“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.

Little Red Riding Hood Revisited

This is part of a series of articles with a focus on issues related to dating after a pathological relationship; this is one of the specific areas that The Institute is asked about all the time. It is a complicated issue, as are most of the recovery issues related to pathological relationships. I will explore and focus on strategies to that will help ensure that your most recent pathological relationship is your LAST pathological relationship.

Little Red Riding Hood walks through the forest on her way to grandma’s house. A wolf stalks and follows her, hungry to eat her. He moves more quickly than her and finds his place in grandmas home, devours grandma, dons grandma’s clothes and waits patiently for Little Red to arrive. I think we know what happens next. Or do we?

Little Red Riding Hood has been down this road before. She’s a little older now and wiser. What the wolf does not know is that she remembers who he is and he is pretty freaking predictable. He is a carnivore with a one track mind. She knows he hunts and stalks, she knows that he is sly and cunning and she knows that he hides in places to make her think that he is safe to be around. She did not always know this but because she is smart, she remembers. And, because she remembers, she is not so afraid.

I know that you can relate to Little Red Riding Hood. You were stalked and followed. He moved quicker than you, he was more powerful from the start (you really did not stand a chance) and he was a master of making you feel safe. In fact, much like the wolf hid in grandmas clothes, your cluster b hid in society – pretending to be what you thought was safe. But once you are out of your pathological relationship you cannot hide at home, never venturing into the forest again. And, you cannot go back into the forest, pretending that wolves are out there.

When you are ready, you have to get back out there. But you have to do it differently. The key to dating again is spotting it and/or getting out quickly if danger presents itself. If we revisit Little Red Riding Hood the second time around she still takes the forest route because it is the most beautiful and provides the most excitement. But as she moves through the forest, she looks up and sees what is in front of her. She notices the trees, the small sweet animals and the dangerous wolves. And when she is quiet and peaceful, safely moving in the world she can really sense danger. This peacefulness allows her to do something different when danger is afoot and she does it.

You may have never been taught that there were wolves in the world. You may have grown up surrounded by wolves so that when a wolf arrived, you thought it normal. But, once you know the story of the wolves you have a new power. You can learn how people like this work, how they come with an intensity that is overwhelming, how they seek to control and violate boundaries, how they hide in society with titles and stories that have no facts behind them, and how they talk like us and pretend to love like us but are NOTHING like us.

You can learn to spot it – the wolf in granny’s clothing. Once you see it, you have to choose to do something different. This is other part of the story that Little Red Riding Hood does different. See, all of her life and throughout time, she might have been told how to spot a wolf but she was never really told that it was ok to dump the wolf. You might have learned a similar lesson. Women are often told to “make it work” or “just give him another chance”. Women have been taught to believe that if they change, their situation will change. That’s just not always true. Whenit comes to wolves, he’s a wolf and there is no amount of love that is going to make him not be a wolf. If he’s a wolf then your only option is to run.

Dating after a pathological love relationship requires that you have the skills to spot a pathological. You have experienced it first hand and often times the only gift that comes from that relationship is that you know what it looks like. So use it. As you begin to date, watch for patterns of pathological behavior. Lies, boundary violations, intensity, stories that don’t match, history of destroyed relationships or intense blaming of past partners, lack of genuine social connections, history of legal violations or violation of social norms are just some of things you might see. And remember, that not all cluster b’s look the same but the underlying patterns are the same. So one may not do exactly what the last one did but a lie is a lie and a boundary violation is a boundary violation.

Be prepared to move on. You must be prepared to not have a second date, break up after a month or leave even after 6 months in, if that is when you see it. Any relationship requires that you hold on to you and at any moment, you must be Ok with leaving and not be an emotional puddle on the floor. You holding on to you means that you saw who he is, you know it’s not you and you leave.
Little Red Riding Hood spends a lot of time with grandma now. The wolves move in the forest the same way they always did and often a wolf stalks Red. But she doesn’t spend time in fear or worry about the wolf. She moves smartly, peacefully and quickly on her path to grandma’s house. Head up, eyes open. She saves the fear for when she needs it, to sense danger and run. The rest of her days she works hard, cares for her kids, visits with friends and travels the world. The End.

Controlled Contact

“The most dangerous thing is illusion”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

It really is.  Illusion is dangerous.  As much as you want to be rid of the horror of a pathological relationship; as much as you want the chaos to end; as much as you try to make the quiet moments a sign of peace, it is all really an illusion.  Just because it’s over does not mean that it’s done.  In fact, the relationship being over can often mean the beginning of a new phase; wash, rinse, repeat.

In many cases you may be facing parallel parenting or endless court battles.  The problem is, you are different.  You know what you are up against.  The truth is, he is not different.  You can’t forget that.  So how do you manage what is in front of you?

When “no contact” is not possible because of kids or court, you can institute a policy for yourself called “Controlled Contact”. Controlled contact as in you are in control.  You set the rules; you create and hold on to the boundaries.  There is no denying that this will be like walking on a tightrope…with gators in the pond below…this is going to be hard.  But when you have control your path will be less challenging, easier to manage.  Most importantly, without illusion you will decrease the psychological impact that he has on you.

Controlled contact begins with evaluating how you communicate.  You must look at email, text, phone and in person.  The first step is to completely eliminate contact in the most ways possible.  So, ask yourself “Do I need to see him?”, “Do I need to call or talk on the phone with him?”, “Can I limit my contact to email only?”  Make a choice to eliminate at least two methods of contact.  This means that you will no longer have ANY communication with him via those methods.  You will not respond nor will you reach out via those methods.

The second step in controlled contact is to follow some simple communication rules.  Begin with limiting the words you use.  This means that instead of a lengthy email or text you limit your words to 3 or 4.  You can respond with “OK.” or “Yes.” or “No.” Those are complete sentences by the way.  Next, if you must use more than a couple of words eliminate all emotional language.  You can do this by not using phrases like “That’s not fair.”, “You keep hurting me.”, “You just don’t get it.” etc.  All of these phrases and phrases like them convey emotion.   This emotional language is just the thing that he needs to hook you…just the thing that he will know has you still hooked.

The third step is to be an observer during contact.  Stay alert by using linking and labeling.  Linking and labeling is a technique to link the behavior of the cluster b with the label of the behavior – identifying it as projection, gaslighting, crazy-making triangle, etc.  For example, pay attention and identify when you see the crazy making triangle.  Listen to his words and the position he speaks from, is it victim, persecutor or rescuer?  When you know which role he is speaking from it will help you to remember that you do not want to be in any of those positions with him…so be the wall.  Give him nothing back.  You have to stay outside of the crazy-making triangle because he never will.

The fourth step is to track your success.  Write down what works and what doesn’t-when you make a mistake, write it down and don’t do it again.  When you do this you are paying attention to patternsof his reaction to things.  This allows you to get your feet back underneath you and actually be able to predict his responses.

Finally, write down rules for yourself.  For example, when I talk I am only going to talk on the phone to him for more than 15 minutes.  Another rule might be when you talk stay on a certain topic-like the kid’s school issues.  When you set rules for yourself you are taking back your power.  Throughout the relationship he controlled the conversations, content and all.  Now, you decide.

For you to preserve your mental health you must stay in control when you can.  The aftermath of a pathological relationship is not perfect and it can often leave you feeling like you will never get control back again.  But, the truth is, once you rid yourself of the illusion that he will ever be any different, you gain some power back.

Feeling Sentimental?

By Jennifer Young, MS
Director of Survivor Services for The Institute

Valentines Day, Easter, Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas; Your birthday, your anniversary, the birth of a baby, a promotion, a graduation. Feeling sentimental? I bet you are! You might be feeling a bit of tenderness, compassion, joy, sadness or anger. It doesn’t take much. Just the idea of these holidays or events can elicit a wave of emotion.

Sentimentality is a feeling. That’s it. It is you, responding to a memory. Feeling sentimental is not the memory but the feeling that it elicits. That is important to understand. Pathologicals want you to feel. When you feel, they are in control.

Herein lies the risk:He used your sentimentality against you. Think about how many times you were in a disagreement and he brought you roses. In that moment your emotion instantly shifted away from his offense and on to the first time he brought you roses. He might have manipulated your sentimentality when he talked about your children-their birth, their accomplishments, their struggles. In those moments your attention turned away from his betrayal or lack of parenting and towards the idea of “family” and the bond that was crafted. He would send loving cards to you as he’s wooing someone else. He used your sentimentality as a distraction. When you were overwhelmed with the feeling of sentimentality, you certainly struggle with staying angry or confused or disgusted.

Additionally, when the cognitive dissonance of “he’s good/he’s bad” is in full swing, this strategy of sentimentality manipulation is one of the things that pulls you back to his side. It’s the part of the relationship that you buy into with so much intensity. You have 5, 10, even 20 years of memories that he can draw on to pull you back to him. Each one of those memories is a point of manipulation on their own…but then he uses them over and over again to reinforce his mask. And you thought it was just another Christmas!!!

Herein lies the benefit: Let’s face it-it is healthy to feel sentimental. Your sentimentality is a reminder that you can bond, in a healthy, emotional and equally connected way. That’s good news. You also have the ability to rationally reflect on the reality of those dates. If you can step back and be an observer of those days you can see the pathology. Being an observer means that you look past how you felt to see what you saw. When you look back at the facts, the pieces come together. You see the flowers he brought with the shifty smile as if he gotten one over on you. You see the pretty birthday jewelry followed by the night he didn’t come home. You see the holiday dinner that included insults, projection and persecution. By the time the relationship ended, your sentimentality had been drained. He kept you spinning with the emotions of sentimentality so much that now…when it’s over you probably want to run and hide as these dates approach. It’s this disdain and disgust that contributed to you leaving. Again, it’s a good thing-that is the benefit. It was part of your awareness process that leads to a full awaking. As hard as it is to look back at those dates, it is powerful to know that SEEING the pathology is what freed you from it. And as usual, once you saw it you left.

Ultimately, if sentimentality is just a feeling then the dates are just the dates. He doesn’t own them. You do. They are just days in the past, events in time in which you were manipulated into believing the picture he painted. Once you begin to separate out those days from the new dates head, healing can be enhanced. Easter of 2009 will look nothing like Easter 2013. Your birthday in 2002 will look nothing like your birthday in 2013. This year, this date, this event you will be in control. You will be in the place you want to be, with the people you want to be around, accepting and giving gifts of your choosing in a fully present and genuine way. No manipulation, no gaslighting, no devaluing, no cognitive dissonance.

Don’t ever run away from your emotions. They are powerful tools-you need them and must treasure them. They do help us give meaning to every moment, every event, every day. They are a part of a very valuable human experience. Together with rational thoughts, reflection and perspective, emotions can create strength in you like you have never known. This year, be strong. Take on each event with a new sense of vigor and excitement. Take your days back-make new memories-feel new feelings. The further you get from pathology, the more your mind will become filled with the genuine feeling of sentimentality. Each year that passes you can look back at the events of 2013 with tenderness and joy-it was the year you ROCKED IT!

7 Ways to Reduce Relationship Stress

Do you feel like there is a huge brick wall between you and your significant other? You’re screaming at each other trying to make yourself understood but this wall keeps making your message come through garbled on the other side?

You’re not alone. This is one of the biggest problems with relationships. So many so called experts say there is a lack of communication. I disagree, I believe most couples communicate quite a bit (at least until the frustration becomes too much). The problem I’ve seen and felt from couples is a lack of effective communication.

Here are some specific ways you can reduce the relationship stress at home (and reduce stress breathing):

1. Get clear on your wants and needs. Everyone has specific wants and needs that they have to have fulfilled to feel loved, significant, and worthy. Countless problems occur because couples expect their significant other to intuit or “just know” what makes them happy.

2. Communicate in the same “language.” People experience the world differently. Many couples experience struggles simply because they don’t understand how the other person experiences the world. Most people experience the world mainly through vision or mainly through feelings. A wife may struggle to explain how she feels about a situation while a husband will tell her what it looks like to him.

3. Spend time together. Yes this is a simple idea but it is essential. Spending time with your spouse is important in so many ways. For instance, sleeping in the same bed results in a couples hearts beating in sync.

4. Have fun together. You don’t have to like all the same activities, just make sure you go to the same places together. Perhaps you may like to read on the beach while your significant other plays in waves. You’ve now both experienced joy at the beach, this is a shared experience which helps reduce tension together.

5. Stop being so judgmental. Life doesn’t ever go 100% right. Cut your spouse some slack. It’s a team effort. If they need help, jump in and help rather than nagging and demeaning them.

*Children and parents alike need to know that, when they make mistakes, they have a loving family that will back them up.

6. Have clear rules. Women especially like to have a clear set of rules or behaviors that as a couple you have decided is acceptable. Remember to be fair. If you’re allowed to look at other women realize that she can do the same. Having clear rules from the outset helps avoid stress later in a relationship.

7. Introvert or extrovert. This one is important! How do you “recharge” your batteries? Do you like to be alone with your thoughts, read a book, go for a walk or do you like to talk the problems out, go to a party, or have a barbecue. Is your spouse the opposite? This can lead to a endless problems if you don’t respect the other persons needs.

A happy and stress free relationship is one built on understanding and communication.


  1. Negative Memories
  2. Diet and Stress Levels
  3. How to Sleep Well

Signs of Relationship Stress

We are all searching for the perfect relationship. We have ideals of what the perfect relationship should be like. In a perfect world we would all have that. It is unrealistic to expect that all of your relationships will be perfect. Many relationships will contain signs of relationship stress that we may choose to ignore simply because we want the perfect relationship. Some relationships will naturally be better than others. Some we have to work harder at. Knowing how to identify the signs of relationship stress will help you handle your relationship problems.

Most of us would like to be in a relationship that consists of friendship, trust, understanding, caring and clear communication. It doesn’t always work that way. Often times our relationships are full of problems in all of these areas. We may not address the problems right away or we choose to ignore them hoping they will go away and instead they just get worse. Sooner or later those signs of relationship stress that we chose to ignore are so overwhelming that we feel there is now way out.

If you are in a relationship that is less than perfect then you may be experiencing some of the following: feeling sick, inability to concentrate, depressed, anxious, fighting about the same things repeatedly, ignoring problem situations, distance from your partner, not talking to each other, sleeplessness, mistrust, decreased sense of loyalty, decreased sense of caring, unwillingness to try, irritability, anger and resentment.

These are all signs of relationship stress. You might experience one, some or all of them. If you are at the point where you are experiencing the majority of these symptoms then your relationship is likely in a lot of trouble. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship will end. You do need to address these issues quickly in order to restore your relationship to the way it was before the problems began. You have to change things and you can make a difference.


The Gift of Time-Managing the Pace of a New Relationship

This year I will begin a series of articles with a focus on issues related to dating after a pathological relationship; this is one of the specific areas that The Institute is asked about all the time. It is a complicated issue, as are most of the recovery issues related to pathological relationships. I will explore and focus on strategies to that will help ensure that your most recent pathological relationship is your LAST pathological relationship.

“Time ripens all things; with time all things are revealed; time is the father of truth.” ~Francois Rabelais

There is one task in dating after a pathological relationship: to discern pathology from non-pathology before you are hurt. In order to achieve this task, you must be prepared to buy yourself some time. Pathology is not decided by one event– not one lie, not one affair, or not one nasty fight. Pathology is discerned over time by watching for a pattern of behaviors. Your experience with one pathological will help you know the behaviors and pattern however, if you do not give yourself time you will NOT see it.

The very first thing that happens in a pathological relationship is that you are overwhelmed. A pathological often moves fast and hard. They love-bomb, they challenge your “no’s,” they show up unannounced, they come along just because, or after you tell them that you have plans with friends they send text after text. When you tell them that you’d like to see them Sunday, instead of Saturday they send flowers on Saturday letting your know you are missed. While you are at work they send emails, call, or even show up. They are beginning the process of control. Each one of these events is part of a pattern that serves to overwhelm and manipulate you. You perceive the attention as loving, sensitive and compassionate or it maybe even something you have not felt before. You hear the talk in your head that says “he must really care about me because he wants to share every moment with me.”

The problem with pathology is this intensity in the early phase takes away your ability to “feel” the danger. The intensity blinds you making it nearly impossible to see the boundary violations, see the tests that you are being put through, see that the acts of “love” are really fantasy development. What I hear most about this early phase is feeling fear and excitement at the same time. But what inevitably happens is that the fear is squashed by excitement. He pulls you in with flowers and scares you with a boundary violation. As you begin to question the violation, he sends a sweet text message so the fear fades quickly.

The solution is giving yourself the gift of time. Slowing down in a relationship allows both the fear and excitement to be sensed.If the relationship is built on fear, you need to know that. If the relationship is built on excitement, you need to know that too. Our feelings are a tool…a warning sign. They let us know when something good is happening and when we are in danger. You need to feel the fear so that you can decide how to act. But, if you are moving so fast that you cannot feel these emotions, you will miss the warning signs.

Time will reveal the truth. Not only will going slow help you to feel the danger if it is there,time will allow the patterns of behavior to reveal themselves. For pathologicals with good masks this may take a while for them to slip. Your task is to put the pieces together and when you see who he is, believe it and do something about it. It might not be one lie, but two or three is a pattern. It might not be one boundary violation, but two or three is a pattern.

In this day and age, slowing down is not really part of our lives. We move fast today. Technology makes things so easy and allows for quick, direct (sometimes even intense) communication. We are often under pressure to move fast in relationships,having put off “love” for career. So the task of slowing down requires that you look at how we date today.

  • Technology: Focus on limiting the amount of texts and emails that you send while in early stage dating. Limit texts or emails to once a day or less and limit content to setting up dates or quick check in. Leave real conversation for the face to face meetings. Take a look at your facebook friends and consider not adding a new friend until they are an actual friend. Adding a person that you have not even met in person or who you have had one dinner date with might not be the best choice. When using online dating sites keep emails simple, straight forward and of a non-intimate nature.
  • Contact: Consider dating once a week. Leave Friday and Saturdays for a traditional date night and hold firm to your boundary. Even if you are not mutually free on those days for two or three weeks,you just bought yourself some time. Hold firm to boundaries regarding when you are available. If you have plans with friends or family, do not cave when the pressure comes for him to participate.
  • Time: Be vigilant about how long you spend with one person in early stage dating. Allow yourself two or maybe three hours for first, second and third dates. This would include a dinner date, an outdoor activity date, or a group date. Keep phone calls short and pleasant. Again, leave real conversation for face to face meetings.
  • Relationships: You can slow things down by keeping your early stage date just that, a date. He does not need to meet the kids, the parents or any other close family. The process of bringing a new person into your intimate circle only intensifies the relationship in your eyes and puts you at risk. The person you should introduce him to is the non-tolerant best friend. The friend that warned you about the last one!

And a word about sex and slowing down: think about it. That’s it. Just think it through. Whatever you choose, make sure you have taken the TIME to think it through. Sex means that your neurochemistry will shift and you will sense a deeper attraction, a deeper sense of relationship investment, and even craving. Those are all neurochemistry shifts you cannot control. Sex means that your mind and your beliefs about the relationship will change. Sex means that you could be triggered or struggle with the intimacy involved…are you ready?

The task of pacing and slowing down gives you control. When it comes to discerning if your potential date is pathological you will only be able to do that if you remain in control and you control the pace.Give yourself a chance. You knew the first time around too but he was better at being a pathological. You knew the first time around but he moved faster and moved with an intensity that was meant to overwhelm you. This time you will know, you will see and you will be able to choose differently if you give yourself the gift of time.


Touched by Tragedy

On Friday, December 14, 2012 America was touched by tragedy again.  In Newtown, Connecticut 27 adults and children lost their lives and all of their family and friends felt the ripple of fear, anger, loss, and grief.  This type of tragedy unfortunately is not unusual in our society.  Across the country there have been countless mass shootings in the last several decades from Seattle, to Aurora, to Jonesboro and Fort Hood.  These shootings don’t even begin to complete the list of national tragedies.  Each day in America we are touched by other tragedies- a catastrophic weather event like Sandy, forest fires like those in Colorado, California earthquakes, or the loss of military service personnel.

So what do all of these events have in common with a pathological love relationship?  They all elicit a potential trauma reaction in you.  Being touched by tragedy is more than just a little sadness or empathy if you are suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.  When you are exposed to national tragedies your brain registers the event as real, vivid, and live.  Your unconscious brain has a hard time distinguishing what is happening now and what has happened in the past.  When this happens, any event can seem like it is happening to you now.  You begin to sweat, your heart beats fast and your breathing pattern changes.  Your mind flies into survival mode and you may even feel the need to isolate as a measure of protection from harm.

Beyond the physical symptoms are the thoughts that begin to swirl around.  When you are traumatized or triggered, your brain is flooded by emotions and so often these emotions cause confusion and cover up clear thinking.  Your brain links the trigger you are exposed to with the trauma you have actually experienced. So when you feel fear today, you are reminded of your fear from the past.  When you feel sadness today, you are reminded of sadness from the past.  When you feel confusion today, you are reminded of confusion from the past.  These links then drive the thoughts.  Your thinking turns from “that must have been so scary for them” to “I am so scared he will come back”.  Your brain is tricking you.  It might be one of the things about our brain that is “faulty”.  Our brain is an amazing organ and every day it does amazing things.  But when triggered as a result of trauma, it fails us.

Cluster b’s love to keep you out of the present moment.  In your relationship with the cluster b your mind spent many moments outside of the present.  When you were not present, he was in control.  It might have been after a gaslight when he touched you on the arm and your mind when back to the first time he touched you.  It could have been after discovering a text from another woman and he yelled at you for being jealous and not trusting him.  Your mind when back to the first time he ever yelled.  It may have been after he was late for the kids school performance and he brought flowers and a lie.  Your mind went back to the time before when he brought you flowers and a lie.  Each time he took you back, he re-hooked you.  That’s because your mind went back and before you could respond, your emotions had resolved back to peace or calm.  The event was over.  The fear, anger or confusion was over.  You stayed.

Your task is to stay present in recovery.  When you are touched by tragedy after a trauma your task is to stay present.  At any given point in time, you must remind yourself that you are safe and not at risk.  This is mindfulness.  Mindfulness is staying actively focused on the present moment.  It is a skill that is crucial to recovery from a pathological love relationship and it is especially important in getting through triggers related to national tragedies.  You cannot control the outside world but you can control your world.  Take some time for yourself.  Take some time to focus on your environment, whether it be turning off the TV, spending quiet time at home or getting outside to spend time in nature.  Recovery is a process and your healing depends on how well you move through it.  Each day, each week, each year is an opportunity for you to heal-to do better and be better.

My hope for you is peace this year.  And I hope that when peace is disrupted you face it mindfully.

Reducing Relationship Stress This Christmas

For many couples Christmas can a stressful time. What is meant to joyous and relaxing time can simply become a stream of expectation management with ‘trying to keep everyone happy’ being the ultimate goal.

The irony is the more we try to keep everyone happy the less happy we are and the more pressure we end of placing on our loved ones. Understandably, the first step in reducing our relationship stress is to let go of trying to keep your relatives, kids, and partner happy this Christmas.

This may sound ‘harsh’ however with some reflection you will discover it’s an impossible goal. Instead allow everyone to take responsibility for their own happiness this Christmas including yourself. The most painful thing about trying to keep other people happy is that ultimately we never succeed and in the process of trying to keep others happy we make ourselves unhappy by over-committing and not being true to ourselves!

Having made this decision, the next step is to identify and let go the expectations that you feel have been ‘put on you’ by your relatives, your children and your partner. To discover what these expectations are simply write down on a piece of paper. ‘With respect to my Children/Partner/relatives at Christmas I should or I have to .. and see what comes out. It’s essential that you actually write these answers down as opposed to simply think about them.

Once you have completed your list of expectations accept that while it feels like they come from ‘outside of you’ in fact these are your own expectations of yourself. Then ask yourself whether holding onto this expectations is going to give you or your family a holiday stressors free time. Finally make a decision to let this go simply by taking a deep breath and saying or writing ‘I choose to let the above expectations go.’

Having cleared the slate in terms of all the things you think you should or have to do ask yourself: ‘What be a truly relaxing, enjoyable and meaningful way for me to celebrate Christmas this year?”. You can write this down and share this with your partner and ask for their input. If there are differences between your dream Christmases, firstly help your partner let go their own expectations then explore how the essence of what you would both love can be honoured.

Once you and your partner are clear about your dream Christmas you can share this with your children and family and allow them to be involved within the terms you have set up. Remember you are not trying to keep anyone happy. Those friends, relatives and children who were going to be stressed and disappointed will find a reason to be regardless of what you do around Christmas. At least this way you and your partner will feel fantastic!

What Will You Do?

In May, 2012, Vicki Bolling lay dying in her front yard, shot three times by her husband. The local news reports say that the death of Ms. Bolling was no surprise to her sons. According to news accounts, her sons report that she suffered years of physical and emotional abuse that included threats, manipulation and intimidation. She was married for 30 years. Her son, John Stevenson, is quoted as saying “She is the only one in the world who could love a monster.” (Tampa Bay Times, May 10, 2012)

We know that she is not the only one…we know that loving a “monster” is possible. For women that love psychopaths, love and monster often exist in the same thought. The problem is, someone who has never been in the midst of this level of psychological trauma may not understand…they don’t understand why women stay…why women don’t see how bad he is. This lack of understanding of the power of pathology is killing women.

Domestic homicide is preventable. The mission of the Fatality Review Committee in Pinellas County, Florida is to convey that message. It is the responsibility of the Pinellas County Fatality Review Committee to bring to the table members of the community who share a vested interest in uncovering patterns related to local domestic homicides. In the last twelve years, the team has reviewed 103 cases. Cases are reviewed only after those cases have been finalized in the criminal justice system.

Domestic homicide, both locally and nationally, does not occur in a vacuum…there are warning signs and in a community, there are trends. Our report, published in May 2012, outlines the seven trends in our community for domestic homicides.
1-In 89% of cases there had been no contact with the local domestic violence center. Domestic homicide is preventable when victims reach out to domestic violence centers for safety and resources.

2-In 89% of the cases there had been no referral to a batterer’s intervention program. Domestic homicide is preventable when perpetrators connect with batterer’s intervention programs and their underlying behaviors and beliefs are addressed.

3-In 88% of cases there was a male perpetrator and female victim. Domestic homicide is preventable when our society shifts to the belief that all people are of equal value and control over others is no longer the standard.

4-In 85% of cases there was no injunction for protection filed. Domestic homicide is preventable when victims are encouraged to file injunctions for protection and have access to information and safety planning to assist in the process of leaving.

5-In 76% of cases substance abuse was a contributing factor. Domestic homicide is preventable when those who have a substance abuse problem are assessed for issues related to violence, both perpetrators and victims.

6-In 68% of the cases the perpetrator had a prior criminal history. Domestic homicide is preventable when criminal history is identified as a pattern of behavior and the information is made openly available to victims and during domestic violence court hearings.

7-In 69% of the cases friends, family, coworkers and/or neighbors were aware of previous violence. Domestic homicide is preventable when everyone in the community takes a stand against violence; stop asking why she doesn’t leave and start asking what you can do to help her leave.

These trends mean something. A “trend” refers to the idea or awareness of repeated, connected events. It’s not a black and white predictor but rather a clue to a potential. Trends are used in many areas of our lives. Many follow financial trends or housing market trends; some look at trends related to medical issues and even trends in our environment. Those that use trends take advantage of facts and information found in the reality of our lives…trends don’t rely on the maybe’s of the past but rather the truth that exists in the past.

What is powerful about trends is their ability to provide safeguards as well as hope. Trends help us connect missing pieces to prevent poor choices and they help us highlight information that will lead to improved choices. If we are open to it, they translate into the framework for prevention.

Prevention in the area of domestic homicide is risky. The risk comes because of the severity of getting it right or getting it wrong…human life is at stake. But I believe we must move through the risk. By “move through” I mean acknowledge it…learn from it and then see what follows. So, beyond acknowledging the risk lies a focus on prevention.

The trends that have come from our local review of domestic homicide highlight many areas that need more focus. The realities of these trends are not unlike acknowledging the realities of pathology. Identifying patterns of behavior in one person and accepting the reality of who they are can help prevent continued pain. We have to begin to call it as it is…we have to pay attention to the facts and the patterns of behavior.

So, what will you do? I invite you to be an observer-begin to pay attention to the people around you. As you observe the behavior of others do so without judgment…without including your “opinion” about who they are…leave out the morals that might have been handed to you or the input of society that doesn’t fit for you. Observe the behavior as it is…look for patterns… and when you uncover a pattern that violates who you are…or violates the boundaries of someone you love….do something.

As part of the mission of the Institute we ask you to spread the word about the power and impact of pathology. Share this report with those in your community that are invested in saving lives. Talk to them about the trends and patterns and about pathology. Domestic Homicide Fatality Review Teams are active in many states and communities…what can you contribute to the conversation? If your community is not talking about dangerous relationships then you can be the start…do something.

Finally, if you are experiencing physical and psychological abuse, please consider creating an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.

To learn more, visit

To read the full report “Preventable: A Review of Domestic Fatalities in Pinellas County, Florida”, click here:

I’m Not What You Say I Am

I’m Not What You Say I Am

 “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 the playground.  As children we were taught to be aware of others feelings and to be nice to others.  We learned that words do hurt (in spite of the childhood lesson regarding sticks and stones!)  We learned 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, but concerned 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 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 up 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, 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!


I’m Screaming- Are You Listening?


“No matter how confused, self-doubting, or ambivalent we are about what’s happening in our interactions with other people, we can never entirely silence the inner voice that always tells us the truth.  We may not like the sound of the truth, and we often let it murmur just outside our consciousness, not stopping long enough to listen.  But when we pay attention to it, it leads us toward wisdom, health, and clarity.  That voice is the guardian of our integrity.” ~Susan Forward

We are taught as young girls to be loyal and trust others.  It is expected that we would trust those who show us love, compassion, understanding.  It is expected that we would be loyal to those who need us, those who provide us nurturing and those to declare us as the one they love.  We are “supposed” to value those actions as meaningful and all inclusive of what is deserving of our trust and loyalty.  It is only in recent years that our society is beginning to teach us to question those actions.  And now, even as we rightfully begin to question those actions many in our society look at that questioning as a radical notion that means we are “neurotic” or “obsessed”.  I mean, when someone tells you they love you, and shows you they love you…why even question them.  It’s there in black and white…the words, the cards, the flowers, the affection.  Isn’t that enough?  Some would even say that a woman as independent as you would be lucky to have someone take you on.  So what if he stays out…alone…way too late?  So what if he views a little pornography?  So what if he chides you in public about your accomplishments?  So what if he cheated on you once?  So what if he makes promise after promise and never keeps them?  He says he’s sorry.  That’s enough.  And through it all you stay.  As expected…you stay, you trust and you show loyalty.  Because if you question…it is you who will appear questionable…it is you who will appear unloyal…it is you who will be untrustworthy…in his eyes and in society’s.

Herein lies the risk: You stay because you have been taught and told that it is the right thing to do.  It is what you “should” do.  You should forgive, stick it out, make it work.  And a pathological needs that loyalty.  He needs you to stay no matter what.  He needs you to help make the pathological mask real.  If you stay (you-who is loving, caring, compassionate, understanding etc, etc…) then he will be associated with all of those things and his façade is made stronger.  You were taught to trust him from the very beginning…from the first tiny betrayal (his lateness to a date, his odd midnight requests, his sexual fantasies that pushed your boundaries) he wanted to see how far you would go and from there he would know that he could trust you.  He balanced all of these betrayals with his confessions of love, dreams for the future…a false sense of safety.

Herein lies the benefit: You can never really silence that inner voice. No matter what we are taught we still have an inner voice…that inner voice that tells us what is right and wrong, what is good and what is bad.  Some might call it a moral compass…leading to integrity.  It’s there all along, sometimes screaming the truth.  In one moment, the voice is clear and loud and unavoidable.  Your ability to hear your inner voice is usually preceded by a particularly disturbing event or maybe a period of no contact.  But when it comes and once it is there you have a hard time silencing it.  Your quest for the truth begins and your search to find and document facts is insatiable.  At the end of your relationship it is this voice that leads you out.  Now, your trust and loyalty turns inward.  You begin to trust yourself and be loyal to your needs.  And with the veracity that drove you to say…you now work that hard to leave.  You now know that the right thing is not always the most socially accepted path or the easy path…but it is the path that is RIGHT FOR YOU.  Leaving may go against everything you were taught and everything you are being told but it leads to safety, security, clarity and peace.

You can evaluate your trustworthiness and loyalty by evaluating the balance in your trust.  Does your need to be trustworthy take priority over your own needs?  Do you trust at the risk of your own self worth, your own value, your own belief in what is right and wrong?  Are you loyal in spite of the inability of the other person to be loyal?  These are boundary issues.  Often times your boundaries were established a long time ago.  They could have been established when you were a girl and you were taught lessons of who you could or should trust.  They could have been established when your trust was broken over and over again by a loved one…leaving you with unclear rules as to who is safe and who is not.  You can rebuild boundaries as an adult.  Breaking down the “little girl” beliefs of safety and reminding yourself that as an adult woman you have power.  Take some time to write down what you stand for, what you believe in, what you will not sacrifice.  You can consider these your new rules…your integrity laid out for you in black and white.  As adults we know that boundaries can be pushed, pulled, removed and reinforced.  So you can move ahead knowing that strength will come as you test these re-established boundaries and make decisions, consciously and mindfully, about what you stand for and of course, always listening to your inner voice.

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.

Next month we will look at the third trait in this trio of “SuperTraits”-Compassion.  As we approach the holiday season, remind yourself…these are your traits-your gifts- and should not be handed out to just anyone.  Tie them up with a bow and keep them to yourself!

Your Cup Runneth Over and How to Put a Lid on It

Your cup runneth over therefore you are at risk…but because it runneth over you can survive.

There are some who see their cup as half full with the perspective that life is full of opportunity and hope.  There are some who see their cup as half empty with the perspective that life is a struggle and trouble abounds.  But…. what if your cup “runneth” over?  What if you have so much to give, so much to share that your cup spills into the lives of others?  Sounds good-all of these great qualities…sharing, giving, generosity, just spreading their power and joy to all whom you meet.  But here’s the catch-and there is always a catch – what if someone has an empty (or nearly empty) cup? What if someone came into your life and nuzzled (or pushed) their cup right up against yours? What if they NEED what you have to experience excitement, to feel powerful?  This “empty-cup” person will surely catch the spill over, they will surely gather up and collect all that they can.  Now, think about this from the opposite perspective: an empty cup moving through life SEEKING an over-flowing cup, finds it, takes from it (in fact, empties it) until they are full and you are empty…what results is inevitable harm.

Sandra’s research has taught us that you posses temperament traits to a higher than average degree than other women (there’s your cup-running over).  In fact, the research showed that in most of the traits you scored 85-97% higher than other women in these traits.  That means a lot.  It means that if someone is normally empathetic they clearly understand others perspectives.  But for you, empathy means feeling the feelings that others feel….and wanting to do something about it.  It means that you NEED to feel purposeful, responsible, loyal or trustworthy just to feel like yourself-not because you lack it.  This is not just WHO you are it is WHAT YOU DO.  The good news is that these qualities are the things that people want to and should have.  These are the temperament traits that create strong, conscientious, goal-directed, focused people.  These are the traits that allow you to be successful in both your personal and professional life.

So, here’s the bad news-they are also the traits that psychopaths need.  They are the traits that attract empty-cups.  They are the traits that let psychopaths know that you will play the game with them.  They are even the traits that keep you in the game…that keep you fighting for the relationship.

This may be new news to you.  I have worked with many women who have said to me “I needed something…that’s why I stayed with him.”  I get that…there is a feeling of something missing when you are in a relationship with a psychopath.  But it is not because you do NOT HAVE these things…it is because HE TOOK THEM from you.  Here’s the evidence – look at your life before the psychopath.  Look at your life outside of the psychopath.  What do you see?  I am guessing it is a pretty good life.  Without being too presumptuous let me guess that you have friends and family who love you and whom you love; you have a great career that you created based on what you love and what you are good at; you are sociable, friendly, giving and often find that others like to be around you.  This is you- either before him or when you are not in his presence.  This is true because this is who you are.  Shocking?- I hope not!  That thing you needed was not something he had-it could have been the fantasy relationship you created with him-but it is not something he brought to the table.

I am going to use this column to talk in detail about all of the traits identified in Sandra’s research as risk factors.  But be clear, they are also the things that will get you out and keep you out.  They are the things that have allowed you to create a great life before him and will allow you to re-build a great life after him.  We will examine each one looking at how it put you at risk and then examine ways in which you can use it to begin detachment from the relationship and create a healing path.  Finally, I will provide techniques for building each trait.  But before we begin that process I need you to PUT A LID ON IT!  If your cup is over-flowing it is time to put that lid on.  Here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Get the information.  Once you know better you have to do better.  Read the materials provided on this site and by Sandra to begin to understand the dynamics of these relationships and what your risk factors are.  Read Chapter 7 of Sandra’s Book “Women Who Love Psychopaths”, 2nd Edition.  We will talk more next time about how these traits have played out in your life and ways you can re-build them.
  2. Use your traits.  I know that your cup may “feel” empty but it really isn’t.  These are character traits that cannot change-they don’t go away.  But you get used to not using them so it feels like they are gone.  They are not-you probably do it at work, with other loved ones, with friends-they are there.  (Another great benefit to using them is that if you haven’t done it in a while it will confuse your psychopath and he won’t know how to react.)  Finally, the more you use them the more your cup will re-fill itself.  You will begin to re-gain your confidence and personal power and that brings detachment and healing from the relationship.
  3. Most importantly-Only use them when someone deserves it or earns them through time demonstrated and behavior.  These traits are precious.  Now you know how precious they are and if you are not careful you will end up in an endless cycle with an empty cup.  There is no need to throw trust, empathy, responsibility, or even helpfulness around to every person you meet.  You can take a moment, breath and evaluate each situation using time, reason and demonstrated behavior as determining factors.  Be good to yourself and treasure who you are…you owe it to yourself.

Peace to you-Jennifer