inside at ‘who’ you are.

We know that pathology is soul-stealing. It grinds you down to the bare bones of who you are and what you believe. It is a terrifying, maniacal, devastating process. There is no doubt that going through it is likely one of the worst experiences of your life. What is left when you leave is your foundation. There might even be a few cracks still there. But no doubt you are seeing things about yourself that you didn’t know existed or that you had forgotten about. As you look back on the moments of manipulation, you undoubtedly see what was done to your values, your worth, and your beliefs. But through this careful evaluation you can reaffirm where you stand and what you stand on.

Be thankful for understanding love in a whole new way.

Love is not fantasy. Love is not a task. Love is not excitement (it’s pretty boring). Love is not adrenaline or fear covered by excitement. Love is steady, unconditional, joyous and gentle.

Sometimes we learn lessons by not getting what we need, and pathology has done that for you. You now know what love is NOT. Your love is real and your capacity for love is real. In a sense, that was never the problem. Feeling love is never your problem… but being able to put a lid on your intense bonding so that you can trust what you felt about his lack of love is the problem.

Be thankful for your own humanness and your ability to bond and love other healthy people.

Your ability to connect and bond to him makes you human. You may be questioning, “How could I have let this happen?” Or blaming yourself for “falling in love with a psychopath.” Well, thank goodness that you love, thank goodness that you bond and thank goodness that you have empathy about it. You know what it means if you can’t do those things, so the alternative is much better. You CAN love and you CAN bond so that means you CAN do it again. Maybe not right now… but you CAN do it. Be thankful that, with some tweaks to your filter, there is hope for love again. You are NOT irreversibly damaged.

Be thankful for your Super Traits.

So, those things that psychopaths manipulate in you are your biggest assets. Do not get it twisted—your Super Traits saved you. Your excitement-seeking, compassion, trust, loyalty, resourcefulness, helpfulness, and sentimentality (among others) played a role in getting you out. Take a minute to think about how each one of these traits helped you. In the end, did your compassion for the kids take over? Did your resourcefulness help you find the facts or did your sentimentality remind you of who you were before? They will be the things that drive your recovery if you let them. You can strengthen them by combining the feelings of the Super Traits with what you know about pathology.

Be thankful you are safe and alive.

Pathology is dangerous. Your pain—emotional and physical—is real. But here you are. There is nothing better than the awareness of our aliveness. Feel the power of being present here, now. In any given moment, pathology can bring a sense of danger and fear. Certainly hypervigilance can set in, if you allow it. But the alternative is much more powerful. Embrace the moments of safety and security. Create an environment which strengthens your sense of safety. In that space, your aliveness will grow.

Being thankful for pathology is a stretch—a stretch toward healing. It is a necessary step in recovery. You may not be there yet and that is OK. Don’t rush yourself. However, take this opportunity to open the door to the idea. If you are there and can feel the thankfulness then take it in.

 “I fall, I rise, I make mistakes, I live, I learn, I’ve been hurt but I’m alive.

I’m human, I’m not perfect but I’m thankful.” ~Unknown

(**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

My Cup is Empty… Can You Help Me Out?

A pathological relationship might begin with the Attraction Cocktail of excitement-seeking, extraversion and competitiveness, but soon it evolves into something more… it requires something more to feed it. What a pathological relationship must have is Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion.

I am sure you are thinking these are not really the things you might think of when you think of pathology, but that makes them all the more needed. Keep in mind that a pathological’s ‘cup’ is empty… they lack a sense of cooperation, helpfulness and compassion. So, in order to fill their needs, they MUST find someone who possesses these traits.

It is important to understand the mask a pathological wears. They exist in two distinct ways… the outside perception that they present, and the dark, empty underside of who they really are. As they move through life, they learn to compensate for their deficiencies. One way to compensate is by using what others have and presenting it as their own.

Cooperation

One of the traits they often cling to is cooperation. They need you to be cooperative. They need you to play along. They are running a scam… and without your cooperation it just won’t work.

Herein lies the risk: You are optimistic, and supportive; you are willing to go the extra mile to make things work and, if there is a problem, you are part of the ‘fix-it’ team. Make no doubt about it—you go along with the program. It’s true… the program that is presented is pretty darn convincing… but still, it’s your high degree of cooperation that allows you to be the perfect partner for pathology.

In our brain, a cooperative mind means we will stay stuck in the deceit. We will continue to participate in the ‘he’s good/he’s bad’ scenario. As long as we stay there, we cannot get out. The good news is that, once you listen to the facts and make a decision about what you are experiencing, it is hard to keep playing. This is the beginning of the end of the relationship.

Herein lies the benefit:  Just as quickly and as committed as you are to cooperate, you will be out… just as fast. You are no sucker. Because of who you are, there will be no looking back once you see his two sides… once you know you are dealing with someone who is pathological.  Acknowledging this—deeply and honestly acknowledging this—makes all the difference for you. Making the decision to leave and get out is one thing… getting the intrusive thoughts to stop is another.

As a result of his mask—his presentation of two sides—you will continue to struggle with questioning yourself and what you experienced. Your cooperative mind will want to go along with the program when your ‘fact-finding’ mind tells you something completely different. The benefit here is that you have the choice to cooperate—to cooperate with the facts.

If you can lean on those around you (who are probably telling you he is no good, he’s dangerous, he’s all wrong for you) and the facts as they are presented (he lied to you, stole from you, manipulated you), you will have a much better chance at emotional healing… healing that will last long after you have had no contact.

Helpfulness

The next trait a pathological relationship requires is helpfulness. This goes hand in hand with cooperation. You are one helpful person. A pathological needs that too. He needs to know that you will do what you need to do to get the job done. He also needs to know you will stand by him when times get tough.

See, the program he’s running is one big con… so sometimes others challenge him. These challenges can be direct or indirect. They can come from family (yours or his), from co-workers, from friends or acquaintances. No matter the direction, he needs to know that you will be right there beside him… to stand up for him. You, after all, are just trying to help. He plays the victim and you, the rescuer. It is one of the dynamics that keeps you locked in.

Herein lies the risk: You are eager and willing to get the job done… be the person to provide assistance and guidance. You want to make things right… set things straight. He needs a person who will make his mask seem true… someone to vouch for him. Sometimes, you are the person who helps seal the deal… make his con appear real. How could he be lying about who he is with you on his arm?

Herein lies the benefit: You are not going to help someone con others. The gig will be up when you really see him for who he is. You can then use your helpfulness to make sure no one else gets hurt. In turn, you are helping yourself.

You are the kind of person who will be just as strong in aligning against him as you were aligning with him. You will help yourself too… you are the kind of woman who will seek out what you need. You will search the Internet until you find answers and when you do… you will apply the skills needed to disengage and begin healing.

There are a couple of ways to address these traits so that they do not become a risk but are more of a benefit. Your cooperation was tested early on in the relationship. You may have been asked to do things or led to do things just to see if you would follow through. Take a moment and think about the early stage of your relationship. Did you complete tasks that were outside of your personal boundaries… late night meetings, compromising sexual requests, unannounced visits, requests for money?

Take a moment and list these requests or ‘experience-title’ them, ‘Red Flags-Boundary Breakers.’ These represent ways in which your cooperation and helpfulness was ‘overflowing’ from your own cup. Your desire to cooperate and be helpful was greater than your desire to stay true to who you are.

As you begin to heal you can use this list as a reminder of where your boundaries are… give yourself a chance to firmly instill them so that no other person will be allowed to cross them.

Next week, we will look at the third trait in this trio of Super Traits: Compassion.

As we near the holiday season, remind yourself… these are your traits—your gifts—and they should not be handed out to just anyone. Tie them up with a bow and keep them to yourself!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Attraction Cocktail, Part 2 – Dominance and Competitiveness

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

Last time we talked about the first two ingredients of the Attraction Cocktail – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion. The final main component of the Attraction Cocktail is Dominance and then, just a splash of Competitiveness.

Now, Dominance! This is another one that, at first thought, you might say, “What, who me? I am surely not dominant!” But with a closer look, you will see that your dominance looks like leadership. It looks like a woman in charge. It’s not the kind of dominance that over powers. It is the kind that takes charge. Your dominance does put you in control without being controlling. It tells others that you know what you want and will do what you need to do to get it, even if it means you want a relationship with a certain exciting man.

So, there he is – the guy with the magnetic personality who appears as if he “owns” the room! You decide to go for it. He says, “Bring it on!”

His dominance means that you are a challenge. Two “powerful” people means there is energy. This energy is ultimately moving in different directions, but, nonetheless, it’s energy. His dominance means he wants to have power over you. His power is the kind that is controlling but when you first get together it may look like “a man who knows what he wants” and knows how to get it. He will use his dominance to appear as if he is your equal. He will move in your circles and appear to be everything you need. And he will do it with swagger.

But soon his dominance and need to control will become “power over”. And herein lies the risk. Your dominance is not the same as his and when that difference becomes undeniably different, you may already be hooked. You may spend the middle to later part of the relationship fighting for your own.

You may have seen his dominance as “sameness” and felt comforted (thinking that you are always in control and it is finally nice to have someone match you) but that feeling soon fades. By the time it does, you can’t break free. And herein lies the benefit. Your dominance will be the power that, in the end, does free you. You will learn how he controls you, you will learn his patterns and with that information you will gain control and dominance – the kind of control and dominance that will set you free.

So, if this cocktail isn’t strong enough to convince you of the power of his pathology, your risk to it, and the benefit it offers you, let’s add a splash of Competiveness. It is one of the final traits that you both have in common and that you both have in high amounts so it makes sense that it adds to the power of the initial attraction.

Let’s get real! You probably like a good fight. Not one with someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about or with someone who is not equally matched to your intelligence, but a fight that helps you gain an edge – a smarter outlook, a challenge to build your depth of knowledge. You would not back down if someone came at you with inaccurate information.

You have a need to make things right, to get the facts and share the facts. Additionally, you will not tolerate being accused of untruths or called inappropriate names. If you think you are not competitive, ask yourself how you would react if someone called you a name or lied about you. I bet you would not back down to that. Well, guess what! He does not like to back down either.

He likes a challenge so he is looking for someone who will tangle with him. This type of emotional tangle is just what he loves. He loves to engage in emotional wrangling. It feeds his need for power. When he can control you emotionally he knows that you are invested in the relationship. And herein lies the risk. This relationship is going to feel like a challenge to both of you in the beginning.

To you, a less passive man probably seems boring. Furthermore, you are not afraid to battle it out and you surely do not want him to “get one over” on you. So this is a great reason to stay and fight. You also might find it a challenge to stay in the relationship and “bust” him doing something, staying until you find the evidence or staying until you find out he’s NOT doing what you think he is.

Your competitiveness means that you are willing and able to battle it out in court. You will go head to head with him and that is just what he wants. And herein lies the benefit. Once you know who he is, you will fight like hell to get out. You will realize that you have won because he no longer has the power that comes from your lack of awareness. More importantly, being competitive helped you build a great life.

You fought for things that were important to you – an education, a great career. It helped you to challenge others and yourself to always be the best and find the best in others. It helped you make good decisions and take a pro-active approach to almost everything.

The best thing about being competitive is that you are often successful. The reason you are successful is because part of competition is knowing when you have been beaten – knowing when to cut your losses and move on to a challenge you can win. It is not about being so headstrong that you stay and fight just to be able to say “I win”. Your competitiveness, combined with all the other traits you possess, leads to more than a need to win. Your traits lead to success.

Because he is sicker than you are smart, you will never “win” with him. So all of your book smarts and street smarts and relationship smarts will not out smart his ability to psychologically damage you. Prolonged exposure leads to inevitable harm. Once you know this the battle is over.

By the end of the relationship, you may not even feel competitive anymore. He has taken it from you. The energy, fire and gusto that you once had may seem gone. But spend some time away. Talk with your girlfriends or family about it. Your fire will return. Your brain will tell you to put down the sword and walk away from the emotional vampire; walk away from the battle that you cannot win. Ultimately, and in the end, this is where the similarity stops and the pathology begins.

Someone who is pathological does not want someone like themselves. Ultimately they know that they lack certain things other people have and they are on a never ending search to get those things. And, because they will never get or be those things, they will use your emotions to control you…so they can fill their empty cup.

So when you ask yourself, “Why me?” the answer is clear. Because you have what he wants. And when you ask yourself, “Why did I stay?” the answer is because you posses traits that meet his needs and he used them to control you. And when you ask yourself, “How do I begin to heal?” the answer is by using all of your traits as powerful healing tools, tools that have helped you create a big, full life in every other area of your life.

When it comes to the traits contained in the Attraction Cocktail you may be asking, “How do I make sure I never get caught up by another psychopath again?”

My suggestion is to use these traits and take the Joyce Brown approach to life. Accept that you are an extraverted, excitement-seeking, dominant, competitive woman. Once you own that, and claim (or re-claim) the benefits, you will find new ways to feed that part of you.

Remember, these are NOT deficits! They are overflowing traits you possess so you must use them. You must do it carefully and cautiously, but you must use them.

Think outside the box. These are just a few suggestions that will feed your need to be extraverted, do exciting things, be a leader and engage with others:

  • Find a hobby. Learn to do something you’ve always wanted to learn.
  • Take up a political cause or join a social action group.
  • Work with a non-profit agency on an issue close to your heart.
  • Start a club or group focused on a topic, issue, or hobby you enjoy.
  • Learn to ride a motorcycle or take up waterskiing (go big or go home, right?)

Most importantly, you will be using your traits in a way that YOU can control. If you are carefully and thoughtfully aware of who you are and what you need, no one can come along and take that away from you. As Joyce said, “When you aren’t living a big enough life, any psychopath will do.”

The Attraction Cocktail, Part 1 – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion

“People can be induced to swallow anything, provided it is sufficiently seasoned with praise” – Molière

 You might be asking yourself “Why me?” Why did you get to be the one to end up in this crazy relationship? What did you do wrong to land THIS guy? The answer begins with what could be called the “Attraction Cocktail”.

There is this powerful potion that has brought the two of you together. This potion consists of the first three Super Traits identified in Sandra’s research:

Excitement Seeking   Extraversion   Dominance

These are a few of the rare traits that you both posses in high amounts. In your cup and in his cup these traits are spilling over. Remember you both posses these at the high end of the trait cut off at 85-95%. Most average people would not test that high in these traits. So, what we have are two high excitement seekers who are both extraverts, looking for a win. Sounds like a recipe for inevitable harm to me – but not immediate harm!

First, and almost within minutes, there is fire and passion, understanding and power, lust and energy. There is electricity – maybe in a way that you have never felt before. While some people might see him as “fake” and “overkill”, you see him as passionate and understanding. In the very early stages of a relationship these traits lead you from one “fun” experience to another. For him, though, it’s about building your trust and testing your boundaries.

Let’s look at each trait on its own because each ingredient offers its own unique characteristics that contribute to the potion.

I am guessing that some of you may be saying, “I’m not an Excitement-Seeker. I do not like to jump out of planes!” But being an excitement seeker is a little more (or less) than that. It can mean that you like to take risks – personal risks, financial risks, professional risks.

It can be that thing that creates in you the desire to go out on a limb, maybe go to the nightclub on your own or sign up on a dating site or go on a blind date. These are not the things that someone who desires boredom would do. It is the excitement you seek in your hobbies…maybe cycling, hiking or traveling. It is the excitement that you get from going to a great job every day – a career that drives you to go for it!

You’re the person who says “Yes!” to new experiences and “Sure!” to risky (yet really cool and innovative) opportunities. It’s that little something inside of you. Think about it. That thing that says “I’ll give it a try, why not?”

So, let’s mix the cocktail. Here you are, with all this desire to “seek excitement” and here he comes, looking for some excitement too! Pow! It’s on! He loves to go, get out there, take risks with no regard for others. His risks are more about feeding his energy. This energy is part of his pathology. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just overwhelms you…they chat you up…with frenetic energy that just doesn’t stop! That’s the energy of a psychopath that must be fed with exciting things.

He’s game for anything! In fact, you may have noticed that if you mention a hobby, it probably is his hobby too! (Later, you find out that he never really liked to do that – it was just part of his hook). He probably loves to travel – if you do; he loves to bike – if you do; he loves to go out with friends – if you do; he loves art – if you do; he loves to go camping – if you do; he loves to go boating – if you do.

Whatever he can do that you do, he’ll do it. Isn’t that exciting? And herein lies the risk: When two excitement-seekers meet, it is a chance to join.

For you it is a chance to build trust; for him a chance to take trust. For you it is a chance to create a bond; for him a chance to build an attachment. For you a chance to feel a connection – someone finally understands you; for him a chance to make you think that he is just like you and that he understands.

Your need for excitement means that you take risky chances. Sometimes those risks do not pay off. You (and everyone else in the world) is also more likely to go along with others when you are in a heightened state of excitement. And herein lies the benefit: Because you are an excitement seeker you will be able to see quickly that he is not “all that and a bag of chips”.

Inevitably, once the relationship progresses, it will become clear that his excitement-seeking fades and the façade he built to trap you will fall to pieces. He bores easily – not because you are boring, but because he cannot sustain the emotional energy that it takes to remain in the relationship. He bores because he cannot do the emotional work to remain committed and he does not have the depth to go where you can go.

You can turn your wonderful, exciting experiences into real emotional, energy-building bonds, and forging strength and character for yourself. He has used the opportunity to manipulate you into being under his control. When he is done with that task, he must find someone else to fuel his need for excitement.

What about the ingredient of Extraversion? You might see in yourself a person who openly engages in conversation, someone who is curious about others, and often is impulsive in social situations. You might be the person who leads in a group or offers to help out more often than others. You are willing to tell your story, share your thoughts, and contribute. Your extraversion wrapped up with excitement-seeking makes for a pretty great package – life of the party even.

So, mixing it up in the room is another extravert. He has no problem going up to complete strangers (how exciting!) and introducing himself and then telling you his life story (or whatever story he thinks you want to hear). He is “owning” the room with so much confidence and bravado it’s almost sexy. He displays expertise to the point he is grandiose – a LOT grandiose!

His extraversion is the mask…the mask that makes you think it’s safe. It’s the mask that convinces you he is what you want him to be. (They are really good at this part – creating that mask of normalcy.)

Extraversion is a great trait to have but herein lies the risk. Your extraversion lets him know that you might play his game. Your extraversion means you will do the exciting things he likes to do. It also means that you are curious and probably would not turn down an offer for fun or the offer to try something new…and he might be just that, in the beginning.

You are someone who likes to get out and meet people and the guy who is “owning” the room is just the guy for you. But there is one thing about extraversion that makes you different from him! That is your ability to truly bond with others. And herein lies the benefit. You must become truly bonded with someone to maintain a relationship.

Extraversion may bring you two together but you need mutual understanding, respect, and unconditional love. This is not what he provides in the long run. It will become clear at some point that his extraversion was a rue to hook you. His mask will fall and you will see that he is really a lonely, empty person who transforms to meet the needs of those around him. You will begin to use your extraversion as a way to break free of him.

When the dynamics of the relationship become clear you will seek out help. You will find people around you who can support you. Your curiosity will lead you to answers and help. You will not fear talking to others even if they don’t really understand. You will keep trying until you find what you need.

Next time we’ll talk about the remaining elements of the Attraction Cocktail – Dominance and Competitiveness – and finding new ways to feed your Attraction Cocktail ingredients.

(**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 People Regard You—I’m Not What You Say I Am

Jennifer Young, LMHC

~ “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.” ~ (François Duc de La Rochefoucauld)

Life isn’t all about appearances. Life is about movement, awareness, insight, change, compassion. Life is about interactions with others. As we move through the world, we move through it together. Whether we accept it or not, we impact each other.

Conversely, we are impacted by others. Our impact on others is often a concern. It is a part of our conscious awareness. We wonder (and sometimes obsess) about how others regard us. Alfred Adler describes this trait of how people regard us in terms of “social interest,” our ability or potential for living “cooperatively and contributing to the good of others.”

We learn to adopt this trait early on, on the playground. As children we are taught to be aware of others’ feelings and to be nice to others. We learn that words do hurt (in spite of the childhood lesson regarding sticks and stones!). We learn lessons like “make a good first impression” and “do unto others …” All of these childhood (and adult) lessons teach us that what others think is important. Now, this isn’t all bad.

Considering we are social creatures, and knowing that we impact each other, it is pretty important to be concerned with how other people regard us. Possessing this trait means that we have compassion and empathy. It means that we want to play well with others. But this trait, like all the others in excess, can be dangerous. It can be especially dangerous for someone who finds their way to a playground with a psychopath.

Herein lies the risk: Psychopaths lack concern for others … real, empathetic concern. They can fake it well, but deep down they move through the world not concerned about their impact on others but about having control and power. So, being concerned about how other people regard them is twisted. It isn’t so much about positive regard as it is negative regard. They want people to believe they are in control, powerful, smart, and likeable, etc. They want to cover up who they really are … manipulative, dangerous, callous, superficial, glib, and controlling. (Writing those words reminds me why they HAVE to develop a mask … it would be hard to spend two minutes with someone if we saw those traits.) So, they move through the world, mask firmly in place, covering who they are with what they want you to believe.

For the woman in a relationship with a psychopath, it’s the trait of how people regard you that keeps you stuck. You are concerned with the feelings of others, you are concerned about your impact on other people (and a psychopath will remind you all day about your impact on him!) As long as you believe you are having a negative impact you will stay until your impact becomes positive. Sad part is, it never does.

He knows you need to be seen as kind, compassionate, loyal and honest—and he also knows that you don’t give up. So as long as he can make you believe your impact is negative, then give you a glimmer of hope that he can change, he’s got you. You stay because you must be seen by him and others as having a positive impact, a high concern for how others regard you. This concept works well in all other areas of your life, but with a psychopath it’s the thing that puts you most at risk and the thing that keeps you there.

Herein lies the benefit: When you realize that he cannot change, you’re out. When you fully and completely come to believe that he is only motivated by power and control, you know that it is no longer about what he thinks or how he sees you … in fact, this flips.

You begin to realize that he sees you as a sucker. He has used everything good about you to fill his empty cup. He has taken what is good and right and manipulated it (and you) for his own agenda. You also realize that he is not only hurting you, but he is having a negative impact on others … most likely people you care about. Knowing this becomes your strength. It becomes the fuel to the fire that burns the relationship to ruin. You will not play with others who have no regard. Think about it. Would you allow an employee, client, friend, or your child to manipulate your good nature this way? Not a chance! You’re out! No more playing with a psychopath; time to take your toys and go home.

So, when all is said and done, you have way too much concern for how other people regard you, and in the context of a pathological relationship that is really, really dangerous. So, how do you put a lid on that trait?

First, be concerned about this trait only when it comes to your pathological. Chances are this trait has served you well in other areas of your life, so don’t be overwhelmed with having to “change” everything about you. This trait is appealing to psychopaths, so just put a lid on it in the context of your relationship.

Next, be aware of your thoughts and actions when he persecutes you, when he calls you stupid or crazy, calls you irresponsible and uncaring, attacks your skills as a mother or tells you that you are being “mean”. When he does this, he is seeking to control you through this trait. HE IS CONTROLLING YOU THROUGH YOUR TRAIT.

Allow this thought to come into your awareness and then challenge it. Who is doing this??? A psychopath. Allow the truth to come into your awareness and you will be compelled to accept it. Additionally, with that knowledge, you can counter any thought with a true thought. You might begin to remind yourself that what he says about you is part of his mask, part of the fantasy that he is creating to keep you in the relationship.

Fantasy is not reality. You know who you are – and you are not who he says you are!

(**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).

Challenge the Thought

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

You own one thing: your mind.  That’s it.  There are things that you possess, like your books, your shoes, or your jewelry.  But the only thing that you own is what goes on between your ears.  No one can take it from you, no one can buy it from you, and no one can rent space in it. Now, I know what you are saying: “I’ve been in a relationship with a psychopath—he rented, bought and sold my mind for a nickel.”  I get it, and I do agree that if anyone can make you feel that your mind has been rented, bought or sold, it is a psychopath.  I might even concede that he rented your mind.  But what neuroscience has taught us is that the brain is resilient and that allows us to constantly get our mind back—even when it feels bought or sold.

When a psychopath takes control, he gets your thoughts.  That’s the prize for him.  If he can control your thoughts, it’s done.  Your thoughts drive your emotions and your behaviors.  Your thoughts are his key to getting you to feel crazy, sad, confused, frustrated, angry, elated, or excited.  When you feel these feelings, you act in a corresponding way.  All of these feelings and behaviors document his control.  They are his proof that your thoughts are turning or have turned.
Think about the thoughts that he created in you.

He enjoys my pain—I am worthless—Where is he?—I am not good enough—I deserve to be desired—I’m not stupid  

And I am using the word “created” on purpose.  The thoughts that were created were a result of his behavior, like water moving through the rocks creating a valley—slow, intentional and inevitable. His behavior of leaving mysteriously created the thought, “Where is he?”  His behavior of smirking created the thought, “He enjoys my pain.”  His behavior of insulting you created the thought, “I am worthless.

It doesn’t matter if the emotions these thoughts elicit are positive or negative.  It doesn’t matter if the behaviors that these thoughts elicit are positive or negative.  With each of these thoughts you felt something and a behavior followed. He had control of you.  You and I know that he did things to you to generate these thoughts.  So, he acted and you reacted.  What better sense of power than to get a reaction out of someone?  And what better sense of power than to get a reaction out of someone who is powerful themselves (that’s YOU)?

Since when do you question if you are stupid?  Since when do you believe that you do not deserve to be desired?  Since when do you need to spend time wondering where he is? You do this only in the context of a pathological relationship.  Because you have always known that you are not stupid, you are not worthless, don’t need to worry about where your man is, know that you are good enough and that NO ONE should enjoy seeing you in pain.  Holding these contradictory beliefs is your cognitive dissonance.  On one hand, you know you are smart, and yet you think you are stupid.  You know you are valuable, but when he is around you feel worthless. STOP THE MADNESS!

One important strategy in ending cognitive dissonance and getting your mind back is to follow these three steps:
1. Challenge the thought.
The key here is to get the first thought.  Get the thought the moment it comes.  Do not let one thought become another, then another.  Before you know it, you are in it.  That is when it becomes a problem.  So, grab that first one and work on it.  Once you have the thought—challenge it.  If it is a question, answer it. “I miss him so much” becomes “I don’t miss the psychopath.”  “How did this happen to me?” becomes “It happened because he is sicker than I am smart.”  Any challenge or answer will work as long as it is based on facts—verifiable facts.  And sometimes the words of another—a trusted friend or a therapist—can work.

2. Breathe in the correct thought.
Now breathe in that new, correct, and rational thought.  Breathe in your belief.  Breathe in the thought and allow it to ease your emotional pain just a bit.  You control how you feel with your correct thoughts.  Take a few long, slow, deep breaths, repeating quietly the new thought.  (You can even do this in a crowd with a more normal breath—sometimes even stepping away from the group or off to the bathroom to correct your thoughts).

3. Move to a healthy distraction.
Finally, take that new thought with you.  Get up, move, and carry the correct thought with you.  If you were watching TV, then go wash some dishes.  If you were reading, then go watch TV.  If you are lying in bed, get up and get a drink of water.  As you move, allow the new thought to take hold and move with you.  Begin to focus your thought on the next task.

As with any new skill it is important to do it and be successful.  It’s not about how many times you can challenge the thoughts, but can you do it successfully.  So, start with one thought.  Do this on that one thought for several days until you feel a sense of relief.  Then try another thought.

Sandra says, “Recovery happens one moment at a time.” And I believe that nothing could be more true.  What are you thinking in this moment?

(**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

Stay in the Right Position: What I did over Christmas break

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

This Christmas break I went skiing…sort of. It was a trip that required lots of planning. I live in Florida and snow skiing is not exactly something we do often. Prior to attempting this feat I decided to take a lesson at the local outdoor shop. Here in Florida, ski lessons happen on a carpeted conveyor belt that rises like a little hill. In fact, it is rated a blue slope…which is a middle of the road slope. It’s not a green, which is the bunny slope. So, I attempted to learn to ski on a pretty steep slope.

As I donned all the gear, which is a feat in itself, the instructor started with the basics. But something he said struck me. It was a warning, a prevention strategy. I am all about prevention of pain and this is what he said, “Stay in the right position to avoid pain.”

Wow. What a novel idea. Stay still, is the “right” position. Avoid pain. To ski and not be in pain, it’s all about your position; knees pointed this way – and bent, skis point that way – like a pizza slice, body upright, arms out front. Now, hold it. Oh yeah, and engage that core. This way, this position, is how you prevent the aftermath. Because if I was warned once, I was warned a thousand times about the pain I would feel the next day. I was almost more scared of that than I was the actual skiing. So, I held tight to that position. In fact, the lesson was really an instruction on how to hold the right position and self-correct when you fell out. I did pretty good in the lesson. I held on and self-corrected. I went down that carpet conveyor like a champ.
Then came real life. Ummm…real life. Not carpet. I made my way up in the gondola and stepped out onto the mountain. SNOW!!! Pretty amazing and slightly overwhelming. I stepped into my skis and assumed the position. Skis in the shape of a pizza, knees bent, body upright and hands out front. GO! Down I went — and down I fell. I had a few moments of skiing – twice. I did it. I held my position and I skied.

The day after I felt pretty good. I did not have any pain. There was some minor ache in my thighs but that always feels good – it lets you know you worked something! So there it was. Skiing for a Florida girl. I took one thing away from that day. I held myself in the right position and I was able to avoid the pain. I was taught the right position and I used it.

This lesson resonated with me because every day when I speak with women in recovery about pathology I know there is one position that needs to be held. I know that if you hold that position, you will avoid pain. The recovery position looks like this:

-Know who he is
-Disengage at every turn
-Manage your super traits
-Live a gentle life

It’s not an easy position and it sure as hell is not always comfortable. It’s a foreign experience for most – like skiing for a Florida girl. But bravery is crucial, desire (to be done) is required and focus is the foundation.

But, what helps the most is taking the lessons that you have been taught and using them. You have to work at each moment to hold your position. If you do, then your pain will decrease. Your thighs will ache, but that’s your sign that you’ve done your work.

The Challenge of Being Thankful

“Rest and Be Thankful.” –William Wordsworth

During this month of Thanksgiving it is certainly appropriate to evaluate what you are thankful for. Now, that might be a little challenging considering the wreckage of a pathological relationship so be thankful that this article has arrived in your inbox. We would like to offer some reminders of the blessings of pathology.

Be thankful for your new filter

What the psychopath has given you is the ability to spot. That is a gift. Many people don’t know what pathology looks like and, as a result, move forward in spite of the patterns of behavior that are present. Once you move toward a psychopath it’s like you’re a fly in a web…stuck. The ability to spot the spider and the web keeps you far, far away from danger. If you made it out, then knowing the power of pathology is a gift. You have a new filter to lay over your own perceptions and understanding of the world and this filter will ultimately keep you much safer.

Be thankful for the peek deep into who you are

We know that pathology is soul stealing. It grinds you down to the bare bones of who you are and what you believe. It is a terrifying, maniacal, devastating process. There is no doubt that going through it is likely one of the worst experiences of your life. What is left when you leave is your foundation. There might even be a few cracks there. But no doubt you are seeing things about yourself that you didn’t know existed or that you had forgotten about. As you look back on the moments of manipulation, you undoubtedly see what was done to your values, your worth, and your beliefs. But through this careful evaluation you can reaffirm where you stand and what you stand on.

Be thankful for understanding love in a whole new way

Love is not fantasy. Love is not a task. Love is not excitement (it’s pretty boring). Love is not adrenaline or fear covered by excitement. Love is steady, unconditional, joyous and gentle. Sometimes we learn lessons by not getting what we need and pathology has done that for you. You now know what love is NOT. Your love is real and your capacity for love is real. In a sense, that was never the problem. Feeling love is never your problem…but being able to put a lid on your intense bonding so that you can trust what you felt about his lack of love is the problem.

Be thankful for your own humanness and your ability to bond and love other healthy people.
Your ability to connect and bond to him makes you human. You may be questioning “how could I let this happen?” or blaming yourself for “falling in love with a psychopath”. Well, thank goodness that you love, thank goodness that you bond and thank goodness that you have empathy about it. You know what it means if you can’t do those things so the alternative is much better. You CAN love and you CAN bond so that means you can do it again. Maybe not right now…but you CAN do it. Be thankful that with some tweaks to your filter, there is hope for love again.

Be thankful for your super traits

So, those things that psychopaths manipulate are your biggest asset. Do not get it twisted. Your super traits saved you. Your excitement-seeking, compassion, trust, loyalty, resourcefulness, helpfulness, and sentimentality, among others, played a role in getting you out. Take a minute to think about how each one of these traits helped you. In the end, did your compassion for the kids take over? Did your resourcefulness help you find the facts or did your sentimentality remind you of who you were before? They will be the thing that drives your recovery if you let them. You can strengthen them by combining the feelings of the super traits with what you know about pathology.

Be thankful you are safe and alive

Pathology is dangerous. Your pain, emotional or physical, is real. But here you are. There is nothing better than the awareness of our aliveness. Feel the power of being present – here – now. In any given moment pathology can bring a sense of danger and fear. Certainly hyper-vigilance can set in, if you allow it. But the alternative is much more powerful. Embrace the moments of safety and security. Create an environment that strengthens your sense of safety. In that space, your aliveness will grow.

Being thankful for pathology is a stretch – a stretch toward healing. It is a necessary step in recovery. You may not be there yet and that is OK. Don’t rush yourself. However, take this opportunity to open the door to the idea. If you are there and can feel the thankfulness then take it in.

“I fall, I rise, I make mistakes, I live, I learn, I’ve been hurt but I’m alive.
I’m human, I’m not perfect but I’m thankful.” –Unknown

Challenge the Thought

By Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Survivor Services

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

You own one thing: your mind. That’s it. There are things that you possess, like your books, your shoes, or your jewelry. But the only thing that you own is what goes on between your ears. No one can take it from you, no one can buy it from you, and no one can rent space in it. Now, I know what you are saying: “I’ve been in a relationship with a psychopath—he rented, bought and sold my mind for a nickel.” I get it, and I do agree that if anyone can make you feel that your mind has been rented, bought or sold, it is a psychopath. I might even concede that that he rented your mind. But what neuroscience has taught us is that the brain is resilient and that allows us to constantly get our mind back—even when it feels bought or sold.

When a psychopath takes control, he gets your thoughts. That’s the prize for him. If he can control your thoughts, it’s done. Your thoughts drive your emotions and your behaviors. Your thoughts are his key to getting you to feel crazy, sad, confused, frustrated, angry, elated, or excited. When you feel these feelings, you act in a corresponding way. All of these feelings and behaviorsdocument his control. They are his proof that your thoughts are turning or have turned.
Think about the thoughts that he created in you.

He enjoys my pain—I am worthless—Where is he?—I am not good enough—I deserve to be desired—I’m not stupid

And I am using the word “created” on purpose. The thoughts that were created were a result of his behavior, like water moving through the rocks creating a valley—slow, intentional and inevitable. His behavior of leaving mysteriously created the thought, “Where is he?” His behavior of smirking created the thought, “He enjoys my pain.” His behavior of insulting you created the thought, “I am worthless.”. Even his behavior of gaslighting creates the thought “I’m not stupid!” Now, think about the feelings that those thoughts elicit in you.

It doesn’t matter if the emotions these thoughts elicit are positive or negative. It doesn’t matter if the behaviors that these thoughts elicit are positive or negative. With each of these thoughts you felt something and a behavior followed. He had control of you. You and I know that he did things to you to generate these thoughts. So, he acted and you reacted. What better sense of power than to get a reaction out of someone? And what better sense of power than to get a reaction out of someone who is powerful themselves (that’s YOU)?

Since when do you question if you are stupid? Since when do you believe that you do not deserve to be desired? Since when do you need to spend time wondering where he is? You do this only in the context of a pathological relationship. Because you have always known that you are not stupid, you are not worthless, don’t need to worry about where your man is, know that you are good enough and that NO ONE should enjoy seeing you in pain. Holding these contradictory beliefs is your cognitive dissonance. On one hand you know you are smart and yet, you think you are stupid. You know you are valuable, but when he is around you feel worthless. STOP THE MADNESS!
One important strategy in ending cognitive dissonance and getting your mind back is to follow these three steps:

1.Challenge the thought.
The key here is to get the first thought. Get the thought the moment it comes. Do not let one thought become another, then another. Before you know it you are in it. That is when it becomes a problem. So, grab that first one and work on it. Once you have the thought—challenge it. If it is a question, answer it. “I miss him so much” becomes “I don’t miss the psychopath.” “How did this happen to me?” becomes “It happened because he is sicker than I am smart.” Any challenge or answer will work as long as it is based on facts—verifiable facts. And sometimes the words of another—a trusted friend or a therapist can work.

2.Breathe in the correct thought.
Now breathe in that new, correct and rational thought. Breathe in your belief. Breathe in the thought and allow it to ease your emotional pain just a bit. You control how you feel with your correct thoughts. Take a few long, slow, deep breaths, repeating quietly the new thought. (You can even do this in a crowd with a more normal breath—sometimes even stepping away from the group or off to the bathroom to correct your thoughts).

3.Move to a healthy distraction.
Finally, take that new thought with you. Get up, move and carry the correct thought with you. If you were watching TV, then go wash some dishes. If you were reading, then go watch TV. If you are laying in bed, get up and get a drink of water. As you move, allow the new thought to take hold and move with you. Begin to focus your thought on the next task.
As with any new skill it is important to do it and be successful. It’s not about how many times you can challenge the thoughts, but can you do it successfully. So, start with one thought. Do this on that one thought for several days until you feel a sense of relief. Then try another thought.

Sandra says, “Recovery happens one moment at a time.” And I believe that nothing could be more true. What are you thinking in this moment?

Acceptance

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

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.

What Do You Tell Them?

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

“Staring at the blank page before you, open up the dirty window,
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find.” ~ Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

“I was in a relationship with a psychopath.” What an opener, right? Starting with the harsh truth isn’t always the best way to begin a conversation. One of the most difficult parts of moving on with your life is figuring out how you are going to tell your story. The truth doesn’t always come easy. And let’s face it, the vast majority of people in your life will never understand. But their lack of understanding does not prevent them from asking what happened to you. So, you might as well figure out what you are going to tell them.

There are a couple things to consider when deciding what you are going to tell others. You might be tempted to tell everyone the severity of the manipulation, or the details of every gaslighting incident, or the shame he made you feel for HIS affair. But this temptation is often driven by your need for validation. You can temper this desire by validating yourself. You have to come to accept that he is what he is. When you fully understand Cluster B, you will know that it is a complicated disorder. You will know that, really, it is a disorder of social hiding. Cluster Bs, by nature, do not make themselves known. The disorder is marked by a perfectly placed mask. This is what they want others to see. They have worked their whole lives creating that mask. It was created through a process of learning what works, what can be believed and what is socially acceptable for their environment. It is pure survival for them—life or death. It is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will see who they are. And it certainly is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will understand the two sides. If they don’t show it, how are others expected to understand it? Because of this mask, only you might know. You will know the good and the bad, the sweet and the sour, the lies and the truth. You saw the behaviors, you heard the contradictions, you felt the fear. Essentially, you don’t need anyone to tell you that. And if you believe yourself, the need for validation ends.

Once you have established a pattern of self-validation, you can begin to determine who needs to know what. First, consider your audience. Everyone does not need to know everything. You might want to evaluate who needs to know what. Your co-worker might not need to know as many details as your sister. Your boss may not need to know as much as your co-worker. Your acquaintances may not need to know what your neighbor needs to know. Again, each of these groups may have very different experiences of your Cluster B; therefore, proving to them who he is may put you in a defensive position. That’s the last place you need to be in the recovery process. So, be honest with yourself about what your Cluster B gave to the people in his life and the people in your life.

Think about telling some people nothing. What a novel idea—not talking about your trauma. This strategy can be helpful in keeping your mind in a place of validation and away from defensiveness. You can maintain recovery thinking by not looking outside of yourself for answers once a traumatic memory has been resolved. You have done the work; you know what you know, so now use it to validate yourself. To say nothing can also protect your recovery. The co-worker who questions,

“Why didn’t you leave sooner?” might not need to know all the horrible things that he did that prevented you from leaving. But worse than that, the co-worker may not need to know that you did not leave because he continued to build a fantasy for you. That every time you finally decided to leave, he pulled you back in with roses, a romantic getaway or a sentimental recounting of your first Christmas together. If you decide to launch into positive memories with your co-workers … you are re-traumatizing yourself. You have now taken the leap back into cognitive dissonance just to explain to someone else what you already understand. What if you just said to your co-worker, “I left when I was ready to leave and I’m glad he’s gone. How was your weekend?”

Once you’ve determined who to tell what, you can then begin to craft the language that you will use. Some people can understand the clinical words and explanation. These are the people who can understand what it means to be with a psychopath—someone who might read some of the books you’ve read or read an article about pathological relationships. Other people may need more common phrases like, “I was in a dangerous relationship,” or “I was psychologically manipulated.” Still others may respond to the use of a metaphor. Sometimes it helps just to say, “He’s like a little child,” or “He’s like a bad case of the flu … I just can’t shake him.”

There is never really a script that can convey what you should say or even could say to help those around you understand. Truth be told … most won’t ever understand. They can’t validate you. Sometimes it’s best to just find one person who might get it or at the very least is willing to listen when you need to talk. The rest of the time, the focus doesn’t have to be on telling your story, but rather, living your life.

As singer Natasha Bedingfield says—your story is “unwritten.” In every moment you decide what to say and what NOT to say. There are so many layers and intricacies to a pathological relationship. And each moment, each experience that you had, was traumatic. It is crucial that you manage the story that you tell. With a blank page before you at each new opportunity to speak about what happened, remind yourself that speaking the words represents your power. That should not be considered lightly, and with each word that leaves your mouth, you are risking your power.

Want to Buy Me Dinner?

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

If you owe me dinner—raise your hand. For the last several years I’ve been making bets with women all over the country. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “So, we know that once you are in the speed dial, you’ll always be in the speed dial. Cluster B’s don’t know how to do closure and he will contact you again. Not because of who you are but because of who he is.”

Survivor: “But, you don’t understand. He’s really pissed. I humiliated him in court. He hates me, calls me all kind of names to the kids. Really.”

Me: “Ok…so,wanna buy me dinner in (enter your city here) when I come to town if he contacts you?”
Survivor: “Sure, because it will never happen.”

And, about two months later, or six weeks later, or eight months later, the text comes from him.

Survivor: “OMG, he texted me and called me ‘baby’ and said he missed being at home.”

Me: “I know.”

What I know is that Cluster B’s don’t/can’t do closure. They don’t/can’t end a “relationship” because they are not emotionally intelligent enough. They lack the skills needed to end a “relationship”.

Closure is what we typically hope for at the end of a healthy relationship. The elements of closure for a healthy relationship require two people to agree the relationship as it is should end, there should be a mutual understanding of the reason (this could come in the form of a nice talk or argument ending in resolution), and there is an expressing of emotion that matches the behavior of ending a relationship. You might see a range of emotions, an expression of hurt and empathy and an end to the behaviors related to being a couple. Doesn’t this seem like the complete opposite of what you see when a pathological love relationship is over?

Closure is a foreign concept to a Cluster B. It represents everything they are unable to do. They cannot behave in a way that matches what they say. So, when they say it’s over—they don’t leave. They cannot understand your emotions or the impact of their behavior on you, so when they say,“I’m sorry,” they repeat the same bad behavior again because they haven’t done anything wrong in their mind. They can use the words of emotion but don’t feel it like you and I do. All of the elements of relationship closure require an understanding of the abstract nature of emotional words like “love”, “sorry”, “remorse”, “frustration”, “hope”, “trust”, “intimate”, “appreciated”, etc. …They do not have the ability to read past the word to its deeper interpersonal meaning. They can’t see how the word moves us or how the word is not just one word, but often made up of many concepts that are represented by one word. This lack of understanding of the abstract nature of our emotional language is part of the neurology of Cluster B disorders.

Without the ability to give closure, they don’t leave. What remains is your need to get closure. And it is that mismatched ending that tortures you—your expectation of closure and his inability to give it. The circle is set in motion when he never goes away and you keep seeking closure. Round and round it goes until you accept his inabilities. Only then can you end some of the pain of the break-up. When you begin to accept his inabilities, you can then begin to give yourself the gift of closure, because—as we have already established—he cannot give it to you.

He will continue to reach out for many reasons. This is part of the disorder—an underlying neurological part of the disorder. He can’t do endings. But on the surface those reasons can be varied. He might get bored down the road. In between relationships he often seeks excitement (game playing) so he pulls out the Rolodex. You are in it because he knows that he has controlled you before and that you have “played”. Remember, he is not a good learner of “failure”, he just knows you played. Another reason is primary needs. He gets his needs met through control, so if he needs sex, shelter, or a cover, he will turn to those who have provided it in the past. Finally, it may be “just for fun”…he wants what he wants when he wants it. He is impulsive and cunning at the same time; he has poor behavioral controls and a need for stimulation. This means that he is coming for anyone who can offer what he needs—without regard for their safety or wellbeing.

Coming to know what he can’t do, what he is incapable of and truly believing it, is the way out. It means that each time your mind brings a thought like, “he said he loves me,” or “he keeps coming back, so he must be sorry,” or “if I just love him more, he will do better”—you must challenge with knowing he is a Cluster B. You really have no impact on WHO he is. And the key to challenging these thoughts is not having a conversation with yourself about the “why”. You’ve read over and over again the answer to the why. The researchers, neuroscientists and The Institutehas answered that “why” question so you don’t have to anymore. It is what it is. When the thought comes via question—answer it. When the thought comes as a statement— respond to it—“Because he’s a Cluster B.”

You don’t have to make that dinner bet with me or anyone else. You can accept that he will come to hook you again. Knowing that he will re-contact allows you to remain clear-minded. It allows you to “predict” his behavior. His disorder is marked by certain patterns that are predictable and this is one of them.

However, if you live in a really cool town, somewhere that has a great restaurant, let me know—I’m thinking about trekking cross country to collect my bets.

My Cup is Empty…Can You Help Me Out?

Pathological relationships might begin with the Attraction Cocktail of excitement-seeking, extraversion and competiveness but soon it evolves to something more…it requires something more to feed it.  What a pathological relationship must have is Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion.  I am sure you are thinking that these are not really the things that you might think of when you think of pathology but that makes it all the more needed.  Keep in mind that a pathological’s “cup” is empty…they lack a sense of cooperation, helpfulness and compassion.  So, in order to fill their needs they MUST find someone who possesses these traits.

It is important to understand the mask that a pathological wears.  They exist in two distinct ways…the outside perception that they present and the dark, empty underside of who they are.  As they move through life they learn to compensate for their deficiencies.  One way to compensate is through using what others have and presenting it as their own.  One of the traits that they often cling to is cooperation.  They need you to be cooperative.  They need you to play along.  They are running a scam….and without your cooperation it just won’t work.  Herein lies the risk:  You are optimistic, and supportive; you are willing to go the extra mile to make things work and if there is a “problem” you are part of the “fix-it” team.  Make no doubt about it – you go along with the program.  It’s true…the program that is presented is pretty darn convincing…but still, it’s your high degree of cooperation that allows you to be the perfect partner for pathology.  In our brain, a cooperative mind means that we will stay stuck in the deceit.  We will continue to participate in the “he’s good/he’s bad” scenario.  As long as we stay there…we cannot get out.  The good news is that once you listen to the facts and make a decision about what you are experiencing…it is hard to keep playing. This is the beginning of the end of the relationship.   Herein lies the benefit:  Just as quickly and as committed as you are to cooperate you will be out…just as fast.  You are no sucker.  Because of who you are there will be no looking back once you see his two sides…once you know that you are dealing with someone who is pathological.  Acknowledging this…deeply and honestly acknowledging this… makes all the difference for you.  Making the decision to leave and get out is one thing…getting the intrusive thoughts to stop is another.  As a result of his mask-his presentation of two sides- you will continue to struggle with questioning yourself and what you experienced.  Your cooperative mind will want to go along with the program when your “fact finding” mind will tell you something completely different.    The benefit here is that you have the choice to cooperate-to cooperate with the facts.  If you can lean on those around you (who are probably telling you he is no good, he’s dangerous, he’s all wrong for you) and the facts as they are presented (he lied to you, stole from you, manipulated you); you will have a much better chance at emotional healing…healing that will last long after you have had no contact.

The next trait that a pathological relationship requires is helpfulness.  This goes hand in hand with cooperation.  You are one helpful person.  A pathological needs that too.   He needs to know that you will do what you need to do to get the job done.  He also needs to know that you will stand next to him when times get tough.  See, the program he’s running is one big con…so sometimes others challenge him.  These challenges can be direct or indirect…the can come from family (yours or his), from co-workers, from friends or acquaintances.  No matter the direction, he needs to know that you will be there beside him…to stand up for him.  You, after all, are just trying to help.  He plays the victim and you the rescuer.  It is one of the dynamics that keeps you locked in.  Herein lies the risk: you are eager and willing to get the job done…be the person to provide assistance and guidance.  You want to make things right…set things strait.  He needs a person who will make his mask seem true…someone to vouch for him.  Sometimes, you are the person who helps seal the deal…make his con appear real.  How could he be lying about who he is with you on his arm?  Herein lies the benefit: You are not going to help someone con others.  The gig will be up when you really see him for who he is.  You can then use your helpfulness to make sure no one else gets hurt.  In turn, you are helping yourself.  You are the kind of person who will be just as strong in aligning against him as you were aligning with him.  You will help yourself too…you are the kind of woman who will seek out what you need.  You will search the internet until you find answers and when you do…you apply the skills needed to disengage and begin healing.

There are a couple of ways to address these traits so that they do not become a risk but are more of a benefit.  Your cooperation was tested early on in the relationship.  You may have been asked to do things or led to do things just to see if you would follow through.  Take a moment and think about the early stage of your relationship.  Did you complete tasks that were outside of your personal boundaries…late night meetings, compromising sexual requests, unannounced visits, requests for money?  Take a moment and list these requests or experience-title them “Red Flags-Boundary Breakers.”  These represent ways in which your cooperation and helpfulness was “over-flowing” from your own cup.  Your desire to cooperate and be helpful was greater than your desire to stay true to who you are.  As you begin to heal you can use this list as a reminder of where your boundaries are…give yourself a chance to firmly instill them so that no other person will be allowed to cross them.

Breathe

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – ThichNhatHanh

Your breath is your life.  It is the power that moves you. It is the energy that drives you.  It is the fire that keeps you alive.  Your breath keeps you focused on the task at hand.  Your breath helps you slow down and relax.  Your breath moves through your body like a river, creating life along it’s banks.

In pathological relationship recovery, all of these things are needed.  The things that your breath provides are the things that will help you get better.  You need power, energy, fire, focus, relaxation and to create life again.  So, it makes sense that a big part of recovery is that you learn to breathe again.

It seems odd that you might need to learn to breathe again, but you do.  You lost control of your breath the moment you were first traumatized in the pathological relationship.  That first red flag that rose took your breath away.  The first time he called you a nasty name, or showed up unannounced when you had said you were going to be busy, or anytime his masked slipped enough for you to see his pathology.  These are moments when your breath became off balance for the first time.  Your breath took over in a sense.  You may have not felt it; but you sensed it.

When you experience a trauma your body leaps into survival mode.  In order for you to survive, certain primary functions must lead the way.  Your breath first stops and slows which signals a release of adrenaline.  This process then tells your body to be on alert.  Other physiological symptoms occur like sweating, confusion, a fast heart beat.  Through the event your breath is moving in a pressured way…often making your chest feel heavy.  As the perception of the trauma resolves you come back to yourself.  But what happens in a pathological relationship is that you never really leave the exposure to the trauma.  So, you never really come back to yourself.  Your body and breath is always on alert, off balance, unsure of when the next moment of fear will occur.

After an extended exposure to psychological trauma, your breath is not even on your radar.  When you live “in trauma” you stop being able to sense your breath and often miss the other physiological symptoms too.  You are so busy “thinking” in circles that your body’s warning signs and symptoms are “normalized”.  This is the epitome of losing yourself.  Without this awareness and mindfulness you are not present.  Your mind is taking you on a journey outside of the present moment, “What do I do next?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “What can I do to make this stop?”  With these thoughts come the behavioral options – fight, flight or freeze.

There is another way through trauma and trauma recovery…breathe.  Being able to regain the mindfulness of breathing can change everything.  Whether you are still in the midst of trauma or working hard to recover from it; the focus on breathing is crucial.  It is really the foundation for recovery.

You can begin by learning how to take good, deep breaths.  In through your nose…count to three slowly as you inhale…and out through your mouth…count to three as you exhale.  As you breathe listen to the sound of the breath moving in through your nose, and hear the breath leaving your mouth.  Feel the coolness and the relaxing sensation of each breath.  Stay present and focused with each breath.

After you learn to breathe again, add daily scheduled time to practice.  It is recommended that you spend 15-20 minutes each night before bed practicing relaxation and mindful breathing.  You can start with a shorter time frame and build up to the full 20 minutes.  After you believe you have mastered the breathing, you can begin to add in mindfulness skills like turning your mind to thoughts on your immediate sensations.  Turn your mind to take in the sights around you, the sounds you hear, the sensations you feel or the scents you smell.  When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present and immediate moment. Focus on just what is within your own space.

So, now you can begin to catch your breath.  You can begin the process of calming your body, your mind and your spirit.  When you are breathing in a calm and measured way, you are at your best.  With a steady breath, you will be able to think clearly, respond smartly and behave in a way that is safe.

It all begins with one slow, deep breath.