Hate and Your Potential for Relapse, Part 2 – Moving Toward Detachment

Last week we discussed hate as an impassioned feeling that has a high connection to relapse. We are likely to act on anything we feel that embroiled about. Relapse prevention has to be more detailed than using mere feelings such as hatred as a tool for distancing yourself from the pathological. This usually doesn’t work because hate is passionate and increases your sense of attachment to him.

Instead, let’s consider emotional detachment and its powerful ability to change the course of your thinking and actions. Almost all religious traditions use some form of emotional detachment. Christianity, Zen, Hinduism, and other religions all have techniques for detachment. These religious interventions are referred to as detachment, holy indifference, non-attachment and asceticism, of which detachment is one practice. I particularly like the phrase holy indifference because it reminds me that the practice can be holy if approached with the right motive and heart.

The strength of detachment is that it gives you back the power over your emotions and the actions that come from your emotions. Women complain that they feel powerless over knee-jerk reactions in their emotions (hatred), their thinking (intrusive thoughts, obsessions) and their behaviors (impulsively contacting him). Detachment is a way of creating a spacer between a feeling, thought, or desire, and the action that follows. A spacer is the point of control and choice.

In emotional detachment, you step outside of the situation as if you were the third person watching what is occurring. I tell people to pretend they are ME! So, you are now Sandra, standing over here watching how YOU are going to handle this highly emotionally charged moment.  Taking a moment to say, “What would Sandra tell me to do?” or “What would my spiritual beliefs tell me to do?” gives you back the opportunity to act in your best interest. Your best interest is always non-reactivity—the ability to not have a huge reaction to what he has said or done (except in the case of physical violence, in which you should immediately escape). This emotional detachment is also what I teach in my Starve the Vampire technique—the stepping OUT of an emotional reaction and starving him with your non-reactions.

That’s because pathologicals live for this kind of drama. Every highly charged interaction reminds him of how much control he DOES have over you and your emotions. If he can get you emotionally cranked up, then he has your complete attention. Then he can crank you up further, and he can control you through what he does with your emotions. This makes him feel powerful and will increase his contact with you.

Emotional detachment reminds you that you don’t have to respond to the same old cycles of baiting from him. For your own sanity and dignity you can choose the path of peace, which is holy indifference, or in the 12-Step traditions, “turning him, the situation, and his behaviors over to God.” The old cycles of baiting you with taunts of, “you’re crazy,” “you don’t love me,” “you’re a witch and I’m with someone else,” can be the ending of torment instead of being the fuel for the fire of torment. When you practice non-attachment to these kinds of acts or words, there is nothing to fuel the fire to keep this taunting alive.

Additionally, when you practice the ability to hold your emotions in check, you are stopping the flow of adrenaline into your body. In the past I have talked quite a bit about anxiety, fear and aggravation and how these emotions release adrenaline in your body, which sets off even MORE emotional agitation, sleeplessness, hyper-vigilant reactions, and anxiety. Learning to not respond by stepping back from his words and thinking like I would think about that—(“Oh, Sandra would say he’s just being a pathological—look how he uses those feelings to try to make me react. The disorder is just being what it is. Wow, he really IS sick.”)—helps your body to not react and not create an avalanche of adrenaline crashing throughout your body.

The cycle of baiting, in the past, would have instead created thoughts in you like, “I HATE him—I could just kill him—He’s an ass! He’s doing this on purpose to hurt me, so I’m going to hurt him!” Then you would say something or go home and do something that would continue this cycle. Sometimes, you would re-contact him just so you wouldn’t feel your own hate for him—contact him to make you stop feeling so intensely.

Now, practicing emotional detachment or holy indifference, you can view it like you are watching a Lifetime for Women movie. You see this woman who looks remarkably like you being taunted by this extremely sick man. You notice her body language (relaxed and not tense), her facial features (flat and indifferent), and what she says (tonality of her voice is mono-toned and not angry). She simply walks away or hangs up the phone or does not respond to her cell that is ringing with him on the other end of the line. You see the shocked face of the sick man as nothing happens in the interaction. The screen fades to black. The scene is over.

If her mind is trying to allow adrenaline to be released, she steps back and reminds herself, “I am not responsible for this man’s disorder. He is being who he is—pathological. I don’t need to respond to a disorder.”

Emotional detachment and holy indifference remind us that we are not responsible for a disorder that is incurable and untreatable. This man’s needs and fate are in hands much larger than ours, which is exactly where his needs should be. Removing your hands and your interventions in his life allows God to do whatever He feels is necessary in this person’s life. You can’t influence the outcome. You can only influence how you react.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Hate and Your Potential for Relapse, Part 1 – Hate is a Passionate Feeling

When a woman tells me, “That’s IT! I will never, ever, ever talk to him again. I HATE HIM!” I begin looking at my watch to see how long it takes for her to talk to him again. Why do I think her relapse, thus contact, is imminent? Because HATE is passion. Anything that feels that impassioned or has that much energy is usually acted on. If anger is the energy for change, then hate is the energy for hookups.

I am never hopeful when a woman spends all her counseling time talking about this deep- seated hatred for him. As you have heard, love and hate share a fine line of emotional attachment.

When a woman counts on hate to keep her away from him, she is setting herself up for a re-contact and a relapse. Feelings aren’t always facts. And your heart already knows you don’t HATE him—you may be disgusted, hurt, betrayed, bewildered or a lot of other emotions—but in the moment of the breakup you are probably not sitting in deep-seated hatred. Your passionate feelings of love for him, and your belief that he felt the same way toward you, may not have been any more factual than the feelings of hatred. Therefore, it’s not wise to use your emotions as the gauge for your ability to set limits, boundaries, and standards with a pathological. Your feelings are being pulled back and forth, and if your boundaries are being determined by your FEELINGS, they will quickly change with the next email, text, or phone call from him.

Feeling hatred for him and counting on that hatred to keep you from picking up the phone the next time he calls is a poor plan for preventing relapse. Hatred is fickle, and it will turn its back on you in a moment, throwing you from disgust into loneliness and fantasy. Before you know it, it’s make-up sex with all that impassioned hatred turned into hot steaming hormones. Afterward, there’s only confusion and disgust for yourself. Even the hatred you counted on to keep you strong has betrayed you. So, from this standpoint, your Relapse Prevention Plan needs to be stronger and more elaborate than mere feelings.

Hatred also keeps you embroiled in the storytelling to justify your hatred. The more you tell others the story, the more traumatically bonded you are to him and the pathology dynamics. That simmering hatred is causing anxiety and ongoing stress to your body through the releasing of adrenaline. He’s already cost you enough in your emotional health—the hatred just ensures he will also cost you in physical health.

Hatred increases intrusive thoughts, obsessive thinking and the inability to concentrate—not really what you need about now.

Hatred also causes you to neglect your own self-care when you are so consumed with negative feelings that you forget what YOU need right now.

And, finally and most importantly, hating him only disconnects you from your own spiritual connections. Any true recovery is a spiritual experience and you need spiritual connections right now.

The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. Indifference holds the key to your healing and to the issue of emotional detachment which we will discuss more next week.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

All Memory is Not Created Equal—Positive Memory Seepage

Intrusive thoughts are associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as other emotional trauma disorders. Many survivors say that the most painful memories are not the intrusive thoughts of all the bad stuff, or even the violence—what is most painful is the intrusive thoughts of good memories.

Intrusive thoughts are not just bad thoughts or flashbacks. They can be intrusive from positive memories as well. Positive memories are embedded with deep emotional and psychological meaning. The meaning of the relationship, various happy moments, the deep feelings of attachment, fantastic sex—can all be power-packed into positive memories. Positive memories are also embedded with all the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, feelings, and the associated meanings of the events and remembrances of a happier time. The positive memories can also be tied up with a ribbon of fantasy and romanticized feelings. That’s a lot of power packed into a few positive memories, and has the “TNT emotional factor” that overrides your “stay-away-from-him” resolve.

All memories are not stored the same way. I’ve talked about this before in our books. Positive memory is stored differently in the brain, and is more easily accessible than some of the bad memories. Many traumatic memories are stored in another part of the brain that makes them harder to access. Sometimes the more traumatic they are, the harder it is to remember.

Unfortunately, what you might want to remember most is the bad part of the relationship, so it motivates you to stay away from getting back into it. But instead, you are murky, and are not always fresh in your mind about why you should be avoiding the pathological relationship. What IS easy to remember is all the positive memories. In fact, what has become intrusive is positive memory seepage. This is when all the good times and the associated senses (sight, touch, smell, etc.) are flooding your mind. You easily remember the good times and easily forget the bad times—all based on how and where these types of memories are stored in the brain. You may NEED the bad memories for emotional reinforcement; however, all you REMEMBER are the good ones.

That which is held internally is amplified. It’s almost like putting them under a magnifying glass—the feelings, memories, senses—are all BIGGER and STRONGER when the memories simply roll around in your head. It’s a lot like a pinball machine—memories pinging and ponging off the internal elements. The more they ping and pong, the stronger the memories move around the mind.

Memories kept in the mind also take on surreal qualities. Certain parts are like a movie—fantasy-based and romanticized. The positive memories are dipped in crystallized sugar and become tantalizing treats instead of toxic treats! While engaged in this positive memory seepage, it doesn’t feel like you are indulging yourself in toxic memories. It feels like you are trying to process the relationship—“Why did we do this?” “Did he say that?” “Why was it like that then, but it’s like this now?” It feels like what you are trying to do is to sort out the relationship. But all the sorting of this dirty laundry still leaves the same amount of soiled clothing piled in your head. You are just moving the same shirt from pile to pile. It’s still the same dirty laundry but nothing is getting cleaned up.

Positive memory seepage, as intrusive thoughts, is a big contributor to the cognitive dissonance women feel in the aftermath of these relationships. Cognitive Dissonance (or C.D., as we refer to it) is the difficulty of trying to hold two opposing thoughts or beliefs at the same time—it’s usually something like, “He’s good” AND “He’s bad”—“How can he be good AND bad?” Just trying to resolve that particular thought can leave a woman’s mind tangled up for years. C.D. can single-handedly take women down—it can cause them to be unable to concentrate, work, sleep, eat, or function overall. It’s like the image of the devil sitting on one shoulder and the angel sitting on the other, and they are both whispering in your ear. That’s exactly what C.D. is like—trying to decide which thing you are going to believe—that he’s bad for you, or that he’s good for you.

Positive memory seepage produces intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts, especially about positive memories, produce cognitive dissonance. These emotional processes feed each other like a blood-induced shark fest. It’s one of the single reasons women don’t disengage from the relationship, heal, or return to a higher level of functioning.

Now that we’ve identified what is really at the heart of the aftermath of symptoms, we know that treating C.D. is really the most important recovery factor in pathological love relationships. It’s why we have developed various tools to manage it—Maintaining Mindfulness in the Midst of Obsession e-book and two CDs, as well as our retreats, 1:1s, etc.

The quickest way to recover is by learning to manage the intrusive thoughts and cognitive dissonance. A managed mind makes life feel much more manageable too!

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

 © www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

When Friends Don’t ‘Get It’ About Him

Remember the line ‘You’re known by the company you keep’? Well, I don’t think that ONLY includes the pathological and dangerous man…it also includes your ‘friends’ and ‘family’ members who are emotional accomplices of his.

Someone wrote me this week and said “Please write about this–when your own friends don’t get how sick he is and think you should go back or they think you’re over exaggerating his faults.”

There’s a couple of things to consider here…first of all, your patterns of selection of dangerous, pathological, or not quite healthy people probably exceed just your intimate relationship selections–it might include your friends, cohorts, buddies, and even bosses. Women who enter recovery for pathological relationships and attend the retreats quickly figure out that their lives are LOADED with other pathological people! Not just him! That’s because those super traits in you I write about are just as active in ALL your relationships as they are in your intimate ones. So don’t be surprised to find these types of people hidden out in all corners of your life. Many women realize they got some house cleaning to do in terms of clearing out all the unhealthy people from their lives once they recognize what pathology is and WHO it’s in…

Secondly, the dangerous and pathological people often attract people to them. If your friends and family members have your emotional characteristics, they are likely to STILL see him how you USE to see him…they haven’t been hurt up close and personal by him to ‘get it’ the way you do. Since these are Jekyll and Hyde guys, they have one face for you and another adorable and charming one for everyone else, including friends and family. Women get confused when they gauge whether they should be with him based on what OTHERS say about him. Intimate relationships are just that—PRIVATE and others don’t see him behind closed doors the way you do/did. Their take on this charming charismatic guy doesn’t include everything your gut has told you about him…

When you are ending the relationship, he’s likely to pour it on to all your family and friends—the tears, the confusion and shoulder shrugging (“What did I do?”) and pleading (“Help me get her back!”). Those family and friends who have those same HIGH traits of empathy, tolerance, and compassion are likely to fall for it. Top it off, that almost all the pathologicals also proclaim to be ‘sick or dying’ when the relationship is ending and you have a cheering squad who has lined up to back up his sad and pleading stories.

Then there’s the ‘finding religion’ guys who go to your pastor/rabbi and blow the dust off their Bible and are sitting in the front row of church week after week telling your pastor how ‘unforgiving’ you are of him.

Yup. Your friends are likely to point to all that pew-sitting and think there’s something to it. But YOU know better…you’ve seen it all before. The core of pathology is they aren’t wired to sustain positive change so this too shall pass…

Getting confused about what ‘other’ people think of him goes back to the central issue of you having ignored your red flags when you met him. Don’t ignore them again when people who haven’t got a clue what true pathology is tells you that you should ‘give it one more shot.’ You know what you know. Tell yourself the truth. Then turn to them…and tell them too. It’s called psychopathy education–teach what you know!

(**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 info.)

Beginning at the Beginning: Personality Formation and Dysfunction

Dr. Thedore Millon, The Pioneer of Personality Science

If Freud was the ‘Father’ of Psychoanalysis, Dr. Theodore Millon is the ‘Grandfather of Personality Theory’. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to interview Freud than I did Dr. Millon (pronounced Milan, like the city)!

Dr. Millon’s biography reads like a clinical and scientific manifesto with his prolific writing of an unusually large number of books and journal articles. His career has not only spanned decades but has changed how the world has come to understand personality and the disorders of it. His contribution to the understanding of personality disorders has earned him the title of one of the ‘Pioneers of Personality Science.’

I wanted to launch the magazine with my talk with Dr. Millon because everything we do at The Institute is related to the issues of personality and personality disorders. So to begin the magazine’s focus on the right foot, it would seem fitting to begin with talking about personality, theory, development, and why this is so important to you–the survivor in a relationship with someone with a personality disorder. This discussion should also be of interest to therapists trying to help a survivor with the aftermath of the relationship. In either case, what has troubled someone enough to seek out The Institute is their relationship with someone else’s personality disorder, pathology, or psychopathy.

But first, a little trot down memory lane for me about Dr. Millon and his importance to me and you!

  • My theory books in graduate school for my course in Personality Development were Dr. Millon’s.
  • My theory books in graduate school in my psychopathology course included Dr. Millon’s and his work was peppered throughout the other course books and personality disordered trainings that I have taken in over 20 years.
  • As a young therapist in a mental health clinic working in only personality disorders, it was HIS testing instruments we used to diagnosis personality disorders.
  • It was his information I used to describe the personality formations that make up personality disorders to my interns.
  • His charts help us distinguish characteristics between the various 10 personality disorders.
  • His ideas on ‘challenges of life’ that personality disordered people face.
  • His references about violence associated with psychopathy that warned us.
  • And his clinical reference books that lined my book shelves and the pathology library associated with our mental health clinic/

For me, there could have been no one else I would rather talk to than the person who has contributed so much to the understanding of personality disorders and what I have devoted my coaching work to. He has helped you as well–any informational help you have received about narcissism, borderlines, anti-socials, and psychopaths has probably stemmed from the work of Dr. Millon.

At 83 years old, his life time of dedication to the exploration of personality disorders has brought it out of the closet of ‘mystery’ and ‘assumptions’ and under the microscope of diagnostics. So on a personal level I thank this man for his contribution to what we know so far.

So what is it that we should discuss about personality disorders? Why is the issue of personality important to you, your future, and your therapist? You can’t deal with what you don’t know—as a survivor or as a therapist and so the first step in this journey associated with personality disorders is the ‘knowing.’ The difficulty about ‘knowing’ personality disorders is that its theories are still being hashed and rehashed (as it should) and what we are left with are some differing views. While Dr. Millon has clearly helped us understand what he calls ‘personology’ and the developmental aspects of the disorders, we still have a long way to go in understanding things such as,

  • Why do these disorders form?
  • What can be done if anything?
  • Who will be affected or even harmed because of them?
  • What societal effect does personality disorders have?
  • What cultural and political effect does personality disorder have on others?
  • What relational damage is done to others?
  • What parenting damage is done through personality disorders?
  • What type of parent, partner or prodigy does a personality disordered person make?
  • What are personality disorders doing to our systems—legal system, social service system, criminal justice system, mental health system?
  • Why are some of the personality disorders more destructive than others?
  • What commonalities do personality disorders share at their core?
  • Is there a common ‘after math of symptoms’ seen in the survivors of the high destructive Cluster B personality disorders?
  • How do survivors heal? What do they need? What do the children need?
  • Who doesn’t understand this and how can we teach them—the general public, the court systems, the mental health systems, social service systems, and child welfare systems?

These are existential type questions that survivor’s live with every day. Now our world is starting to live with these questions and the problems of these unanswered questions as pathology and its tyranny rises in the world around us. As our societal systems are being challenged by pathology and hood-winked by the lack of education it’s the survivors and children who feel the most impact of our ‘not knowing enough’ about these existential questions related to these disorders. The bleed-over is a conned legal system, a blinded child welfare system, an untrained mental health system, a tapped-out social service system, and a burgeoning criminal justice system. Education about these disorders has never been more vital to our own existence than it is today.

Sandra: “Dr. Millon, where are we today in understanding this diverse diagnosis of personality disorders? What is on the horizon, for instance, in psychopathy?”

Dr. Millon: “We are still dealing with the changes that happened to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual III when they changed from a psychopathic personality to what they now call Anti-social personality disorder. There are some flaws there because Anti-social is based on illegal activities and criminality when many of these persons don’t get caught to get labeled criminal so diagnostically would be missed.”

Sandra: “So what is being discussed for the next DSM version that will be coming out?”

Dr. Millon: “From what I gather, they are still discussing expanding Anti-social to include combinations of other personality disorders. Many persons with Anti-social also have other personality disorders associated with it which can make their presentation very different from others.”

Sandra “Such as?”

Dr. Millon: “Combinations of Anti-social + Paranoid, Anti-social+ Avoidant, etc. There could be as many as 10 factors or combinations of the disorder if we look at them in these types of configurations.”

Sandra “How will that help?”

Dr. Millon “It’s a clearer picture of the overlap of the disorders combined together and shows some of the diversity that you can see in the disorder when it’s influenced by other personality disorders.”

Sandra “There is a lot of talk about the genetic transmission of some of these personality disorders. What are your thoughts?”

Dr. Millon: “I think we are still trying to understand this. There are some of the personality disorders that are more strongly genetically transmitted than others for instance psychopathy. But for some of the other personality disorders, it is more socially learned.

Sandra “You mean ‘the nurture’ portion?”

Dr. Millon “Yes, sometimes family influences, and sometimes other types of social influences. It was Koch in 1890 that discussed biological aspects of psychopathy. He called it ‘constitutionally psychopathic.’ Then Birnbaun in 1910 discussed it as a ‘sociopath’ because he felt there were more social influences that caused the disorder than biology.’

Sandra “I am sure you are aware of the brain imaging techniques that are being used now to look at some of the possible biological differences in the brains of psychopaths. Do you think there is something this can teach us?”

Dr. Millon “I think it is some years away from being able to help us. While we can look at some of the biology of it, it doesn’t help us ‘yet’ understand personality apart from biology. This is still in a very primitive stage. What we also need to look at are the cognitive processes and how the brain activity affects personality. We aren’t there yet. It’s a course tool but I do see that it holds promise.”

Sandra “What do you believe about the permanence of personality disorders. Your Institute offers treatment to various types of the disorder. What changes do you see in them?”

Dr. Millon “This is difficult now days with insurance companies giving limited amount of sessions. Personality disorders take a long time to effect some change in their behavior.”

Sandra “But how are they down the road? The partners get very frustrated with their inability to sustain positive changes.”

Dr. Million “Yes, that’s a very good way to describe that. Consistency is difficult for them. It would be most helpful if they could come back several times a year for ‘tune ups’ to remind them what they should be doing. This is where treatment effects are often lost. Of course, some of the lesser personality disorders can have more modest changes than some of the difficult Cluster B’s.”

Sandra “So what are we really doing then? It seems we are offering their partners false hope when they enter therapy and the partner believes that the change will be permanent. They are staying because they believe that.”

Dr. Millon “No doubt that their relationships are heavily impacted by their disorders. They don’t always have good outcomes in their relationships. I understand why their partners are concerned if their treatment will be effective over the long haul.”

Sandra “How do you know it IS effective over the long haul? Do you hear back from your client’s years down the road? Is success merely being able to hold a job? Or is there a quality of life issue, even for the partner that needs to be evaluated?”

Dr. Millon “Some do contact me from time to time. It’s not always easy to be able to tell what is happening in their lives by a quick contact. It would be optimal for them to come back several times a year so we can really gauge what is happening.”

Sandra “You aren’t referring to anti-social, psychopaths, etc. when you are discussing this type of treatment, per se?”

Dr. Million “More with the narcissists, histrionics and borderlines.’

Sandra “Are personality disorders, in essence, attachment disorders?

Dr. Millon “In some ways, many of them lack intimate attachments or the ability to have attachments as we know them. Some of the disorders have low emotionality and constitutionally or biologically experience a sort of a-social emotionality. They don’t connect on the same level which effects their attachments.”

Sandra “This seems to me to be what the partners complain about most—the essence of the attachment is marred. This could lead into a whole other conversation about Attachment Theory, couldn’t it?”

Dr. Millon “Yes, yes indeed. Personality and their disorders clearly affect a wide parameter in interpersonal relationships.”

Much of the rest of our conversation was more clinical in nature about theory and cognitive-behavioral approaches.

What I think we can take away from this conversation with Dr. Millon is how far we have come in understanding some of the disorders over the last few decades yet clearly, there is still much to understand when we consider the overlapping nature of the clustered disorders and how each personality disorder can create an almost layered effect when someone has more than one personality disorder. (According to research, 60% of people who have one personality disorder have more than one personality disorder.) Understanding how multiple types of disorders effect the overall personality presentation (and its effect on others and resulting relational health) is important for survivors and therapists to understand. There remains a lot of debate as to the ‘treatable-ness’ of personality disorder largely related to the complexity of these overlapping symptoms.

Our thanks to Dr. Millon for a life time dedicated to understanding personality and its disorders.

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

————————————————

Theodore Millon, PhD, DSc, is a leading personality and developmental theorist. Dr. Millon was the founding editor of the Journal of Personality Disorders and is past president of the International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders. He has been a full professor at Harvard Medical School and the University of Miami. He is the principal author of many clinical inventories and testing instruments related to personality disorder testing. Dr. Millon has also written or edited more than 30 books and has contributed more than 200 chapters and articles to numerous books and journals in the field. Dr. Millon established the Institute for Advanced Studies in Personology and Psychopathology in Coral Gables, Florida, where he serves as dean. In 2008 he received the “Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology” from the American Psychological Foundation. The award recognizes Dr. Millon’s distinguished career and his enduring contribution to psychology through research and the application of techniques to important practical problems in psychology. You may view Dr. Millon’s vita here:
http://www.millon.net/content/tm_vita.htm

All content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Institute.

Adult Children of Abusive Parents—When Parents are Pathological

Why women end up in pathological love relationships is a widely debated topic. After more than 25 years in the field, my view is that the reasons are often a mixture of several issues. We find most of the simplistic ideas about ‘why’ are not based on the dynamics of the women’s lives or relationships.

This is a complex issue and we have been looking at various reasons why. Any one explanation is probably not the total explanation. I think for many women, their patterns of selection have to do with a number of complex interweavings, not to mention, the ‘mask’ of pathology itself and how it hides, lures, and cons.

We have looked at the possible influence of pathological parenting. This may not apply to all who have ended up in pathological love relationships, but for those who have had pathological parents, this, too, may have been a factor. Just like in the 12 Steps, “take what works, and leave the rest.” If this is not applicable to your past, it’s probably not applicable to your pathological relationships. For those to whom it is applicable, here is another consideration.

Sometimes our dangerous male choices, bad boy selections, and addictive relationships are really just manifestations of the parenting we endured when young. If we were unfortunate enough to live in homes in which one or both of our parents were abusive, addicted, or pathological, our choices could be reflecting what did or did not happen in our own emotional development because of our pathological parenting. Pathological parenting, often referred to as self-absorbed parenting, can have significant and deep-seated effects on children, and these effects often persist into adulthood.

Sometimes our choosing of dangerous men comes from replicating our own childhoods. Some women pick men that subconsciously ‘feel’ like those early childhood dynamics. This is not a conscious decision, but is driven by primitive and familial feelings and unmet needs. The dynamic is further re-enacted by women being victimized again in similar ways as they were in the home where a parent was abusive or pathological. Pathological parenting involves:

  • Being unresponsive to others’ needs
  • Being self-absorbed, self-focused, and self-referencing
  • Being indifferent about other people
  • Being grandiose and arrogant
  • Lacking empathy for others
  • Lacking a core self (they are as deep as Formica)
  • Having shallow and quickly fleeting emotions
  • Wanting constant admiration and attention
  • Feeling special and unique
  • Not relating well to others

This results in pathological parents typically displaying the following kinds of parenting types and behaviors:

  • Blaming the child
  • Criticizing the child
  • Demeaning, devaluing, and demoralizing the child

Since the child has only known this kind of parenting, it is often difficult for the child to know there is something wrong with their parents. The child grows into adulthood still not knowing their parent is pathological. The result is the child/adult now has learned how to ‘normalize’ abnormal behavior because healthy behavior was never modeled.

Typical of abusive and pathological parents is when the parents make the child ‘take care of them emotionally’. This is often referred to as ‘emotional incest’ or ‘parent-ifying the child’. In a healthy home, the parent emotionally meets the needs of a child and supports the child through the developmental process of becoming a separate individual and teen and ‘individuating’ or ‘separating enough to be your own self’. In addictive, abusive, and pathological families, children are not supported through these developmental periods. Instead, the parent expects the child to meet THEIR needs.

Were you a parent-ified child?

  • Were you made to feel responsible for your parent’s feelings, well-being and/or general welfare?
  • Did your parent(s) seem to be indifferent or ignore your feelings much of the time?
  • Were you frequently blamed, criticized, devalued or demeaned?
  • When your parent(s) was/were upset or displeased, were you the target of his/her/their negative feelings?
  • Did you feel that you were constantly trying to please your parent(s) only to fall short?

Do you ever remember hearing your parent(s) say:

  • Don’t you want me to feel good?
  • You make me feel like a failure when you (do) ________.
  • You ought to care about me.
  • I feel like a good parent when someone praises you.
  • If you cared about me, you would do what I want you to do.

Children who were parent-ified or were victims of emotional incest or were raised by abusive/ addictive/pathological parents often have one of two reactions to their parenting. One is compliance, the other is rebellion.

Do you have any of the following symptoms of compliance?

  • Spend a great deal of time taking care of others.
  • Are constantly alert about acting in a way to please others or are very conforming.
  • Feel responsible for the feelings, needs, and welfare of others.
  • Tend to be self-deprecating.
  • Rush to maintain harmony and to soothe the feelings of others.
  • Don’t get your needs met.

With rebellion, the adult child is often defiant, withdrawn and insensitive to the needs of others. They build a wall around themselves to avoid being manipulated by others. They avoid responsibility resembling the kind of responsibility they had as children.

Adult children of abusive/addictive/pathological parents normally have lives where:

  • They are dissatisfied with themselves and the course of their lives.
  • They are trying to be in emotional sync with others but find they are not successful at it.
  • They are constantly looking a their own flaws, incompetence, and other faults they perceive in themselves.
  • They do not have meaningful relationships in their lives.
  • They do not allow people to become emotionally close to them—they keep people at arm’s length.
  • They feel like they lack meaning and purpose in their lives.
  • They have continuing relationship problems with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • They feel isolated and disconnected from others.
  • They are often overwhelmed by others’ expectations of them.

People who were raised in these types of families often go on to develop relationships with people who resemble the dynamics with which they grew up. Unconsciously, women often pick men who demonstrate, on some level, the kinds of behaviors their abusive parent did.

Women who do not recognize that they have grown up to ‘normalize abnormal behavior’ perpetuate the pattern of choosing dangerous and pathological men over and over again. They are stuck in a terrible cycle of self-sabotage. (Read more about this in How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved or Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

(Thanks to the article, “Parental Destructive Narcissism,” by Nina W. Brown, for information on pathological parenting.)

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

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Anniversary of My Plunge Into Pathology

by Sandra L. Brown, MA

The month of May marks my fairly “official” date (at least in my mind) in which I was thrust into the field of pathology—totally without consent, without warning, and without return to the normal life I knew before May 13, 1983.  That was the day my father bled out in a grungy gutter in Cincinnati just outside his jazz club after a psychopath plunged a knife into his aorta.  I was initiated into a victim-hood that would turn my life and career in a direction I hadn’t much interest in before that particular day.

Much like pathology in anyone else’s life, you don’t get to choose how it plays out in your life.  The best you can do is to learn how to ride the rollercoaster that goes along with the serious group of disorders in pathology—as I have done.  Thirty-plus years later, I still feel like I am just skimming the surface of what can, and should, be done in education, awareness, survivor services, and advocacy in dealing with pathology. Thousands of pages of writing books, newsletters, websites, workbooks, e-books, quizzes, hours and hours of lectures ad nauseum, over a thousand hours in broadcasts, both radio and television, stacks of CDs and DVDs created—and still we are in the infancy of a new understanding about pathology.  It is the virtual edge of just beginning what someday will be a momentous marker that shows when the world turned a corner for a better and very public understanding of pathology.

We’re not there yet but the day IS coming. Every new blog that goes up, every newsletter, every website, every talk, every social networking post, every private moment of knowledge shared with another victim, every coaching session, every class taught, every therapy hour, every group gathering, every prayer muttered, every radio show aired, every celebrity living it and bringing it to notice, every TV show featuring it, every newspaper or women’s magazine article taunting it is another message to another ear that has heard the message. You learned it because someone cared enough to make sure you learned it.

Every May 13th, for the past 30+ years, I have halted my existence to remember that life-altering second when my life went from being a normal everyday life to a life of being a family member of a homicide victim. This is when my reality was ripped through by pathology—a disorder so conscienceless that altering history is just another day in the lives of the pathological.  While my pathology story includes a brutal ending, yours, no less, includes something similar—all the things lost in a moment of deep betrayal—the kind of betrayal that only pathology can bring.

If I don’t brighten up this newsletter, I’ll get complaints about “too much reality” or “too much negativity” so, I will say this—while none of us choose to become survivors at the hands of very disordered pathological individuals, what we do with what we were dealt is up to us.  Every so often I like to send a message to you that encourages you to “pass it forward”.  Whatever you have learned from the magazine’s website, newsletters, radio shows, blogs, or the books, is probably more than the woman who is sitting next to you knows.  You don’t need to wait until you understand it more by taking a class, getting a degree, reading another one of our books, attending a retreat, or taking our coach training—that doesn’t help the women you sit next to at work. The knowledge in your head is life-saving to her. Next year, when you are better trained, isn’t the time to share what you know—today is!

If we want to move from living on the virtual edge of changing pathology education in the world, we have to open our mouths and tell what we know.  Every pathological hopes you DON’T do this! They hope you keep what you know to yourself. So many women that have shed so many tears have said, “If I had only known … I would have left earlier, I wouldn’t have left my children with him, I wouldn’t have _______.”

Every May is a time I renew my commitment to what changed me. Every May I bother people with my message and prod them and push them to make victims’ rights and survivor education important in the world.  If I don’t, the image of my dad laying in that gutter haunts me. His death should never have been for nothing—and as long as people have been helped, it hasn’t. Frankie Brown, by his death, has touched so many lives through the message of psychopathy. You’re one of them!  Help me celebrate my father’s death anniversary in a way that brings meaning and hope to many. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month—share what you know with just ONE person—someone that you have felt in your gut needs to know about the permanence and the pain of pathological relationships. Then email me and say “I passed it forward” so I can count up how many people have celebrated Frankie!

If this message has offended you, I’m sorry. Pathology has offended my entire life. Thank you for growing in the knowledge of pathology so you are prepared for the day when you can give someone the life-changing information that you’ve come to know!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Intense Attachments – Why is this dangerous guy so hard to leave?

Women in these relationships and their family members who watch her relationship dynamics all wonder about **why** this dangerous guy is so hard to leave. While all the people around her have the easy and rational answers of how and why she should leave, the disengagement and detachment is harder with pathological persons than anyone else.

No one knows this better than her. At the heart of the attachment is the intensity of bonding produced in a relationship that has an emotional vortex pull. Much like magnets pointed towards each other, the draw and pull and staying power of pathologicals is not like other relationship dynamics.

As we studied these particular attachments we saw that there are unusual qualities to the relationships that even the women can’t define or adequately describe. This includes the dichotomous thinking often seen in mind control, the hypnotic engagement often seen in trauma, and the betrayal bonding often seen in sexual addiction. Combined, this power cocktail renders her not only entranced but paralyzed from action.

Normal motivations do not motivate her. Not her current roller-coaster mental health, her other family relationships, her declining health, her children, her job or any other force that would usually rally her to her own self care. No wonder people who care about her are baffled that a high functioning, bright, proactive woman has been reduced to a near catatonic/hypnotized/brain washed version of her former self.

An hour a week at the counselor’s office has done little to unwedge her from this super-glued relationship. It hasn’t recognized the hypnotic entrancement, the growing PTSD symptoms, the cognitive loops and entrenched dichotomous thinking. It hasn’t unveiled the death grip that pathologicals can have on a squirming victim. Or the mind control that sucks the willpower and brain function from her.

Physically and emotionally exhausted from the too-many-go-rounds with him, there isn’t enough left of her to fight her way out or even think her way out. Many women now suffer from Chronic Fatigue from the wearing process with the pathological.

Without the emotional resources and physical strength, her lethargy just allows the relationship to roll like waves over the top of her. Without help or intervention, she is likely to have a complete physical break down including severe medical problems, sleep disruptions, mental confusion, panic attacks, anxiety, depression and more. Women have developed auto immune disease and cardiac problems in the middle of these acutely stressful relationships.

With all of their resources sapped and their concentration at a near record low, many have had to quit their jobs, have been fired, been in car accidents, or have incurred sporting injuries because of the inability to concentrate. Taking an inventory of just what it has cost her to be in a relationship with a pathological is often the first step towards education.

The disengagement process is a function supported by counselors or The Institute in which education, acceptance of his diagnosis, self care re-initiation, symptom management and then the full recovery process is necessary. Some need short term programs that help them kick start their own recovery.

Many of the women have PTSD now from the exposure to the pathological. PTSD worsens without treatment, with added stress, and with time. Somewhere she has to find the counseling resources in order to return her to a life she used to know before the pathological. This includes finding support people, support groups, counseling, specific focused books and audios on the subject, and if needed, retreat or residential programs.

If this describes your current situation, get what you need to heal now–to minimize the effects of the growing PTSD and the intrusive and ping ponging thoughts. Most of all, in order to be broken, the intensity of attachment must first be understood.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Professionals in the Helping Industries and Their Personal Pathological Relationships

Are you a doctor, nurse, therapist, social worker, female clergy, paramedic, teacher, psychiatrist, certified nursing assistant, day-care worker, guidance counselor, speech therapist, missionary, physical therapist, psychology grad student, art therapist, writer, artist, musician, or work with at-risk kids?

Welcome to the group of people MOST LIKELY to end up in a Pathological Love Relationship.

Can your career be a risk factor for finding/staying with a narcissist or psychopath? Unfortunately, YES!

Look at that list again… all the ‘hearts of gold’ kind of people—the salt-of-the-earth women—the ‘Mother Teresas’ of the world—AT RISK for attracting and staying with dangerous, dark, and pathological men. Seems unfair doesn’t it? Normally, narcissists and psychopaths don’t migrate to their own kind. On rare occasions they do, and you end up with a sensationalized case of a new Bonnie and Clyde. But in most cases, they migrate to you!

Understanding this represents one of the largest breakthroughs in our understanding of dangerous intimate-relationship dynamics. For so long we understood him but we didn’t really understand her. She was wrongly labeled codependent, but codependency treatment didn’t help her. She was wrongly labeled a relationship- or sex-addict, and addiction treatment didn’t help her. She was wrongly labeled ‘mutually pathological,’ and yet she was never diagnosed with a personality disorder. Nothing fit and nothing explained her until we found the missing key… her ‘off-the-Richter-Scale traits’ that put it all into perspective. Once we understand her, we can help her.

What we do understand, is that by nature of your own tender and helpful personality traits, you migrated to a career in which you could use your abundant traits of empathy, helpfulness, compassion, resourcefulness, cooperation, and tolerance. Where best do these great humanitarian traits get used? In helping professions like social work, ministry, nursing, other medical professions, psychology, teaching, child care… where you find people with big hearts trying to give out of their own abundance. By virtue that you even ended up in one of these professions means you are probably more at-risk for these types of relationships than others.

In almost ALL circumstances, women from these relationships are either IN these types of professions or are trying to get into them… (they are in school or trying to move out of their job into a more ‘giving’ field).

Many of the women who are in these types of professions ended up with the narcissist or psychopath during the course of their actual jobs. Nurses hooked up with patients, doctors married someone they met in the field, psychologists dated mentally ill men, missionaries dated someone from one of the street missions where they worked. Every once in a while we get stories from very left-brained women like CPAs but, even then, they’re not typically left-brained. They still have a lot of the abundant humanitarian traits.

This has a lot of implications for possible prevention work. Knowing that women in these professions are more likely to have the high-risk personality traits means education can begin within these professions.

Women need to know that sometimes even their career selection is indicative of what their relationship selection might be as well. So while women may be out of the Pathological Love Relationship, it doesn’t reduce their overall risk because temperament traits are innate.

While you are out of any intimate relationship is a great time to learn more about your abundant traits and how to safeguard yourself the next time around.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Successful Pathological’s Evil Twin: The Parasite

Last week, we looked at The Successful Pathological and how he flies in under the radar while women are looking at his success and missing the red flags concerning his character or behaviors. Women can get sidetracked by his degree or noble career, or blinded by his business bling. The Italian-made shoes aren’t the only loafer—LOL!

Another way pathology manifests is what we call ‘parasitic’ behavior—which means, like a tick, they live off of others. Some pathologically disordered people are underachievers and require much financial assistance, some are not employed at all, and in fact, some are successful AND parasitic.

Wealthy and parasitic pathologicals have all the radar-busting combinations to come gliding in under a woman’s relationship radar. Wealthy pathologicals may be as parasitic as the poor ones, but are usually less identified. It’s not that wealthy ones need the housing assistance by living with you—it’s that they are able to get you to let them. It’s a power game and when you say ‘yes,’ he wins. It’s a ridiculous game that most women don’t even pay attention to in the beginning, until it begins to happen over and over again. Most women don’t care about power struggles; not so with him, because it’s his source of entertainment.

Parasites can latch on for the ride, the entertainment, or to drain you dry. The financially challenged ones try to hide that they are broke and underemployed until they are already living off of you. Or they get in by playing the pity trump card—needing a “little time to get on my feet.” Many of them appear to have the worst luck when it comes to getting or keeping a good job or somehow manage (according to him) to always find horrible bosses. In any case, it’s never his fault, and a new potential turn of events is “just around the corner,” if you will just “wait it out” with him.

The interesting thing about the parasitic life is that it has more to do with conning than it has to do with any legitimate need. The proof is that even the wealthy ones play the same game.

For the overt parasite, a red flag for women would be men who are always living with someone else, including family. Of course they have a good reason usually associated with what appears to be helping others (older parents, helping with rent for a single mother, sister, etc.).

What is suspicious is that you never see where he lives or how he lives. Why? That “great condo with the roof deck” is really a room in someone’s mobile home. Or there’s a wife and three kids at the house, which are his. Or his house is really a meth lab. Pick a reason… the bottom line is there is a reason you don’t see it. And it normally has to do with living a different life, perhaps living off of others, that he hasn’t quite disclosed to you.

A huge red flag would be that he wants to move in or marry quickly. Is it because he is so into you? Nope. It’s because he wants to betroth your checkbook before you can verify his income, his job status, his debt load, or anything else. In a blink of an eye you are sipping rum drinks with umbrellas in glasses in the Bahamas (oh, and did I mention, on your credit card?).

A flashing billboard would be when he asks you to invest in his potential business (with your love bundle!) so that you can help finance the “rest of your lives together” business.

Here’s a clue: If he’s over 28 years old and not living up to any part of his potential, there’s a reason and it’s usually pathology or addiction or both. If you are over 30, don’t fall in love with anyone’s potential. Either they’ve got the goods or they don’t. And if they don’t, there’s a reason bigger than the sad, empathy-producing story they have.

The more covert parasite, if wealthy, may give a storyline that he is “giving you an opportunity to invest in his business,” so you can make some of that return capital that you see him living on. He’s successful—so he must be doing something right. Right? Do you remember Bernie Madoff?

Pete the Parasite sometimes needs money to send his ailing mother out of the country to see relatives. Or he may need money to cover the costs of his children’s needs because his psycho ex-wife is not using the child support she receives. (Uh-huh…)

If these tactics and lines didn’t work, he wouldn’t use them and I wouldn’t know them. Parasites need hosts. The body where a parasite lands (like a tick on a dog) is called the host. Here’s a time where being a BAD HOST is a good thing!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Successful Pathological

Pathological education teaches that pathological partners come in all levels of social and economic success.

Survivors say, “He’s a doctor,” to which I respond, “SO?” So what. Doctors, attorneys, clergy, law enforcement—it’s not the job that’s pathological, it’s the character and personality disorders underneath.

Pathologicals flock to all types of careers. Those with high levels of narcissism and psychopathy flock to areas where they are experts, heroes, or are able to climb up the career ladder.  These disorders ‘want’ adoration. You don’t get a lot of that as a worker on the back end of a garbage truck.

Paul Babiak and Robert Hare wrote about this in their book, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. The book examines the rise of white-collar psychopathy in our country and in the workplace. Some forms of pathology hide very well within their careers and success. A subconscious belief system is, “If they are successful, they must be okay.”

A degree from Yale means he’s smart; it doesn’t mean he’s safe. Just because a doctor saves others’ lives doesn’t mean he won’t take yours. A minister prays for others’ souls, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t soul-deadening in a personal relationship.

We only have to look at the nightly news to see examples in our culture of those in the ‘helping professions’ who are really predators. Pediatricians who sexually abused children, religious leaders who led their sheep astray, psychologists who had sex with their clients, trusted financial advisors who robbed people blind, loving partners who murdered their wives and children… These people who appeared normal or successful to others were disguised

Pathological education teaches that pathological partners come in all levels of social and economic success.

Survivors say, “He’s a doctor,” to which I respond, “SO?” So what. Doctors, attorneys, clergy, law enforcement—it’s not the job that’s pathological, it’s the character and personality disorders underneath.

Pathologicals flock to all types of careers. Those with high levels of narcissism and psychopathy flock to areas where they are experts, heroes, or are able to climb up the career ladder.  These disorders ‘want’ adoration. You don’t get a lot of that as a worker on the back end of a garbage truck.

Paul Babiak and Robert Hare wrote about this in their book, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. The book examines the rise of white-collar psychopathy in our country and in the workplace. Some forms of pathology hide very well within their careers and success. A subconscious belief system is, “If they are successful, they must be okay.”

A degree from Yale means he’s smart; it doesn’t mean he’s safe. Just because a doctor saves others’ lives doesn’t mean he won’t take yours. A minister prays for others’ souls, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t soul-deadening in a personal relationship.

We only have to look at the nightly news to see examples in our culture of those in the ‘helping professions’ who are really predators. Pediatricians who sexually abused children, religious leaders who led their sheep astray, psychologists who had sex with their clients, trusted financial advisors who robbed people blind, loving partners who murdered their wives and children… These people who appeared normal or successful to others were disguised dangerous and disordered people.

Pathologicals with a lot of success and money are often the hardest ones to leave, according to their partners. They have more connections, can pay off more bribes, get better outcomes in court, ignore restraining orders, or talk their way out of all sorts of legal issues because of who they are, what they have, or who they know. Partners are at a disadvantage when leaving the wealthy pathological.

“They are sicker than we are smart” is a motto we have long taught in pathology education. Leaving a successful pathological is often difficult because non-pathological partners can never be as deceitful, conning/cunning, or manipulative to fight on their turf. Non-pathologicals don’t think in those terms, so the pathological’s sickness ends up as gain for themselves—up the career ladder, out of the marriage, or anywhere else they want to go.

In the end, success, career, or wealth has NOTHING to do with mental health or your safety. Career is just that. It’s what they do for a living, or the vehicle in which they hunt their prey.

Trait Examination or Character Assassination?

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

Part of the problem we face in trying to get to the nitty-gritty of pathological love relationships is that how we do it or what we call it is judged so severely that it impairs sharing the valuable outcomes that are learned. There are groups of professionals, women’s organizations, and service agencies that tiptoe around what we call patterns of selection in relationships. There are unspoken rules and heavily weighted opinions about what we can discuss and how we discuss the outcomes.

What am I talking about? Since the 1970’s and the women’s movement, discussing the specifics about women’s choices in relationships, patterns of selection, personality traits, mental health, and sexual addiction/deviancy has been largely discouraged as labeling the victim or victim blaming. It has put the victim off-limits for any in-depth understanding other than a victimology theory that was developed in the 1970’s.

It is hard to get around the billboard image of victim to talk about any kind of relationship dynamics or other psychological aspects (including biology or temperament-engrained traits) that is happening in the pathological love relationship.

We may study the perpetrator, but we already have a theory for the victim that is not to be disturbed.  Compare this to any other field of mental health and it’s absurd that we would say, for example, “Since we already understand depression, no more theories, no more studying!  Don’t call it depression or you are blaming the patients for their own depression.”

To study the woman is to blame her. To measure her traits to see if there are vulnerabilities or pattern typing is to suggest she is flawed.

  • The victim assuredly has been through trauma.
  • Studying the victim in no way says she has not been through trauma.
  • The victim is not to blame for what happened to her.
  • Studying the victim in no way says she is responsible for what happened to her.
  • The victim did not choose the victimization, but in relational dysfunction, she did choose the victimizer.

Can we learn something about that?

How will cancer be eradicated, or a cure for AIDS found if we don’t study the problem from all angles? If we conclude that studying the victims blames them, then we have cut off an entire segment of research that can help us in prevention, intervention, and treatment—whether it’s a medical disorder or a pathological relationship.

Studying victimology, including various aspects, is not victim character assassination. It might be trait examination or pattern of selection analysis. It might be a lot of things that have nothing to do with blame and shame but everything to do with understanding or creating new paradigms in which to see these relationships.

It might piggyback off of theories developed in the 1970’s… surely we have learned SOMETHING new about relationship dynamics, pathology in relationships, personality disorders in intimate partners, violence and addiction, and their part in these relationships… surely we can UPDATE a theory without our own assassination or that of the victim?

In some ways, I envy the scientific and research communities that look at the data, and pass all the political correctness and emotional politics of labeling something certain groups find offensive. They test and crunch the numbers and put it in a journal without all the rigmarole. But in our case, what we study and how we describe what we find, is subject to so much scrutiny that many clinicians and writers hesitate to publish what is found.

So it has been with what The Institute has studied, found, reported, and written.  In many organizations my first book, How to Spot a Dangerous Man, was rejected for looking at family role modeling, patterns of selection, and other aspects that women themselves said contributed to their pathological relationship.  On the other hand, it has been hailed by many domestic violence agencies and used widely in shelters, treatment centers and women’s prisons.

We stepped it up a big notch in Women Who Love Psychopaths where we used testing instruments to look at women’s traits to see if there were temperament patterns in women who ended up in the most dangerous and disordered of relationships. This caught huge attention from some groups as the groundbreaking trait identification that it was, and still is. However, victims’ groups saw it as labeling. How can we help women if we don’t understand their biological makeup?

Ironically, what we found was significant—Super Traits so perfectly and symmetrically seen in most cases. Did we hurt any victims by studying that? Or have we helped thousands of women who have read the books, been counseled by our trained therapists, and come to our treatment programs? How would we have gotten here today without daring to look deeper… to even risk looking at the victim? Not to blame her, but to understand her!

Some of the biggest breakthroughs that have been happening are in understanding the neurobiology of our brains and the consequences it has on our behaviors, choices, and what ramifications these have on our future. We know that MRIs are being done on psychopathic brains, revealing areas of the brain that work differently. Someday, I think that may cross over, and other personality disorders and chronic mental illnesses will be able to be detected by MRIs as well. This will assist immensely in understanding how those disorders affect neurobiology and brain function.

How can we understand the victim of the pathological?

  • If we used the word damaged and looked at how different brain regions of victims function—over- or under-functioning, influences of stress, PTSD, adrenaline, cortisol, and early childhood abuse—could we come to understand how their brains might function in their patterns of selection in dangerous relationships?
  • Could we come to understand that even temperament traits might give proclivity to how the brain chooses or how the brain categorizes or ignores red flags of danger, or is highly reactive to traumatized attraction?
  • Could we understand brains that have higher tolerance levels because of certain brain areas that operate differently than in other people?
  • Could we understand traumatic memory storage and why good memories of the pathological (as awful as he might be) are so much stronger than the memories of abuse?
  • If we know what part of the brain distorts memory storage, can we work with that?
  • Could we come to understand trait temperaments as risk factors or certain brain functions as possible victim vulnerabilities?
  • Would we know who is at risk and understand better how to more effectively TREAT the victim in counseling, and develop prevention and intervention programs?
  • Or, how intensity of attachment could be either a temperament trait or a brain function instead of merely calling it victim labeling.

I am not only interested in the psychobiology of the victim, but how the psychobiology affects patterns of selection and reactions in the most pathological of relationships.

When we really start dealing with an open dialogue about these survivors, looking past ridiculous theories that imply asking questions equals victim blaming, then maybe we can really offer some new theories into victimology that bypass band-aid approaches to complex psycho/bio/social understandings.

This is what The Institute continues to do.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

When Others Don’t Like The ‘P’ Word

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

A few years ago, I asked to be on a national TV show to discuss the issue of psychopathy in relationships based on my book Women Who Love Psychopaths. They had looked at the website, read information about the book, discussed what the rest of the show was going to be about, and booked me for the show.

They didn’t invite me based on my other book, although equally as informational, How to Spot a Dangerous Man, they booked me to discuss and showed the book cover of, Women Who Love Psychopaths.

However, 20 minutes before going on air, a producer told me ‘they’ (whoever that is in TV world) were uncomfortable using the ‘p’ word – psychopath. They found the word to be controversial and sensationalistic and that my example of probably well known public psychopaths who are not recognized as psychopathic was too debatable and un-proveable to discuss.

This was, of course, sad for me to hear since so much of what The Institute attempts to provide is public pathology education. Truly the only way for people to avoid psychopathy is to develop the ability to understand the traits and learn to spot it in others. All of these are why our goal for the Institute is public education.

This is of course, not our first time to hear that the ‘p’ word is offensive, debatable, controversial, or judgmental, and it will not be the last time, unfortunately.

Several victims of incredible psychopathic abuse were also on the show and I was asked to comment on their cases but also asked to not use the ‘p’ word. I asked the producer what she thought those perpetrator’s behaviors should be called, or what disorders would motivate their behavior….or what was she suggesting I should call them? I told her I was at a loss to pick another label or motivation behind their lethal behaviors that would come close to helping others understand “who does that?”

I went on to say to her that psychopathy was a diagnosis, not merely a political argument, a theoretical ideology, or even a criminal judgment of character. I was confused as to why I was there when, what I do, what I write about, who I help, and who I help convict are overtly obvious from my professional background and from our website.

I was reminded again, when I heard “the p word” is controversial, that public pathology education is still in its infancy. I know that victims face this all the time when they struggle to figure out what is wrong with the pathological person only to discover the shocking revelation of the person’s disorder. But the victim trying to teach others what is wrong with the pathological is counteracted when others find the information to be disputable, distasteful, un-proveable, unlikely, and unspiritual to even suggest.

The ‘p’ word is now viewed as the new psychological slur of the 21st century. It’s correlated with the devastating racial slurs of the 1950?s, the cultural slurs of the 60?s-70?s, and the gay/lesbian slurs of the 80?s- s-90?s. Now, we face the ‘p’ word the way we faced the ‘n’ of the 50?s and the ‘f’ of the 60’s-70?s and the ‘q’ of the 80-90s. But with a huge difference!

There is nothing wrong with the ‘p’ word the way it was intensely wrong with the ‘n,’ ‘f,’ and ‘q’ words of decades gone by. But it is treated as if we are being racially insensitive, culturally inappropriate, or gender ignorant. We are looked at as the skin-heads of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual that we would dare to call someone a psychopath.

We are viewed as the rock throwers at the psychologically–disabled people with pathology, the Bible thumpers of the poor spiritually disenfranchised psychopath, and the socially clueless that we would spew a power-packing psychological label like psychopathy around that might actually strike and land on a human being.

I know, I know… after all, it’s daytime TV which we all recognize is about ratings and keeping pace with society’s Attention-Deficit-Disordered need for topics to be covered in three minutes no matter how riveting the storyline is. Daytime TV covers tsunamis of natural science as well as the tsunamis of psychological trauma in the same fast fall swoop of selling hair dye and lipstick in the same 30 minute segment.

After all, what did I expect?

… Well, I always hope that a victim’s trauma is recognized and embraced for the emotional and spiritual strength it took to not only survive, but to show up on that TV stage in order to tell their story to help others. …

…Well, I always hope that the need to teach others how to spot the devastating disorders that created the victim’s trauma is the guiding motivation behind why TV shows exist and that it supersedes the mere ‘storyline-as-business’ of TV.

Yes, I recognize that daytime TV is not the spokesperson for the planet, that there ARE those who really want to hear more of the victim’s story and learn more about how to spot them in their own lives… but I have to tell you, it IS a cold-water-splash-in-the-face, like a “wake-up-Sandra-we-aren’t-as-far-as-you-think” call that we are whispering the ‘p’ word backstage and off camera and are editing it out for public viewing.

The whole segment of discussion about low empathy, no conscience and “who does that” was removed. Not one word that explained the behavior of those lethal people was leaked to the viewing audience for public pathology education.

We still have miles and miles to go in educating the public that psychopathy is a disorder, not a verbal tirade. You know what… as offensive, debatable, controversial, judgmental, OR… as disputable, distasteful, un-proveable, unlikely and unspiritual as it felt to those merely producing a nano-second based TV show to say the ‘p’ word, the victims who have lived with the ‘p’ are the true authorities here. They would probably beg to disagree with the nay-sayers that the ‘p’ is a profound psychological slur.

I am sure the victims found the p’s behavior to be more offensive than TV-land will ever understand. The victims surely wrestled with their own need to overcome the debatable-ness of the disorder, or the controversy that swirled around the lethal behaviors of the psychopath. And I am sure the victim’s incurred their own judgmental views of outsiders.

I doubt today the victim’s find their story to be un-proveable or even disputable. After all, some of these stories ended up in murder or attempted murder.

All the adjectives that are associated with psychopathy as controversial as TV-land felt the ‘p’ word was do not even compare to the victim’s overwhelming need to shout from the roof-tops what the pathological IS ….a psychopath.

Using the ‘p’ word of psychopathy is not a slur. It is an education, a prevention, a DIAGNOSIS, and the reality for millions of victims in the world.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Why You Only Remember the Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship – Part 2

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

Last time I began to discuss the reasons why women have a difficult time remembering the bad aspects of the relationship. Women describe the sensation of only remembering the good times, the good feelings, and being ‘fuzzy’ or sort of forgetting all the bad things he has done when they think of him. This process seems to be triggered by an emotional feeling (such as longing or loneliness) AND/OR by a memory of hearing his voice, seeing an email, etc.

Last time we also discussed how good and bad memories are stored in the brain differently. Good memories are stored up front and are easily accessed. Bad memories are fragmented and compartmentalized in the mind, and are, therefore, harder to access as one complete memory. Think of, for instance, child abuse memories and how people so often repress or forget these memories.

In this article we are going to talk about ANOTHER reason why you only remember the good stuff of a bad relationship. (This is covered in detail in the book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

The second reason is based on our own biological hardwiring. We are wired with a pleasure base that is called our Reward System. We associate pleasure with being rewarded or something good. We are naturally attracted to pleasure. The pathological (at least in the beginning) stimulates the pleasure base and we associate that with a ‘reward’—that is, we enjoy his presence. Pathologicals are also often excessively dominant and strong in their presence, something we have gone on to call ‘Command Presence’.

What we enjoyed in him is all the good feelings + his strong dominant command presence. Being rewarded by his presence AND experiencing the strength of that presence registers as pleasure/reward.

Although he later goes on to inflict pain, pleasure or good memories, as we saw last time, are stored differently in the brain. Our brains tend to focus on one or the other and we have a natural internal ‘default’ to lean towards remembering and responding to our Reward System and pleasure.

On the other hand, memories associated with punishment or pain are short-lived and stored differently in the brain. They can be harder to access and ‘remember’. When you experience pleasure with him (whether it’s attention, sex, or a good feeling) it stimulates the reward pathway in the brain. This helps to facilitate ‘extinction’ of fear. Fear is extinguished when fear is hooked up with pleasant thoughts, feelings, and experiences (such as the early ‘honeymoon phase’ of the relationship). When fear + pleasant feelings are paired together, the negative emotion of the fear gives way to the pleasant feelings and the fear goes away.

Your Reward System then squelches your anxiety associated with repeating the same negative thing with the pathological. The memories associated with the fear/anxiety/punishment are quickly extinguished.

For most people, the unconscious pursuit of reward/pleasure is more important than the avoidance of punishment/pain. This is especially true if you were raised by pathological parents and you became hyper-focused on reward/pleasure because you were chronically in so much (emotional and/or physical) pain.

Given that our natural hardwired state of being is tilted towards pleasure and our Reward System, it makes sense why women have an easier time accessing the positive memories. Once these positive memories become ‘intrusive’ and the only thing you can think about now is the good feelings associated with the pathological, the positive memories have stepped up the game to obsession, and, oftentimes, a compulsion to be with him despite the punishment/pain associated with him.

These two reasons why bad memories are hard to access have helped us understand and develop intervention based on the memory storage of bad memories and the reward/punishment system of the brain.

If you struggle with the continued issue of intrusive thoughts and feel ‘compelled’ to be with him or pursue a destructive relationship, you are not alone. This is why understanding his pathology, your response to it, and how to combat these overwhelming sensations and thoughts are part of our retreat/psycho-educational program. Remembering only the good can be treated!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Why You Only Remember the Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship – Part 1

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

Over and over again, women are puzzled by their own process of trying to recover from a pathological relationship. What is puzzling is that despite the treatment she received from him, despite the absolute mind-screwing he did to her emotions, not only is the attraction still VERY INTENSE, but the POSITIVE memories still remain strong.

Women say the same thing—that when it comes to remaining strong in not contacting him (what we call ‘Starving the Vampire’) they struggle to pull up (and maintain the pulled up) negative memories of him and his behavior that could help them stay strong and detached.

But why? Why are the positive memories floating around in her head freely and strongly, and yet the bad memories are stuffed in a ‘mind closet’ full of fuzzy cobwebs that prevent her from actively reacting to those memories?

There are a couple of reasons and we’ll discuss the first one today.  Let’s think of your mind like a computer. Memories are stored much like they are stored on a computer. Pain and traumatic memories are stored differently than positive memories. Pulling up the negative memories from your hard drive is different than pulling up a positive memory that is like an icon on your desktop.

Traumatic memories get fragmented on their way to being stored on the hard drive. They get divided up into more than one file. In one file are the emotional feelings, in another file are the sights, in another file the sounds, and in another file the physical sensations.

But a WHOLE and complete memory is made up of ALL those files TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME such as what you emotionally felt, saw, heard, and physically experienced.  Just one piece of it doesn’t make it a complete memory such as just a positive memory.

A complete memory = good + bad

When things are traumatic or stressful, the mind separates the whole experience into smaller bits and pieces and then stores them separately in the mind because it’s less painful that way.

When women try to ‘remind themselves’ why they shouldn’t be with him, they might get flashes of the bad memory, but, strangely, the emotional feelings are NOT attached to it. They wonder ‘where did the feelings go?’ They can see the bad event but they don’t feel much about what they remember.

If you are playing a movie without the sound, how do you know what the actors are passionately feeling? It’s the same thing with this traumatic recall of memories. You might see the video but not hear the pain in the voices. The negative or traumatic memory is fragmented into several files and you are only accessing one of the files—a place where you have stored the positive aspects of the relationship.

To complicate things further, positive memories are not stored like negative memories. They are not divided up into other files. They don’t need to be—they aren’t traumatic.

So when you remember a time when the relationship was good or cuddly, or the early parts of the relationships which are notoriously ‘honeymoon-ish’, the whole memory comes up—the emotional feelings, the visual, the auditory, the sensations. You have a WHOLE and STRONG memory with that. Of course that is WAY MORE appealing to have—a memory that is not only GOOD, but one in which you feel all the powerful aspects of it as well.

Now, close your eyes and pull up a negative memory. Can you feel the difference? You might see it but not feel it. Or hear it and not see much of it. Or feel a physical sensation of it but not the emotional piece that SHOULD go with the physical sensation. No matter what your experience is of the negative emotion, it is probably fragmented in some way.

Negative and traumatic memories are often incomplete memories—they are memory fragments floating all over your computer/mind. They are small files holding tiny bits of info that have fragmented your sense of the whole complete memory. These distorted and broken memory fragments are easily lost in your mind.

If you have grown up in an abusive or alcoholic home, you were already subconsciously trained how to separate memories like this. If your abuse was severe enough early on,  your mind just automatically does this anyway—if you get scared, or someone raises their voice, or you feel fear in anyway—your brain starts breaking down the painful experience so it’s easier for you to cope with.

Next time we will talk about one other way your mind handles positive and negative memories, and why you are flooded with positive recall and blocked from remembering and feeling those negative things he’s done to you.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com