Beginning the Day Not in Hypervigilance

Ever wonder how to manage the autonomic adrenaline that is part of the trauma and aftermath? It’s autonomic which means automatic. Anytime we begin to hurry or feel stress, the hair-trigger releases adrenaline so we feel more hurried and more stressed and it releases cortisol that goes right to your belly and produces belly fat.

Your day can begin with all the triggers of hurrying to get out the door setting off the adrenaline that is likely to stay for hours or all day. The mood of your morning can influence the pace and reactivity of your day.

At our retreats, we practice quiet and gentle mornings. The women are to get up earlier so they have leisure in their morning and aren’t starting the day rushing and producing adrenaline. They have quiet (non-talking) breakfasts and allow their bodies to see what it feels like to not be hyper-vigilant.

Yes, I realize it is hard if you have kids. But you can still give your body the best chance of not starting off wrong by getting up early before anyone else. Take that opportunity to move slowly through a quiet house without the Calgon-commercial kind of beginning (remember the slogan “Calgon, take me away”?)

I get up before everyone else. I do not turn on all the lights which spawns hyperreactivity. Instead, I leave a low light on before I go to bed – like the range hood or a small lamp on a low setting. As soon as I get up, I light a pine scented candle to give off a nice relaxing scent. I read some gentle motivational or spiritual thoughts.

I go outside and experience the early morning for a few minutes (usually pre-dawn). I make my coffee and SIT with it, not gulping it on the run while trying to find my shoes.

I normally put on some relaxing instrumental music (no words!) and I make sure however I am moving, I am moving slowly and not rushing. (Your brain will increase in activity equal to your body activity–move fast, fast anxious brain).

I eat while not reading, or checking email or social media so as to not read something that starts my reactivity. Only when I consider my ‘work’ day starting do I engage in those kinds of activities.

Whatever I need for the day, I take care of the night before (take a shower, gather together work papers, prepare lunches, etc.) so my morning is gentle.

I use the low light, outdoors and nature, and pine scent as my mindfulness indoctrination. If I get in the car, the music is off and I continue with quiet until I have to engage.

Never start the day with the news, bright lights, rushing or too much noise. Ease gently into the morn…

Who wants to try it?

Recovery 101

Recovery doesn’t start until you are engaged in daily self-care. In the beautiful model of the 12-step tradition, those recovering aren’t at step 12, helping others through the hope they found, when they haven’t even stopped drinking or completed step 1.

You aren’t ‘in recovery’ even if you are seeing a therapist, or in our Living Recovery online course, or have read all the books and are telling others about PLRs (Pathological Love Relationships). That isn’t recovery. Recovery is action.

You are engaged in recovery when you are putting your recovery needs first, each day. When you have a recovery program or agenda that is worked, covering the basics of self-care. It is hard to be a true mouth-piece about pathology education when you can’t get out of bed, are still having regular (non-custody) contact, or are dialing friends on the hour going into the latest du jour antics of the pathological.

Recovery begins with a consistent duty to self-care. A recovery day, even though you may have a job, is still focused on caring enough for yourself that it is aiding your recovery on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. What must be your first priority is what you need to get through the day in order to operate at the highest level you can. And that comes from having a plan, and working the plan. It may not include partying with friends, spending hours on social media, lying in bed depressed, haunting the dating sites, or gorging yourself on Ben & Jerry’s.


Guess what? You have a stress disorder and the more you do nothing about it the more it continues to manifest in your physical health and your emotions. Perhaps you have developed an autoimmune disorder or have sky-rocketing anxiety. Maybe you are Sleepless in Sarasota or Wired in Wichita. Maybe you have turned into Junk Food Jenny or Red Bull Rita. Maybe you own stock now in Blue Belle Ice Cream. That isn’t recovery. That’s relapse.

Recovery is recognizing you have a stress disorder and doing what you can to:

  • Manage stress well through good nutrition and supplements,
  • Get enough exercise to burn off the adrenaline,
  • Get enough nature time or use relaxation techniques to calm the adrenaline,
  • Figure out what your triggers are and avoid them,
  • Get enough sleep, even though it’s hard to acquire.

That would mean when you got home from work, instead of heading to your favorite social media to rant about his new girlfriend, you instead attended a yoga session or went for a run, and cooked a healthy dinner, followed by soaking in a tub and listening to some motivational You Tubes or reading a spiritual book. Then you sipped some Sleepy Time Tea and took some relaxing herbs and put on your softest jammies. Maybe you washed your sheets and sprayed them with lavender, and still, without peeking at social media, you went to bed at a respectable time.

That’s putting your physical needs first because without your body being healthy, you can’t recover. Period. So, you avoid social media to see what he’s doing, or you block him, or you do something you know calms you. And you do it, not when you are wracked with anxiety and Desperate in Des Moines, but every day so you aren’t desperate. It’s first, not when it’s convenient.


Guess what? You have cognitive dissonance. It causes an internal conflict anytime you compare reality -vs- your hopes/dreams/or how things used to be. And it gets triggered any time you make a diet of cooperating with the flashbacks, discussing ad nauseum the details of Darkness when you keep reading stories of other survivor’s Cluster B relationships. Then it sets off adrenaline and you start having physical symptoms like anxiety.

Recovery is taking the time to catalog triggers as you come to notice them, then making plans to manage or avoid them. Recovery is not only understanding what the triggers are but the ACTION in not doing what triggers you.

  • Creating a mantra for when family/friends repeatedly ask you about him and how to answer it without going into the story.
  • Finding techniques (like LRP) that teach you how to manage the triggers.
  • Stop trigger-seeking on other sites, social media, drive-bys of his house, or on social media.
  • Do something for your depression like get out of bed and exercise even when you don’t feel like it (you will not feel like it in the beginning!)
  • By finding a sense of community somewhere other than in Trigger Land.
  • Find a therapist who can teach you techniques and practice them EVERY DAY.
  • Find out what calms you and use it repeatedly during the day, EVERY DAY, and as prevention before you are triggered.
  • Every day is a day to intervene on old patterns of out-of-control emotional responses.
  • Recovery seeks joy, not in food, drugs, or alcohol but in what pleases the soul and seeks it.


Guess what? Your spirituality has been impacted by evil. No matter your religion or beliefs, evil has inserted itself as a current reality that has been crushing to your hope or even belief that the world can operate as before without the harm of Darkness.

  • No one heals without hope. Hope is generated when your emotions and behavior change DESPITE Darkness.
  • Spirituality believes in a Higher Power beyond oneself that can bring balance to the hopelessness.
  • We heal in a community, we are harmed in isolation so hope is generated as we connect to others, with boundaries, who have a recovery in which we can see hope.
  • Spirituality sees oneself no longer as a victim but as a survivor and eventually as a thriver. It believes that, even though today is hard, tomorrow can be better. It takes physical and emotional steps to make tomorrow better.
  • Spiritual recovery lives out hope in its actions. It finds solace in words of comfort from whatever religion and belief system you hold. It feeds itself daily because hope heals.

As we can see, recovery is a structure, lived daily at FIRST, sometimes minute by minute. It is not a Disaster Relief action. It is lived out daily through a structure that prevents disaster. It puts you first. Recovery first. Not an after-thought but a deliberate, consistent, ACTION that anticipates needs, puts attention (like the oxygen mask) on oneself before anyone else. It is planned into one’s day. And it’s the primary importance of that day – to BUILD a recovery by the actions and self-care taken in a 24-hour period.

There is no recovery until self-care is first, foremost, and consistent. There is nothing that should be ahead of this. You should be taking your internal temperature multiple times a day and adjusting your day to accommodate your needs.

Then, and only then, have you entered recovery.

The Light of Recovery

Is it any wonder that so many religions or cultures celebrate the ‘Light’?

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwansaa and Hindu Diwali – all Holiday celebrations of Light. Whether it is Christ as the Light of the world, the miracle of the lighted lamp in Hanukkah, the seven candles of the principles of Kwansaa, or the celebration of good triumphing evil in the festival of Light in Diwali—there is something about Light that illuminates our path. (Yes, we’re past the Holiday season, but bear with me here…)

Cultures too – Sweden, with St. Lucia Day following the longest day of the year, is lit ablaze in candles, St. Marten’s Day in Holland with lighted lanterns, and Loi Krathlong in Thailand with wishes tied to candles and set afloat in the sea. The issue of Light as a deep metaphor for guidance seems to be universal.

Any particular religion does not have a corner on Light, yet all believe they do. It is clear that despite each religious belief, there are other beliefs that see Light as applicable to theirs. And so the issue of Light is universal as it represents that which is ablaze with humanity and hope.

Not long ago, an Institute team member passed away. She was a pagan and I am a Christian. She asked me “Why are you friends with me? I am pagan, you Christian.” I asked her, ‘Why are you friends with me? I am Christian, you pagan.” And she would roar with laughter at what she thought was ironic, although I did not.

In her all-too-short life, she used her stealth computer skills to locate pedophiles online and turn them in to the FBI. Her life was often threatened in that line of work. She used her feminism to help rescue women from domestic violence and sex trafficking. She used her compassion to house the homeless and emotionally burdened who could not find housing. And in her last years, she used her big heart to drive cross country transporting animals to no kill facilities—for free.

The purpose of Light is to clear the darkness. Most of the time, that darkness is metaphoric. We bring what we care about to the task. We light the way for others to find the lighted path out of homelessness, addiction, sex trafficking, or lives stuck in puppy mills and dog fighting. We bring what we have—our own empathy and humanity—to help the abused, teach the illiterate to read, or comfort the dying. We are the hands and feet of Light. Not a metaphoric Light but a literal one. What illuminates someone’s darkness is the breath of humanity, eye ball to eye ball, caring, reaching out, and touching. We don’t bring a literal candle to feed the homeless, we are the candle.

Being the candle makes us a Light Bearer—lighting the path for someone who is searching, expelling the darkness. No wonder God proclaimed ‘Let there be Light’! It was His call to every person to be Light to expel darkness.

I wrote my friend’s eulogy in which I declared her a Light Bearer—to the victims of pedophiles, to the victims of domestic violence, to the victims of sex trafficking, to victims of homelessness and emotional woundedness, and to the furry victims. She used her Light to expel darkness, to illuminate the way out for countless. My eulogy was encountered by various religious as ‘nice’ but it did not meet the criteria of their religion of ‘The Light’ who then attempted to discount the lives that were saved because her light was perceived to not be their light.

She answered the call when God said “Let there be Light” and she said “I will be it!” and she was.

The universal call to be Light Bearers is applied to each us. It is not just Jews or Hindus called to bring their celebrations of Light to the world, but all of us. And if my celebration of Light is different than yours, so be it. Just be it!

As we round out another year, I hope you are finding that your own recovery is a form of Light—a path out of darkness that has been illuminated by what you have dedicated yourself to—recovery. Strong recovery always produces the next generation of Light Bearers—in your own traditions and beliefs that dispel someone else’s darkness just by giving what you have—the strength of your recovery. You might think “I am still so broken” but what has grown in you through recovery is more than the person you encounter may have. The knowledge of your experience is a Light. The books you read, the videos you watch, the websites you know—all Light.

Each of us is a Light Bearer and can be the very thing that dispels the darkness for another. Before you discount how far you have come, it is not yours to redirect the proclamation of ‘Let there be Light’!

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
(I know you are singing it….)

I’m gonna take this light around the world and I’m gonna let it shine.
I’m gonna take this light around the world and I’m gonna let it shine.
I’m gonna take this light around the world and I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I won’t let anyone blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine.
I won’t let anyone blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine.
I won’t let anyone blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Songwriters: SCOTT, STEPHEN H. / DP,

Go light someone’s path in the coming year, starting with your own!

Am I Responsible for How He Acts? Do I Drive His Behavior?

One of the most frequently asked questions in pathological relationship coaching is “Did I make the person behave like this?” The clients often believe they bring out ‘the worst in him’ or so the pathological wants them to believe. The pathological likes to label his own acting out or cheating or other inappropriate behavior as someone else’s fault. This is called projecting. One of the characteristics of a number of permanent personality disorders is the trait that they don’t take responsibility for their own behavior. They have a victim mentality and blame others and the world for their short comings and ultimately, their bad behavior. Normal people ‘own’ their own behavior; pathological people project it onto others.

By the time the client comes to coaching from the aftermath of effects from the relationship, they believe the relationship, its problems and its demise were all her fault. She believes the pathological’s propaganda and has a lot of remorse, guilt, and self depreciating thoughts about herself that ‘if she only acted differently then so would he’ and the relationship would be on better footing.

Let me ask you this….”If he had a brain tumor would you feel responsible that his body produced a brain tumor? Would that be your responsibility?”  I doubt it. People do feel bad that someone else got a brain tumor but they don’t feel ‘responsible’ or ‘to blame’ because someone got a brain tumor.

The often shocking aspects of Cluster B personality disorders are that what is driving their behavior is not a brain tumor but it is a brain disorder—in many, many forms. We expect that a brain disorder would be ‘noticeable’ to others. It is–in time. By the time the relationship ends, you DO know that there are behavior problems you just don’t know how, why or where they are generated.  Cluster B personality disorders carry with them an astounding array of problems stemming from the brain and their own neurology that are driving their impulsive, out of control behavior and distorted thinking processes.

Even a decade ago, we didn’t have the information we have today about the wide reaching neuro problems associated with pathology and personality disorders. While for many years we may have ‘suspected’ a very physical reason for the behavior–the pathological lying, spending, cheating, violence, addiction, and other behavioral problems, we didn’t have the concrete knowledge that is now generated from neuroscience, neurobiology, brain imaging, and other brain studies.

Here is a tiny snippet of the kinds of information being generated about brain dysfunction in personality disorders. This in no way covers all of it–but it gives us some place to begin looking at it as being as much a medical brain syndrome as it is a psychological syndrome.

  • Genomics–molecular building blocks of DNA affected by pathology.
  • Proteomics–location, interactions, structure, and proteins affected by pathology.
  • Neurotransmitters affected.
  • Hippocampus–part of the brain that is related to impulsivity affected by pathology.
  • Amygdala–part of the brain that is related to impulsivity affected by pathology.
  • Neuroinformatics -A library data base about thousands of different brains and what is unusual about them including pathological brains.
  • Cellular signaling show involvement of genetics in pathology.
  • Low levels of brain enzymes are related to violence.
  • Genes on certain chromosomes create schizophrenia, bipolar, etc. New research wants to find out if it contributes to pathology.
  • Genetic vulnerability causes significant differences in neurological development in children with psychopathic tendencies.
  • The number of copies of different genes has already been linked with a variety of medical conditions and the expectation is that these copy number variants will be very significant in personality disorder research.
  • A complex array of varying genes underlies the many different outward manifestations of personality disorders which can be seen in early childhood despite a loving and stress free environment.
  • Stressful/abusive environments can push a milder case of personality disorders into a full blown active personality disorder.
  • Phenotype images the size and shapes of brain organs related to personality disorders.
  • Serotonin reception 5-HT plays a role in controlling offensive aggression (or not!)
  • The lack of transporter molecules predisposes people towards impulsivity, emotional instability, etc.
  • Polygeny (a single trait that can affect many genes) seems to underlie personality disorders.
  • Those who metabolize dopamine faster are at higher risks for anti social behavior.
  • An enzyme that helps break down dopamine and serotonin are linked to impulsive and aggressive behavior, substance abuse, criminal behavior.
  • MAO-A gene is linked to Cluster B personality disorders.
  • Neural circuitry problems are related to trouble with reinforcement learning so they are not likely to learn from punishment, also related to impulse violence.
  • TPH brain enzyme is related to behavioral problems associated with anti social behavior.
  • MRI imaging shows that areas of the brain related to excitability respond differently in psychopaths.
  • Certain words cause psychopaths to respond differently than normal people (blood, sewer, hell, rape, etc.)
  • Some parts of the brain show higher activity in psychopaths, some areas lower activity in psychopaths.
  • Weak limbic regions of the brain in psychopaths cause them to grapple with emotional language.
  • Corpus callosum is different in psychopaths so they process information between brain hemispheres differently which effects interpersonal skills and low reactions to stress, high reactions to aggression and unregulated behavior.
  • The amygdala in psychopaths have less reaction to fight-flight responses, causes them to feel restless, spurring them on to raising hell just for the excitement value.
  • Slower neural reactions are related to their lack of fear which is also genetically based.
  • Lack of fear throttles the development of the conscience.
  • Orbito-frontal portion of the brain causes psychopaths to have trouble organizing their behavior, reduces their ability to control their impulses and the ability to learn from punishment.
  • Difficulty with abstract meanings like the word ‘justice’ generated from right brain quadrant, also problems with nonverbal cues related to emotions.
  • Dorso-lateral Prefrontal Cortex affects some personality disorders ability to think logically and rationally.
  • The anterior cingulate cortex affects some personality disorders ability to focus on something they don’t wish to hear thus being able to block what they want to hear, it also produces (or doesn’t) the feelings of empathy.
  • The limbic system which is affected in some personality disorders negatively influences their ability to regulate their emotions through emotional reasoning.
  • The hippocampus is affected in some personality disorders which negatively impacts the emotional response system.
  • Hyperactive amygdalae cause intense and slowly subsiding emotions when they suffer even just a minor irritation. This can cause an overreaction to a minor constructive criticism.
  • Lowered serotonin levels in the brain affects increased impulsivity.
  • Smaller size of right parietal lobe in some personality disorders.

Yeah, I know–that’s a lot of science to wade through but maybe you get the point…you didn’t break him and you can’t fix him. This fascinating decade of science has answered so many questions for so many—people who can let go of the guilt and fantasy that what’s wrong with him is merely ‘willful behavior’ or ‘a bad attitude’ or ‘needs more counseling.’  Personality disordered brains are different in their genetic make up, in their chemistry, their circuitry, regional brain development, their neurobiology and the list goes on. In fact, we are realizing so much of the brain is affected—in borderline personality disorder, in anti-social, in psychopathy–so much of Cluster B is traced now to significant brain impairment. (For more information read the book ‘Evil Genes’ available on our magazine).

For many years I have been teaching the Three Inabilities related to pathology: The inability to grow to any great emotional depth, the inability to consistently sustain positive change, and the inability to develop insight about how their behavior affects others. I developed these inabilities from 20 years in the field of providing services to the personality disordered. Although I suspected there was hard-wiring and hard science behind it, it wasn’t until recently that I was finally able to find out why the Three Inabilities are actually correct and why they don’t sustain positive change. It’s not because they want to screw with your head….it’s because of their head.

You didn’t produce anything–you’re not that influential to set up his genetic patterns.  Sorry–you’re not strong enough to ‘will’ his amygdala to change. Bad news here–you are not gonna ‘love’ his limbic region into correct functioning. ‘And hate to break the news that all the ‘Law of Attraction’ books aren’t gonna get his brain chemistry to be normal.

And you might as well cancel the relationship counseling because being tolerant it isn’t gonna change the size and function of various brain regions. If you stopped nagging or tried the relationship ‘just one more time’ it isn’t going to alter his brain enzymes and neurotransmitters.  Even Batterer Intervention groups aren’t gonna change his corpus callosum and make it less aggressive.

He doesn’t have a brain tumor that you are responsible for ‘giving him.’ He does have a brain disorder and you aren’t responsible for that either–how his brain did and did not form. In the medical world, we seem to accept some of the disorders much more easily like Cystic Fibrosis or Mental Retardation–of course, you can often tell by looking at the person that something is wrong. But even in pathology, that too becomes evident…in time but not through external medical conditions but through relationships. And while it is odd, where we DO find the symptoms of psycho-pathology related to brain dysfunction is right in the middle of your relationship.

How to Avoid Going Back During the Holidays

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

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

  • The holiday season is an extremely stressful time. It’s a time when it is more likely for:
  • Domestic violence to occur or recur
  • Dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional
  • Pathologicals to be overt, blatant, and to target your joy and ruin your holidays
  • Former pathological partners to magically reappear and try to hook you back in
  • People to eat, drink, and spend too much
  • People to not get enough rest
  • People to feel pressured to “be in a relationship” and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons “just until the holidays are over”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a real gift for you—some tips!


  • Stop idealizing—you are who you are, it is what it is, pathology is pathology. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. Accept yourself and others for who they are. This includes accepting that pathology cannot and will not be different during the holidays simply because you want the Christmas fantasy.  “Emotional suffering is created in the moment when we don’t accept what ‘is.’” (~Eckart Tolle)
  • Don’t feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself you have choices and that the word “No” is a complete sentence. Don’t be held hostage to exhausting holiday schedules.
  • Take quiet time during the season or you’ll get run over by the sheer speed of the holidays. Pencil it in like you would any other appointment. Buy your own present now—some bubble bath—and spend quality time with some bubbles by yourself. Light a candle, find five things to be grateful for, repeat often.
  • Take same-sex friends to parties and don’t feel OBLIGATED to go with someone you don’t want to go with. People end up in the worst binds going to parties with others, and get stuck in relationships they don’t want to be in, because they feel obligated. Find a few other friends who are willing to be “party partners” during the holidays.
  • Give to others in need. The best way to get out of your own problems is to give to others whose problems exceed yours. Give to a charity, feed the homeless, buy toys for kids.
  • Find time for spiritual reflection. It’s the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a church service, pray, meditate, reflect.
  • Plant joy—in yourself, in your life and in others. What you invest in your own recovery is also reaped in the lives of those closest to you.
  • Pick ONE growth-oriented issue you’d like to focus on next year for your own growth on January 1.  It creates hope when you know you have a plan to move forward and out of your current emotional condition. Invest in your opportunity to grow past the aftermath of this pathological love relationship.

Happy Holidays from The Institute!

Circling ‘The Promised Land’

~ The Promised Land always lies on the other side of the wilderness.~ (Havelock Ellis)

I don’t know if YOU see your life as real as I sometimes see it. Do you see what I see when I read your letters, hear your stories, and imagine your relationships and pain?

Many women want ‘The Promised Land.’ To them that could be healing or maybe that’s being with him…but so many are always looking for happiness and thinking ‘The Promised Land’ is just around the corner.

Oh…the wilderness…the path of pain – that road that requires that you leave him – that you face your own fear or loneliness – the street that makes you wonder if you’ll ever find another one to love, have sex again, or with whom to feel real joy in your heart.

The wilderness that meanders through all the places you have been…the valley of truth, the river of denial, the desert of lies…Don’t spend time regretting whatever your time with him was for you – if you couldn’t leave him yet, if you picked yet another pathological, or if you’re still not over him yet. Regret is so wasteful of human energy.

A wise man said “Humans grow thru the metabolism of their own experience.” What you lived through was not wasted. It’s part of how you will grow and how your future will be healthier and more healing for you.

Women ask me all the time, “What can I do to help other women in the area of pathological love relationships?” Your own self growth and healing is the greatest service you can give the world and other women. What you invest in yourself is never wasted or lost. God is the God of Economy. He recycles everything, even your pain. Your pain heals the next woman.

I believe that, which is why we created the Coaching program, the retreats, our web and facebook pages, blogs, radio shows, and weekly articles – so you can recycle your own pain and help the next woman. Many therapists are also survivors too and have made entire practices into outreaches from their own pain. They stopped circling ‘The Promised Land’ and moved through it to a place of helping other heal.

To stop the circling of ‘The Promised Land’ and to help you actually get there is why we developed our programs and products – so that your pain recycled becomes hope to the next woman. Nothing is lost. Pain that is not actualized – that isn’t converted into wisdom – is just pain. It was useless suffering that did not manifest itself into something larger than itself.

I believe many of you will stop circling ‘The Promised Land’ and will come out of the wilderness you’ve been in. And when you do…we’re right there celebrating with you – your rite of passage into a new life.

“I believe that what it is I have been called to do will make itself known when I have made myself ready.” (J. Phillips)

(**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.)


Resourcefulness: I Got This…

By Jennifer Young

The Super Traits are your temperament and character traits that are powerful components of who you are which carry positive and negative consequences.  The power that you have over these traits comes in the form of awareness.  Your first task is to acknowledge them and address the areas in your life of which they put you at risk.  The second task is to use these traits to your advantage.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.”  I think we can agree that these words are true for most of us, and a great way to live your life.  But, they could not be more inaccurate when talking about a psychopath – in fact they probably see these words and think…”suckers.”  The truth is, psychopaths are amazingly resourceful, and their greatest tool for being resourceful is you.

Resourcefulness by definition means that you are able to meet the needs of a situation and can develop the necessary means to accomplish a task.  Being resourceful is a highly valuable trait, so consequently those who are very high in the trait of resourcefulness (like women who have been in relationships with psychopaths) often have very successful lives…great careers, wonderful children, and a great circle of friends.

You are often the person that:

•    Others turn to in a time of need or struggle
•    Are able to find ways to get things done that others might have thought impossible
•    Find resources where there were none
•    Get help when others were turned down
•    Can rally any number of people to the cause

Most importantly, you have a great combination of inner and outer resources.  Your inner resource examples are creativity, intelligence, confidence, courage, or passion.  Your outer resources are people, money, or technology.  When used together – you can accomplish anything.

It is important to realize there is a difference in the resourcefulness of you and the resourcefulness of a psychopath.  The psychopath is resourceful off the backs of others.  The word that comes to mind is “exploitive.”

Thomas Jefferson’s words would be twisted into something like this – “Never do for yourself what you can convince others to do for you.”  In this way of pathological thinking, the psychopath’s view is a negative use of a positive trait.  You can easily be fooled into believing that your psychopath is so “resourceful” because he always seems to get things done.  If you stop and become an observer, you will see that there is a trail of destruction behind every step he takes.  Resourcefulness is part of his mask, so even you (as one of his resources) will be used as the mask.  As Sandra says, “He is sicker than you are smart.”  So, no matter how smart you are in using your resources, his resources of exploitation and diabolical behavior is stronger.  This exploitive and diabolical use of resources wins every time.

Herein lies the risk:  You will use all of your resources trying to “fix” or “help” him.  You’ve got the resources to do it – the connections, the know-how – and in most cases, the means to fix things.  Add to your resourcefulness a little bit of oxytocin, and you’re toast.  That’s because we are compelled, as humans, to bond with those we love.  Oxytocin does that for us because as humans we need to be bonded to others.  Part of bonding and maintaining a lasting relationship is being resourceful together – “I’ll help you, you help me.”  The problem is this is a perfect fit for a psychopath, because they view the world as “suckers.”  In most cases they are energy exploiters and look for others to do their work, or they exploit because it’s fun to watch others do what they have directed them to do.

So now, you have created a cycle – he’s broken, you fix, he says thank you, then he breaks again, you fix, he says thank you, and so on.  This cycle is one of the reasons you stay so long, because you are always in between him “breaking” and you “fixing.”  He never fixes himself – but you are on a mission – “I love him, and this what you do for someone you love.”  So, years have passed, nothing has changed with him, but you are completely exhausted.  Your resources are tapped out.  You have no more creativity, you feel dumb (nothing has worked), have no confidence, and your courage has turned to fear.  Those outer resources are probably gone too – the money, the friends – all of it.

But herein lies YOUR benefit:  Your resourcefulness can become a real problem for a psychopath, and isn’t that what you want about now?  When you are ready you will, and can, outthink him.  What I know is that “he is sicker than you are smart,” BUT only until you get smart.

You have the ability to be confident enough to make real changes.  Let’s face it, you have been courageous for a big piece of your life – you’ve been with a pathological partner, and that takes a form of courage.  So, those internal RESOURCES are exactly what is needed THAT CAN BE USED FOR GETTING AWAY.

How do those resources look in action?

•    You will call everyone you know to get the truth and get help.
•    You will call ex’s, you will tap phones, and you will search computers.
•    You will put the pieces together, stop doing for him and begin to do for yourself.

Once that final pathological event happens that produces eyes-wide-open reality, it will be your resourcefulness that lifts you out and moves you on.  Not sure your traits can hang on long enough to be a benefit for you?  The good news is your traits are hard-wired in you.  They are not going away.  So even though at the end of the relationship it feels as if he has drained you and your resources are depleted…he has not.  Your ability to be resourceful is still there because it has always been one of your strongest traits.

You can begin by accessing your internal resources.  Strengthen them by exercising your creativity, by challenging yourself and taking those steps to live pathology-free, and by massaging your courageousness.  While you’re at it, you can also engage your external resources by reaching out to old friends and co-workers, re-engage at work (to build up your financial resources), or stepping out and doing something you’ve always dreamed about.

My favorite idea for the rebuilding of resourcefulness is reaching out to those friends and family who always told you he was the problem.  You can bring them back to you as a supporter by telling them they were right.  If an old friend or distant family member was once a valuable resource, then humble yourself, call them and tell them your story, and get your resource back.  Step by step you will begin grabbing hold of one of your best traits – your own resourcefulness to rebuild your life.

Are Feelings Facts?

Women don’t know whether to trust what they feel or not. Are you confused over whether feelings are factual or if they are fictional? You’re not alone. Women struggle where to draw the line between believing what they think and questioning it.

On one hand, feelings can be red flags in the beginning or in the midst of the relationship. Red flags can be emotional, physical, or spiritual warnings of what is happening or what is yet to be.

Emotional red flags are feelings you get while in the relationship—constant worry, dread, wondering, suspicion, anxiety, depression, or obsession. Often other people in your life quickly notice the emotional red flags and they point out that you have changed since the relationship began—and not for the good. Lots of times women don’t want to hear about their emotional changes since being in the relationship. Other times, women already KNOW they are having emotional red flags about him or aspects of the relationship. In either case, it’s important to know that emotional red flags can be GOOD PREDICTORS OF THE POTENTIAL LONGEVITY OF THE RELATIONSHIP. Many women notice that the red flags they had at the beginning of the relationship ARE the reasons the relationship eventually ended. So, emotional red flags can be great tools and are often accurate.

Waiting for feelings to “become facts” before you act on them can be very dangerous. In the case of emotional red flags (and your intuition), responding NOW instead of later can help you exit the relationship quickly. By the time a feeling IS A FACT, many things could have happened. (For more information on red flags, see the first few chapters of How to Spot a Dangerous Man.)

ON THE OTHER HAND (there’s always an “other hand” isn’t there?)—women wonder if the intense feelings they are having are an indicator of “true love”. Why else would they be having them? A woman often experiences confusing emotions when trouble starts in the relationship. She either becomes confused when the relationship turns bad or she becomes confused when she has ended the relationship. This confusion takes the form of “if he was so mean to me, why do I still have feelings for him? I must still love him if I can’t stop thinking about him, even if he did bad things. Do my feelings mean I should get back together with him?”

In these cases, feelings are not facts. It is human nature to seek attachment and bonding. When that is ripped away there is an emptiness that happens. Women often think that means that they were in love if they experience the aftermath of loss when it just really means you are feeling the loss.

Women often think that since they “miss the good times of the relationship,” they must miss him. Most often, what women are actually missing are the feelings that were generated in the relationship when it was good. Women miss that feeling of being “in love” or “attached” or “wanted and desired” or “safe and secure.” When women can sort out what they really miss, they often can see that HE represented those feelings she was having. She misses the feelings of the illusion of being in a good relationship.  Missing “him” might not really be “missing him.” Who is “him”—the dangerous man/cheater/liar/pathological?  You miss that “him”? No. You miss the feelings of being in love.

Tell yourself: “What I am missing are the feelings of being in a good relationship.” Remind yourself of that when you misinterpret those feelings as meaning you “want him back.” Often that isn’t the case. Recognize that this very “feeling” thing is what propels women right back out there seeking to feel loved again, and attach to those feelings you are missing. It places women at high risk of repeating the same mistake.

Here—try this. Draw a line down the middle of a paper. On one side, list the feelings you miss having. On the other side, list the dangerous man traits/behaviors/incidents. Now take a look. Which do you really miss?

Feelings can be accurate when we are getting red flags in the relationship. Feelings can be inaccurate when we are gauging whether to return to the relationship because we think we “miss” him when in fact, what we miss are the feelings that were generated in the relationship. Feelings can be inaccurate when we are gauging the intensity and equate that with love or something healthy in the relationship. Understanding the importance of “feelings” in all stages of a relationship can help you recognize just what your feelings are telling you and when to heed them and when to be a little suspicious of their messages to you!

Denial and Its Power

Every once in a while you need to be reminded that not everyone thinks you know diddly-squat. Sometimes it’s the people closest to you who think you really don’t have a clue. It’s not that it’s new to me. It reminds me that not everyone believes me when I tell them I think he’s pathological and it reminds me that denial is a mighty force—like a tidal wave.

My girlfriend’s daughter (I’ll call her ‘E’) could have been in my Women Who Love Psychopaths book—that is, her traits, her background, the men she chooses, the father of her child—are identical to the women in the book EXCEPT she hasn’t broken through her own denial yet. The women in the book broke through their’s long enough to at least answer the survey. E hasn’t come that far yet, no matter how many of my books I give her or how many times I have pounded this into her head when I see her.

E has a daughter with the pathological who is 9 years old. In E’s daughter’s short life, the pathological has been out of jail probably less than one year, in small increments of months at a time, until he does something else and goes back to jail. He has no empathy and no insight about his behavior. He lives a parasitic life off of others, he deals drugs for his full-time employment (when he’s out of prison), he never learns from his consequences, and he expects others to cater to his pitiful life. In short, he meets the criteria for a psychopath.

I have known E since she was about 7 or 8 years old and she grew up with my children. She’s now 31. E once told her mother, “Sandy doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She may write books, but she doesn’t really know what she thinks she knows. She assumes these people can’t change, but I am the hopeful type that believes anyone can change, especially if ‘they want to’, and with God’s help. You can’t be a Christian and believe that people don’t change.”

Did you sigh a big sigh reading that? That’s how I feel day in and day out as I see the mixed effects on women from both a lack of public psychopathy education in this country and a whopping dose of denial. Denial is often an underrated defense belief system in terms of the devastation it can cause people. Over and over I watch just one defense mechanism—DENIAL—kill women, harm their children, lose their career over, go into financial bankruptcy because of it, become spiritually bankrupt as well, and emotionally harmed and scarred. All because of one simple highly defensive belief system: Denial.

Denial is a defense mechanism, postulated by Freud, that when a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept, one will reject it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. In E’s case that would be: he doesn’t work, he lives 10 months out of every year in jail, he doesn’t pay child support, he lives with his parents or other women, he lies/steals/cheats/deals and has never done anything different. This is the ‘overwhelming evidence’ of psychopathy upon which her denial is based. And I’m sure, in E’s defense, it’s uncomfortable to accept that he’s never going to help her and her child’s dad will live most of his life in jail or in prison.

Denial is different than ignorance. Ignorance doesn’t have the information to make an informed choice. E has the information in the form of previous experience with him, his consistent behavior that never changes, and a lot of information she’s gotten from me, and she refuses to use it to develop honest insight about his traits, behaviors, outcomes, and, ultimately, his mental health. She needs the illusion that he isn’t pathological, that one day he will somehow ‘just be different’. It’s magical thinking at best, and sad, sad, sad denial at worst.

It will cost her everything to stubbornly cling to the belief that he won’t live the rest of his life in jail, live off of others, and do nothing for his child. It may cost her a child abduction when he doesn’t bring her back when he’s supposed to (oh yeah, she already went through that). It may cause her serious financial struggles when he doesn’t pay child support and she must do it all. (Oh yeah, she’s already living that—she has to live with her mother because he doesn’t pay support.)

It may cost her child constant attachment/detachment problems when she goes for long periods of time and doesn’t see him and is told, “Daddy is in time-out.” (What a way to put it!) Oh yeah, the 9-year-old is already in mental-health counseling, according to her mother, because, “It’s important she has a relationship with her dad.” No child deserves to have exposure to a psychopathic parent.

With denial, E doesn’t see that her daughter doesn’t have a relationship with her dad! And since he is incapable of true attachment, empathy, love, consistency, or insight, what in the world can he give to her? He deals drugs with her in the car and she stays 90 percent of the time with his parents. But denial lets E believe that ‘something’ other than drug dealing is happening in those times her child has with her dad in those scarce moments in-between jail/prison time.

The theory of denial was first researched seriously by Freud’s daughter, Anna. She classified denial as a mechanism of the immature mind because it conflicts with the “ability to learn from and cope with reality”. Learning from reality is what the path of recovery is all about—accepting WHAT IS—his diagnosis, his incurable disorder, his pathology. You can’t learn from something that you don’t accept and you will never cope with something you don’t believe.

There are so many forms of denial, no wonder it is so prevalent—denial of facts, denial of responsibility, denial of impact, denial of awareness, denial of cycles, even denial of denial! With so many forms to get entangled with, is it any wonder it can take a woman years to ‘come to believe’ that her life with a pathological is unmanageable, dangerous, and deadening?

The last time I looked in the face of this kind of scary denial—where I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about in explaining possible lethality to a mom, she was shot in the head by him and died in front of her young children. Now parentless AND traumatized, the children are the by-product of his deadly pathology and her deadly denial.

I hate denial because I saw someone die because of it—and all to protect and defend an illusionary concept of a relationship that DIDN’T EVEN EXIST the way she believed it did simply because she didn’t want to face reality.

Reality is a gift. It’s the only truth. Truth is bigger and even safer than hope. Hope in him gets plenty of women and their children hurt when denial eclipses ‘overwhelming evidence’. Why women who love pathologicals hang onto denial like a shark has been the focus of our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.

(**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.)


Remembering Our Roots: Joyce Brown’s Influence on the Pathological Love Relationship Recovery Process

October 16 marks the anniversary of the death of an extraordinary visionary. Many of The Institute’s highly acclaimed purposes, products, and processes came from what Joyce lived through, talked about, and modeled for others.

Joyce, like other leaders, did not set out to do anything extraordinary. She simply set out to heal after two back-to-back pathological relationships. First, a 25-year relationship with a narcissist, and then an upgrade to a sociopath for 10 years, left Joyce in the typical emotional fetal position that is common in the aftermath of Pathological Love Relationships.

She went through the normal stages of pathology recovery, asking:

“What just happened?”

“Did I do that?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Why am I so obsessed with this?”

“What’s wrong with me? Why am I attracted to men like that, and what does it say about my life that I would end up in a relationship like that?”

Without the benefit of mental health therapy and with only the support of a few close friends (who were quickly becoming weary of the ongoing saga of ‘why her/why him, why he moved on quickly, and why he picked the new woman), Joyce managed to piece together not only a recovery, but some profound insights that changed the quality of her life forever.

By then, at age 60, it would have been easy to say she would not likely find love or heal. It would have been even easier to get bitter, get revenge, get hyperfocused on him and his latest antics, or get into a fetal position and stay there.

But remarkably, Joyce rose from the dirt which she had been ground down into. Like the symbol of the Rising Phoenix, she not only rose, she dug out every particle of dirt that could be transformed from crusted pain and milled it for life-changing insight.

She didn’t keep these golden gems to herself! She talked to women about relationships wherever she was. Some of her approaches have trickled down to help other therapists work with women leaving Pathological Love Relationships.

Joyce believed women tended to drift sideways into Pathological Love Relationships looking for fun and excitement, which actually pointed at what these women needed in their lives that would prevent them from taking on just any old relationship.

“If you aren’t living a big enough life that is as big as your heart, or as big as your personality, or as big as your dreams, then any old psychopath will do.”

She poignantly asked herself, “What is or is not going on in my own life that I would end up with a sociopath? Sure, I didn’t know he was one—he said all the right things… but what could this possibly be pointing out to me about me, the condition of my own life, and what needs to happen so I don’t choose like this again?”

 16 years later she had answered her own question:

In her 60s she went to college for the first time and became a short-term missionary. She started her life in the arts of painting, sculpting, and pottery. She moved to a one-room beach house so she could “make up for lost time and play hard.” She drove a convertible Miata to feel the rush of adrenaline she no longer had because the sociopath was gone.

In her 70s she took up bellydancing to prove to herself she was still attractive, went to Paris to meet handsome men so she knew she could still flirt, and got a motorcycle so she always had something “hot to ride!” (Hey, I’m just using Joyce’s words here.) She became a hospital chaplain to comfort the sick and fed the poor every week to give some of that hyper-empathy away, lest it go to another psychopath. Then she sailed a catamaran to the Bahamas to challenge her fear of drowning because she could not swim.

“A relationship is the icing on the cake. It is NOT the cake. Don’t confuse the necessity of living life to be the icing. Living life IS the cake. Anything else, including relationships, is just the icing.

The Institute’s own Jennifer Young, who does phone coaching and our tele-support group, had this to say about Joyce’s impact on her and the women she helps, “Joyce Brown carries a big impact on my work with women.  On her own she developed the innate ability to care for herself.  That care translated into real solutions for disengagement from a Pathological Love Relationship. I believe the biggest specific idea that has come from Joyce is the idea of ‘Not One More Minute.’ I have shared this concept with many women who instantly feel the ability to disengage… ‘not one more minute’ means, “I will not allow you to take one more minute of my energy, my love, my care, my compassion.” It provides an end point… a point to say “I’m done.” This change in thinking, that I stop it, is crucial. It means, “I have come to know and understand that he will not change, but I still can… and I will.” So thank you, Joyce Brown, for showing us the way to the end!”

At her death at age 76, she laid in a hospice bed only hours from death. I told her I wanted to toast her life. She said “Crank this bed up!” She fluffed her hair and with a glass of Jack Daniels in her hand, she said, “I have had a great life. I lived, I learned how to have a great life, and I was loved. Who could ask for more?”

Her life lived well is what has impacted thousands of women worldwide and is the main thing women come away with who attend our retreats. Sadly, in this day and age, living a great life seems to be an extraordinary accomplishment. Her lecture on ‘Get a Great Life’ is what has spurred women on to not merely limp into recovery dragging their souls behind them, but to burst into recovery and fill their lives to the rim with all the things that their big personalities need in order to live fully. Lifeless living is what causes many women to seek the psychopath who’s so full of energy that it makes their lives seem so exciting and vibrant. Joyce said, “The problem is pointing to the solution. I loved the energy of those men! But what was that energy, and why couldn’t I have it another way? Was a psychopath the only way for me to feel life?”

Joyce learned that vibrancy came from a life that was full of the things that interested, motivated, supported, and challenged HER. If she wasn’t living a big enough, interesting enough, motivational enough, supported enough, and challenged enough life… she would drift again into the arms of pathology to fill that space.

Feel how big YOU are and fill your own life with a great life!

One of our readers memorialized Joyce on our Facebook page:

Thank you, dear lady, for your continued inspiration—a legacy you’ve left to many you never knew, but who have come to love you [posthumously] for your feistiness, tenacity, grit and that wonderful sense of humor!”

Feel how big YOU are and, as Joyce did, fill your own life with greatness. As she would say, “Get a great life,” and stop the cycle of pathology!

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


The Gift of Fear, Part 2: Is It Fear or Is It Anxiety?

Last week we began talking about the difference between fear and anxiety. Real fear draws on your animalistic instincts and causes a sincere fight-or-flight reaction. Anxiety causes you to worry about the situation, but you aren’t likely to bolt.

Anxiety can develop as a counterfeit trait to the true fear you never reacted to.

Gavin de Becker is a Danger Analyst and, in his classic book The Gift of Fear, has much to say about the preventability of most bad outcomes. He says there is, “Always, always, always a pre-incident indicator (a PIN) that women ignore.”

In my books, I call them red flags—the wisdom of your body that recognizes primitive fear and sends a signal to your body to react.  In that split second, you can run or you can rename it. Renaming it causes your body to react less and less to the messages it does send. Not one woman in the 25+ years I’ve been doing this has said there wasn’t an initial red flag that she CONSCIOUSLY ignored. Almost 100% of the time, the early red flags end up being exactly why the relationship ended. You could have saved yourself 3, 5, 15, 20 or more years of a dangerous relationship by listening to your body instead of your head!

Let’s go back to more stories by Gavin…

Dorothy says her ex-boyfriend, Kevan, was a fun guy with a master’s degree and a CPA. “He was charming, and it never let up,” Dorothy says. “He was willing to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Eventually, Dorothy began to feel that something wasn’t right. “He would buy me a present or buy me a beautiful bouquet of roses and have it sitting on the table and that was very nice, but that night or the next day he wanted me to be with him all the time.”

As Dorothy shares her story, Gavin points out some of the warning signs, starting with Kevan’s charm. “A great thing is to think of charm as a verb. It’s something you do. ‘I will charm [Dorothy] now.’ It’s not a feature of [one’s] personality,” Gavin says.

What happened next stunned Dorothy. “I was out visiting my sister in California, and he was calling me, calling me, and he asked me to marry him over the cell phone,” she says.  “I thought, you’re kidding. I’ve always said I would never get married again. And I said, ‘That’s the last time I’m going to talk about it.’”

After rejecting Kevan and coming home, Dorothy says he remained persistent. He showed Dorothy the picture of a diamond ring he wanted to buy, and told her he wanted to buy a house. “And he had it all mapped out, how it was going to work for us,” she says.

When Kevan refused to listen when Dorothy repeatedly told him no, Gavin says it should have raised serious red flags. “Anytime someone doesn’t hear no, it means they’re trying to control you,” Gavin says. “When a man says no in this culture, it’s the end of the discussion. When a woman says no, it’s the beginning of a negotiation.”

After four and a half years and many red flags, Dorothy finally broke off her relationship with Kevan. But that wasn’t the end. “He kept calling me, calling me with repeated questions. ‘What are you doing now?’ ‘What are you going to do tonight?’” Dorothy says. “And that’s when I realized I am in trouble here.”

On the urging of her son, Dorothy got a restraining order against Kevan, which she says gave her peace of mind. “And that was a huge mistake,” she says.

One night, Dorothy was asleep in her bed when she awoke to the sound of her name being shouted. “I turned to my left shoulder, and I saw a knife [about 10 inches long]. I could see the reflection of my TV in the blade. Then I saw that he had cutoff surgical gloves, and that was scary,” Dorothy says. “I put the covers right over my head and curled into a fetal position and started praying. He said to me, ‘Are you scared?’”

Rather than panic, Dorothy says she got out of bed, stood up and told Kevan he was leaving. As she walked calmly out the door, he followed her to the parking lot. “So I said, ‘You’re leaving now,’” she says. “He turned, went down the street, and I didn’t see him again.” Dorothy immediately called 9-1-1, and police later arrested Kevan. He was convicted and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

Gavin says when Dorothy stood up, spoke firmly to Kevan and walked out, she was accepting a gift of power by acting on her instincts. “The fetal position is not a position of power, but you came out of it with a great position of power. And the pure power to say to him, ‘You’re leaving now,’ is fantastic,” he says. “Of all the details in that story, the one that stayed with me the most is that you saw the reflection on your little television set on the bedside table in the knife. And what that told me was you are on, you are in the on position. You were seeing every single detail and acting on it.”

Just like ignoring your intuition, Gavin says the way women are conditioned to be nice all the time can lead them into dangerous situations. “The fact is that men, at core, are afraid that women will laugh at them. And women, at core, are afraid that men will kill them.”

This conditioning and fear, Gavin says, leads many women to try to be nice to people whose very presence makes them fearful and uncomfortable. They often believe that being mean increases risk, he says, when, in fact, the opposite is true.

“It’s when you’re nice that you open up and give information, that you engage with
someone you don’t want to talk to,” he says. “I have not heard of one case in my entire career where someone was raped or murdered because they weren’t nice. In other words, that’s not the thing that motivates rape and murder. But I’ve heard of many, many cases where someone was victimized because they were open to the continued conversation with someone they didn’t feel good about talking to.”

In my own book, How to Spot a Dangerous Man, I talk about cultural conditioning and how women feel they should be polite and at least go out with a man once. If you’re saying yes to a psychopath, once is all he needs.

Women also have HORRID and NONEXISTENT breakup skills. What in the world is more important than having good breakup skills? You are likely to date a dozen men in your lifetime and not likely to marry but one of them. What are you gonna do with the rest of them?

In this culture, with all the books on how to attract men, very little is written about how to break up. Women spend more time on a Glamour Shots picture of themselves for a dating site than learning how strong boundaries can protect them. A woman who is attracted to the bad boys doesn’t need the book, “How to Attract a Man”—she’s already doing it. But how can she get rid of the predator she DID attract? (See my book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Women who buy our books, do phone counseling, come to 1:1’s and retreats, all have a primary motive: “Help me to never do this again.” While you definitely need insight about your own Super Traits that have positioned you in the line of fire with a psychopath, you also need most the ability to reconnect with your internal safety signal. Everything in the world we can teach you will not keep you safe if you ignore your body. Our cognitive information cannot save you the way your body can. That’s the bottom line. This is something you have to do for yourself.

This issue, of real fear vs. mere anxiety, is of utmost importance. It has really struck me that we may have missed something in our discussion about PTSD and its relationship to fight or flight reactions. Gavin helps us to see that fear happens in the moment—it’s an entire body sensation—the flash of fear followed by the intense adrenaline and fight or flight. The intensity of the body’s reactions usually COMPELS people into fight or flight.

With PTSD, I see how we have lumped more minor reactive reactions, like PTSD-induced fight or flight, with the real in-the-moment reactions of fear. I see them as different now. If the woman is THAT afraid of him and compelled by real fear as opposed to worry, (“He might harm me in the future, but he isn’t mad right now and not going to hurt me this second.”), she wouldn’t be with him because her animalistic reaction would be to flee.

Real fear IN THE MOMENT demands action. Our own ability to tolerate what he is doing suggests it’s not TRUE survival fear. This is the difference between animalistic/survival fear and our common-day PTSD reactionary fear.

Sometimes our body has reactions to evil or pathology. Normal psychology should ALWAYS have a negative reaction to abnormal psychology. So your first meeting with him should have produced SOMETHING in you. It may not have been the true fear reaction that COMPELLED you to run away, but you may have gotten other kinds of thoughts or bodily reactions to be in the presence of significant abnormality and sometimes, pure evil.

Listen to your body. It is smarter than your brain.

The Gift of Fear/The Curse of Anxiety, Part 1: Is It Fear or Is It Anxiety?

Women who have been in pathological relationships come away from them with problems associated with fear, worry, and anxiety. This is often related to Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or what we call ‘High Harm Avoidance’—being on high alert, looking for ways they might get harmed now or in the future.

PTSD, by its own nature as a disorder, is an anxiety disorder that is preoccupied by both the past (flashbacks and intrusive thoughts of him or events) and by the future (worry about future events, trying to anticipate his behaviors, etc.). With long-term exposure to PTSD, this anxiety and worry begins to mask itself, at least in the mind, as fear. In fact, most women lump together the sensations of anxiety, worry, and fear into one feeling, and don’t differentiate between them.

Fear is helpful and safety-oriented whereas worry and anxiety are not helpful, and are related to phantom ‘possible’ events that often don’t happen. To that degree, worry and anxiety are distracting from real fear signals that could help you.

In his book, The Gift of Fear, which is now a classic on predicting harmful behavior in others, author Gavin deBecker delineates the difference between what we need fear FOR and what we DON’T need anxiety and worry for. In some ways, the ability to use fear correctly while stopping the use of anxiety and worry may do much to curtail PTSD symptoms.

deBecker, who is not a therapist but a Danger Analyst, has done what other therapists haven’t even done—nix PTSD symptoms of anxiety and worry by focusing on true fear and its necessity versus anxiety and its false meaning to us.

Freud used the term ‘fear’ (in contrast to anxiety), to refer to the reaction to real danger. Freud emphasized the difference between fear and anxiety in terms of their relation to danger:

~ Anxiety is a state characterized by the expectation of and preparation for a danger—even if it is unknown.

~ Fear implies a specific object to be feared in the here and now.

(Anxiety is: “He MIGHT harm me;” whereas, fear is: “He IS harming me—with his fist, words, actions, etc.”)

If you heard that there was a weapon proven to prevent most crimes (including picking a dangerous partner) before they happened, would you run out and buy it? World-renowned security expert, Gavin deBecker says this weapon exists but you already have it. He calls it “the gift of fear.”

The story of a woman named Kelly begins with a simple warning sign. A man offers to help carry her groceries into her apartment—and instantly, Kelly doesn’t like the sound of his voice. Kelly goes against her gut and lets him help her—and in doing so, she lets a rapist into her home.

“We get a signal prior to violence,” Gavin says. “There are pre-incident indicators— things that happen—before violence occurs.”

Gavin says that, unlike any other living creature, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it. He goes on to say, “You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night.  The elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say [to themselves], ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice.’ And so human beings will get into a steel soundproof chamber with someone they’re afraid of. There’s not another animal in nature that would even consider it.”

Gavin says that “eerie feelings” are exactly what he wants women to pay attention to. “We’re trying to analyze the warning signs,” he says, “and what I really want to teach, today and forever, is the feeling of the warning sign. All the other stuff is our explanation for the feeling—why it was this, why it was that. The feeling itself IS the warning sign.”

What happens over and over again is that women dismantle their OWN internal safety system by ignoring it. The longer they ignore it, the more ‘overrides’ it receives and this retrains the brain to ignore the fear signal. Once rewired, women are at tremendous risks of all kinds… risks of picking the wrong men, of squelching fear signals, of impending violence, shutting off alarms about potential sexual assaults, shutting down red flags about financial ripoffs, squeaking out hints about poor character in other people… and the list goes on. What is left after your whole entire safety system is dismantled? Not much.

Women, subconsciously sensing they need to have ‘something’ to fall back on, swap out true and profoundly accurate fear signals with the miserly counterfeit and highly unproductive feelings of worry and anxiety.


Then they end up in counseling for their fourth dangerous relationship and wonder if they have a target sign on their forehead. No they don’t. They have learned to dismantle, rename, minimize, justify, or deny the fear signals they get or got in the relationship—as if their ability to ‘take it’ or ‘not be afraid’ of very dangerous behavior is some sort of win for them, as if their ability to look danger in the face and STAY means they are as tough or competitive as he is.

No—it means they have a fear signal that no longer saves them. Their barely stuttering signal means it’s been over-ridden by her. She felt it, labeled it, and released it, all the while staring eye-to-eye with what she should fear most.

Then later, another day or week passes, and she has mounting anxiety, “over what?” she wonders. She has a chronic low-grade worry, wisps of anxiety that waft through her life. She can’t put two and two together to figure out that ignoring true fear will demand to be recognized by her subconscious in some way—an illegitimate way through worry and anxiety that does nothing to save her from real danger. Her real ally (her true fear) has been squelched and banished.

When coming to us for counseling she wants us to help her ‘feel safe’ again when actually, we can’t do any of that. It’s all in her internal system as it’s always been. Her safety is inside her as is her future healing.

She will sit in the counselor’s office denying true fear and begging for relief from the mounting anxiety she is experiencing. She doesn’t trust herself, her intuition, her judgments—all she can feel is anxiety. And with good reason! True fear is her true intuition…not anxiety. But she’s already canned what can save her, and now, on some level, she must know she has nothing left that can help her feel and react.

Animals instinctively react to the danger signal—the adrenaline, flash of fear, and flood of cortisol. They don’t have internal dialogue with themselves, like, “What did that mean? Why did he say that? I don’t like that behavior—I wonder if he was abused as a child.”

An animal is trained to have a natural reaction to the fear signal—they run. You don’t see animals ‘stuck’ in abusive mating environments! In nature, as in us, we are wired with the King of Comments, which is the danger signal. When we respond to the flash of true fear, we aren’t left having a commentary with ourselves.

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” ~John Schaar

When a Pathological Dies

If you have been following us on social media or our website and weekly Newsletter, then you have probably read why and how I got started in pathology. Like you, so many years are initially spent not knowing what is wrong with the pathological. Since part of pathology is the ultimate in projection (taking their traits/behaviors and saying they are your traits/behaviors), most people walk around believing THEY are the problem. Sometimes the pathological is charismatic, successful and well-liked by others so others also look at you as if YOU the problem. Eventually, you believe it too! Cognitive dissonance sets in (they’re good/they’re bad, I’m good/I’m bad), obsessions about proving THEY really are the problem, and constant intrusive thoughts replaying their statements to you and your mental health begins to tank! It makes you feel vulnerable and crazy. It only proves to you that what the pathological said about you is true…that you and your mental health are the problem.

Somewhere down the line, you eventually stumble on some miraculous gift–something that makes you rethink your own mental health in light of their pathology. Maybe you found our site or books and you begin to recognize the problem is not you, or even the relationship—it’s the disorder in them. Much like a medical disease process, pathology is just being/doing what it is—hurting things in its path. Although it sounds personal to you, it isn’t. Pathology does this to everyone, eventually. So you get a clue that maybe what has been occurring in the relationship has everything to do with something bigger than you, bigger than them, bigger than what counseling can do for your relationship. The spark has been lit in you to find out more. However, “the best time to see the light is as soon as you can” might be years down the road. You might have had a lifetime with this person as the pathology continued to damage you. Seeing the light, recognizing and even being able to name/diagnosis them, isn’t always initially enough to emotionally help someone out of the pit of pathology. You stay and watch, and confirm in your mind, and find resources, and plan, and eventually you get the hell out of hell.

You’re out of hell–now what? You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t I feel better? Why are my symptoms even worse now? Why isn’t getting away and cutting off exposure to them enough to kick-start my recovery?” When you peek inside yourself you find fragility & fractured-ness, distraction & dissociation, dissonance & disgust, obsession & objectification, Post Traumatic Stress & preoccupation. Good Lord, “I AM SCREWED UP!”, you think. Assessing your inner damage, you calculate you have at least 25 years of therapy ahead of you and you’re 42 years old! That you won’t live long enough to feel well is your biggest fear. So you dive in with self-help books, group, Ala-non, self-esteem programs, books about boundaries, therapists, coaches, retreats, inpatient care, medication….

The damage is huge and the path to recovery seems long. You tally up everything a few years with a narcissist or psychopath has cost you: Friends, family, health, career, promotions, mental health, spirituality, sexuality, finances, your home….and the list goes on. Thousands of dollars later, you sort of feel less depressed. On good days, you can actually take hold of your own obsessional thinking and control it for 5 minutes. That’s progress you think.

You have fought tooth and nail to understand pathology, save yourself, and then heal. You feel justified in your feelings of loathing for someone so harmful, dangerous and disordered. You see the years it has taken from your life and your children’s lives. You see the countless ways others and even society is harmed by their disorder. No one would ever blame you for loathing them or their disorder. You finally feel some power in your ability to be rightfully angered, even indignant to the damage done.

And then they die.

Relief? Yes. Safety? Yes. Justification? Yes. Restitution? Yes. God finally answered? Yes. The playing field has somehow shifted but just exactly how, we are often unsure. Their death feels like a flood with waves of discordant feelings. Shouldn’t you rent the Hyatt and have a party? Why are you so sensitive when people tell you “You should be glad they are gone now.”

A few years ago, one of the pathologicals in my life died. I watched her horrendous death from the sidelines of a hospital chair. I coordinated her care with hospice, spent hours on the phone with doctors, advocated for her care without insurance, sat commode-side in a urine soaked nursing home, and held a yellow-green hepatitis-infected hand as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

After all, she was my sister. It took me years to get to the place of recognizing her pathology and accepting her disorders. I have spent enormous time in research and in therapy coming to accept this insidious pathological disorder.

There I sat, staring at death-dulled eyes watching her slip from this world into the next and hating pathology again, for the millionth time in my life. I hate what it did to me, to others. I hate what it took from her life. She never, ever had a normal life or felt normally about others. She missed real love, real joy – a whole spectrum of feeling she could never experience because of her own pathological neurology.

As I watched her die, I asked myself, “Can you miss what you never had?”

Inevitable flashes of our lives together—a bedroom shared but no conversations, her never-ending problems with drugs/alcohol, men/violence, homelessness/mental illness, her empathy-less smirk when others were hurt or when she hurt others, her parasitic lifestyle milking my mother’s money and energies, her narcissistic investment that her chronic drama was always first place in everyone’s lives, the Jekyll/Hyde of a manipulator and yet a child.

The playing field of her death felt like standing on the vault line of an earthquake.

FLASH: She cracked my head open throwing me down the stairs at age 5.

FLASH: She never belly laughed.

FLASH: She pushed me down a big hill into traffic my first time on roller-skates.

FLASH: She was scared of the dark.

FLASH: Drugs, alcohol, arrests, legal problems that never ended.

FLASH: Her empty heart and life and lifeless eyes.

FLASH: My coming to know her pathology after years of studying to find out what was wrong with her.

FLASH: Her huge bloated cirrhosis-filled belly — unrecognizable to me.

FINAL FLASH: She’s gone.

Even when the pathological crosses over out of our personal space of potential harm, they leave behind their own legacy. Nothing really changes when they cross. The cognitive dissonance of their pain caused/pain received lingers on. It doesn’t change because that’s what pathology is—a heaving fault line of the uneven feelings about the good and the bad in those with the disorder.

I am reminded I don’t have to choose one side or the other in how I remember her. She was, after all, Jekyll & Hyde. And those uneven feelings and memories reflect her disorder and the relationship I had to establish with her in order to have a relationship with someone who was split in two halves of harm and need.

I have come to accept pathology in all its ugly forms and with all its hard wiring that I realize she never asked to be born with. I always thought I would feel differently when she died. But I recognize now that I SHOULD feel conflicting feelings reflecting her own nature as Jekyll & Hyde. Rest in peace, my sister. There was no peace for you on this side.

Living the Gentle Life—Part 7: Healing Sexually

Over the past month or so, we have been talking about healing from pathological love relationships and what is involved in this process.  It requires facing the damage that has been done and recognizing any stress disorders or PTSD that you might now have from the relationship. It then requires changing your life in order to heal – changing your physical environment and learning how to develop a lifestyle that helps you heal emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and sexually. Today, we’re going to talk about the sexual effect of pathological and dangerous relationships.

In an earlier article in this series, we talked about healing the spiritual effects of a pathological relationship.  Ironically, the sexual effects are also often spiritual effects. That’s because a lot of the spiritual effects have to do with attaching and bonding on many levels – including spiritually. In a spiritual sense, we have been designed to bond during sexual experiences – especially women.

(WARNING – THIS IS GRAPHIC!) Recent hormonal and sexual studies have indicated that orgasms achieved during sex release the same brain chemicals that are released during BONDING with your baby!

This phenomenal aspect gives great insight into WHY it is so hard to leave a relationship, even if it is dangerous.  Many of the dangerous types of men are hypersexual so there is A LOT of sex. A lot of sex equals a lot of opportunities for sexual bonding through orgasm and hormonal stimulation. Women are, by nature, NOT abandoners; they stay with those to whom they ‘attach’ or ‘bond’. So the more bonded you feel to him, the less likely you are to leave. The more sexually attached you are, which often feels like spiritually attached – “he’s my soul mate” – the more confusing and difficult it is to detach.

Additionally, many pathological men who are hypersexual bring to a relationship a lot of sexual deviancy. For the first time in your life, you may have been exposed to sexual behaviors or aspects that you had never experienced. Since the pathological is great at manipulation, guilt, and rewarding your loyalty, you may have been coerced into sexual behaviors that violated your own morality or normal sexual boundaries. Perhaps he introduced into the relationship pornography, sexual acts you were uncomfortable with, group sexual experiences, relationship rape, or other sexual violations. Additionally, most pathological men, in their hypersexuality, are NOT monogamous, so maybe you acquired an STD from him.

These deep soul wounds harm more than just your emotions. They harm you spiritually and infiltrate your sexual identity. A woman often feels so perverted in what she has experienced she may feel like she has to stay with him because no ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ man would want her after what she has done in the sexual relationship with him.

In some relationships, true sexual addiction may have occurred. You may feel as if you are addicted to him, the sex with him, or sex with anyone. What you have experienced IS sexual abuse in the relationship. However, pathological men have an uncanny way of making you feel like a willing participant, or that it’s YOUR deviancy he is responding to sexually. Remember – they twist and pervert every aspect of the truth!

The sexual side effects of the relationship can contribute to your overall stress disorder or PTSD. It is an aspect that should be treated in order to reclaim your sexual identity.  Untreated, your skewed sexual identity can cause you to continue to sexually act out, to cooperate in his sexual deviancy, or to use drugs or alcohol to numb your painful feelings.

It can also cause increased PTSD symptoms, anxiety and depression, or leave you despondent to stay in pathological relationships out of a sense of feeling dirty or unworthy of healthier relationships.

You can also be impacted spiritually – driving you away from the solace and help you find in your own connection to God.

From this standpoint, the ONLY way to live a gentle life is to heal your sexual side and to see the damage done to your sexuality as part of the overall picture of the after-effects of a dangerous and pathological relationship.

If you are in counseling, please talk to your counselor about the sexual effects of your relationship.

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


Living the Gentle Life—Part 6: Healing Your Own Worldview

Over the past month or more, I have been talking about healing from a dangerous and/or pathological love relationship. The chronic stress disorder and often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs from the damage done in the relationship requires a serious change in lifestyle in order to heal.

We have been talking about those changes – what needs to change physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In Part 5, we discussed the negative ‘worldview’ effects resulting from pathological exposure. The negative worldview impacts how you now see your post-pathological relationship world. This includes how you NOW see yourself, others, the world, your future, and God.

One of the seriously undertreated effects of pathological love relationship exposure is the healing of the personal worldview. The untreated aspects mimic PTSD symptoms with increases in depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, dread of the future and other similarly related PTSD side effects. Healing your worldview is critical to a healthy future.

Another often untreated effect of pathological relationship exposure is the ‘unconscious adopting of the pathological’s worldview.’ Not only was your worldview altered from the damage done to you IN the relationship, but your worldview was also altered from the damage done to you THROUGH the pathological. One of the unrelenting side effects is the ‘learned experience’ of seeing the world through his eyes.

One of the things that makes pathologicals pathological is the effect of their pathology on how they see themselves in relation to the world and others. Pathologicals are noted for their over/under sense of themselves, over/under opinion of others, and their unusual view of what the world should do for them.

While you may not have adopted these exact views like the pathological, chances are your views have been tainted with the pathological’s viewpoint. This can include normalizing abnormal behaviors or dissociating pieces of reality AWAY from you. Normalizing can make womanizing, over/under employment, drug dealing, alcohol/drug abuse, domestic violence, lying, cheating, stealing, or other overtly wrong behavior ‘marginal,’ when you have taken on his view of life and right/wrong. Pathologicals don’t operate by the rules. They create them for their unique situations and break them for fun.

When your grip on societal boundaries begins to slip, you have been affected by his view of the world. When his behaviors become ‘just a little different’ than other people’s or ‘all people are like this’ – your worldview has been infiltrated. When you begin to think of other people like he does, or define others by his warped definitions, when you believe his ‘take’ on things or tell yourself only partial truths so you don’t have to really see his real self – your worldview has been penetrated. When you become numb and lethargic to the things he has done, your worldview has been violated.

This is just one more aspect of your wounded worldview that needs healing if you are going to recover. A wounded worldview does not allow for living the gentle life. And the gentle life is probably not even possible until the way you see yourself, others and the world becomes ‘gentle.’

Pathologicals are harsh. They leave people feeling irritated, rubbed raw, and chapped. Your interior does not feel ‘gentle’ – it feels rough.

Pathologicals are notoriously negative, so you may have found your mood, thinking, and reactions to have taken on his negativity. It’s hard to heal when everything looks like he told you it looked – bad (and it’s all your fault!). It’s hard to live the gentle life for yourself when your emotions are anything BUT gentle.

This is the point about the necessity of healing the worldview – it’s a critical part of your recovery. Because having been warped by a pathological, ‘HOW you see determines WHAT you see.’

(**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.)