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.)

 © www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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.

LADIES—WRONG FEELINGS!

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.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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.)

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Living the Gentle Life – Part 5: Soul Tearing, the Spiritual and Worldview Effects

The last few weeks we have been talking about the necessity of living a gentle life if you are recovering from a pathological love relationship. The damage it does to a person is profound and many are often diagnosed with a chronic stress disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These disorders respond best to a “gentle life” that allows the body, mind, and spirit to rest from the overload of adrenaline and stress it has experienced in the pathological relationship.

We have talked about how to physically adjust your environment if you have a stress disorder, and we have also talked about the emotional effects – anxiety, depression, and other aftermath effects associated with PTSD. Today, we are addressing the spiritual effects.

Dangerous and pathological relationships violate at a deep soul level. That’s because they touch on the core building blocks of our concepts about relationships – hope, love, and trust. Deception is evil and sick, and when you realize ‘who and what’ you have been with, there is a violation that cuts to the deepest part of a person – one’s spirit. Because of this, I devoted a portion of Women Who Love Psychopaths to the subject of spiritual evil and its correlation to some of the symptoms associated with pathology. There is an interesting chart in the chapter that connects psycho/spiritual evil.

Often these kinds of pathological relationships have already ‘played into’ your soul connection, leading you down the path of believing that your ‘connection’ was spiritual in nature. There were probably a lot of promises of the ‘life together’ and all of the “reasons God brought [you two] together.” In the end, they were lies. But before you knew they were lies, they were HOPES.

~ “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul.” ~ (Emily Dickenson)

So many pathological love relationships have an ‘intense attachment’ that feels like a ‘connection’ or ‘passion,’ when, in reality, it is just the intense game of the pathological sucking you in and hoping you will confuse intensity with something healthy.

Hope, love, and trust are all core spiritual values. When you have invested these core values and beliefs in someone, and then the heinous deception is revealed – that the ‘goal’ of the relationship was to manipulate you all along – something ‘rips’ inside of you. This ‘soul tearing’ brings a spiritual skepticism, a distrust that permeates everything you EVER believed… sometimes even about God. It’s a disastrous wound to your worldview – how you see yourself, others, God, and the world at large.

These mortal wounds to your worldview can last a long time because, in effect, they are the ways you have come to believe about yourself (I can’t trust my intuition), others (everyone is evil), the world (it’s a sick place), and God (He didn’t protect me). This profound shift in your worldview can increase the symptoms of PTSD – depression, anxiety, alienation, loneliness, isolation, and a fear or dread of the future.

So often the spiritual effects of the dangerous relationship are overlooked both by the victim and by the therapist. This ‘worldview earthquake’ has shaken the foundation of your belief system. Without repair to the foundation from which you build your self-concept, healing is limited to only symptom management. Spiritual healing of your worldview is paramount to your overall recovery.

If you are in counseling, please address the issue of spiritual effects with your counselor.  This is an area so often undertreated by many counselors. I teach on this aspect a lot during professional conferences, and therapists are eager to understand this facet of the spiritual side effects of the pathological relationship and their impact on chronic stress disorders.

(**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

 

Living the Gentle Life—Part 4: “Ah, Just Get a Life”

“Ah, just get a life!”

Have people ever told you that? Sometimes from the chronic stress and upheaval the pathological love relationship caused, people can get very one-dimensional and hyper-focused on him, their relationship, or the problems surrounding the relationship. They stop doing the kinds of things in their lives that could help them be LESS obsessed, depressed, or anxious. That’s because survivors tend to ‘lose themselves’ in the pathological relationship. It’s a testimony to the strength of pathology and the almost labyrinthine maze of hypnotic lull that occurs in these relationships.

The crazier it gets, the more the survivor feels like she needs to “try to understand it,” or “try to make him understand what he is doing,” or “do something that will help the relationship feel less pathological.” These ideas can create a 24/7 obsession – it can take up your whole life trying to balance the relationship, which you have probably figured out, cannot be balanced.

Getting lost in a very dark tunnel can draw people away from the actions, behaviors, thoughts, people, and resources that previously allowed them to live a happier and more balanced life. The pathological relationship is all-consuming, and soon, any level of your own self-care is abandoned for the insane focus on how to help him, or mend the relationship.

It isn’t very long before others around you notice the myopic and single-focused person you have become – that can’t think or talk about anything except the pathological relationship. This myopic view of your relationship has now blocked out any other part of your life. Consequently, people are bailing out of your life, and emotional resources are dwindling, as your life has become the size and shape of him.

Women in the most dire situations (especially in domestic violence cases) are those who have lost physical and emotional resources and can find no way to get out. The less support a woman feels from others, the more likely she is to stay because it takes support to get out, to break up, and to not go back. So, by the act of myopia, her life and resources just dwindle away.

One day someone says to her, “Man, you need to get a bigger life than THIS,” and something really hits her about that statement. Like coming out of a deep freeze, the lightbulb goes on. She notices her lack of a life and says, “What happened to me? Where is my life?”

The last few weeks in the newsletter, I have been talking about ‘living the gentle life,’ especially if you are someone who has lived in a pathological love relationship, or has a chronic stress disorder or PTSD. A gentle life is a full life. It is a life that includes the kinds of things that nurture you and bring you peace. The gentle life is healing, because the feeling of joy is sending the right kinds of signals to your brain that fight depression and anxiety. This gives the sensation of well-being. In order to heal, you need to be a ‘joy hunter.’

The fact is, women go back, or choose poorly again, because they fail to build a life for themselves. They know how to ‘invest and invest’ in him and in the relationship, but do not know how to ‘invest’ and build a life of their own – without him. Women who have healthy lives on the outside of the relationship are more likely to get out and to stay out.

Loneliness is one of the key risk factors that cause women to return to the relationship or one that is similar. There are so many ways to get your needs met for friendship, fun, support, beauty, or whatever you love in life. Building a life – especially a gentle life, is the best prevention for relapse a woman can do.

But sadly, many will not do this. After more than 25 years of doing this type of work, I can pick out who will and who will not invest in themselves by building a life. Those who don’t are in the same boat years down the road – either with the same pathological person, or another one just like him. Those who do build a life are less likely to feel pressure to date or, worse yet, to phone him out of loneliness.

The gentle life isn’t even possible unless you have a life and a mindset that is ready for transformation. Living with a pathological or picking another one is just about as opposite a gentle life as there is. Will you be one who rebuilds a fabulous life?

Joyce Brown, who inspired our work and who happens to have been my mother, said, “I’ve got to stop focusing on him and get a great life!” At 60, she went to college. At 70, she took up belly dancing. And after 70, she sailed her own boat to the Bahamas, traveled to Paris and beyond. She proved the point that creating a great life was, in and of itself, learning to create a gentle life.

Much healing 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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 3: The Emotional Effects

Last week I began talking about recovering from a pathological love relationship. The toll it takes on people often leaves them with symptoms of chronic stress. For extremely bad relationships, often the result is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—a diagnosed anxiety disorder. The long-term stress from the pathological love relationship (with narcissists, abusive partners, socio/psychopaths) affects people emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually.

I have been talking about what the body does when it is under chronic stress and the results of this unrelenting stress. The last newsletter discussed how to deal with the physical ramifications of stress. I also talked about changing your physical environment to embrace the needs of a stress disorder.

Today, we are going to discuss emotional effects and how to create the gentle life for your emotional needs as well.

PTSD is an emotional disorder that falls in the category of anxiety disorders. Therefore, someone with chronic stress of any kind needs to learn the types of techniques that help reduce emotional anxiety. The problem is, by the time people ask for help with chronic stress or PTSD, they have often lived with it for a long time and the symptoms are then extreme.

The emotional effects of untreated PTSD can include tension, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, or hyper-startle reflex. All of these are distressing and, over time, a combination of these symptoms can normally occur at the same time.

Relaxation techniques are a way of managing the physical symptoms of PTSD. Relaxation techniques are not ‘optional’ in the recovery of chronic stress/PTSD. That’s because these techniques have a dual purpose. These same relaxation techniques also help manage the emotional and physical symptoms. Learning correct breathing to ward off anxiety and panic attacks can be done through relaxation techniques.

Likewise, these same techniques can help with sleep disruptions and tension. Chronic stress and PTSD are disorders that should be treated by a professional therapist. Especially with PTSD, the symptoms tend to increase over time if not treated. People make the mistake of waiting until it is totally unbearable, and then it takes time to ease the symptoms. People are often hopeful it will just go away when the pathological relationship has ended or contact has ceased. These aren’t called the worst relationships in the world for nothing! They are labeled as such because they produce horrible side effects!

Unfortunately, PTSD is a chronic disorder meaning you are likely to have symptoms off and on for years, maybe a lifetime. This is all the more reason to learn how to manage the symptoms when you may need to. Intrusive thoughts are one of the most complained-about symptoms.

This is when unwanted thoughts of the pathological person or relationship keep popping up in your head. No matter how many times you try to not to think about them, they keep coming back. The problem with the images in your mind is that each time they pop up, they have the ability to trigger you. Your body responds to the trigger with adrenaline and starts the whole stress cycle over again. So managing the intrusive thoughts and flashbacks is imperative to emotionally regulating yourself and living the gentle life.

Living the gentle life means removing yourself from personalities that are similar to the pathological relationship. We often tend to migrate BACK to the same kinds of people and relationships we just left. These kinds of abusive people can cause an emotional avalanche. It is important that you understand the kinds of traits in people that should be avoided if you have PTSD or high-level stress. These could be people who remind you of the pathological person, loud or aggressive people, or those who violate your boundaries or bother you in other ways. Stress and PTSD do mandate that you develop self-protective skills such as setting boundaries—learning to say no or leave environments that increase your symptoms. Learn to migrate instead to people who are serene or leave you feeling relaxed and happy.

Creating your gentle physical environment will also help you emotionally. An environment that is soothing, calm, quiet, soft, and comfortable has the best chance of allowing an over-stimulated body to relax. Changing your physical environment for your emotional benefit, and adding relaxation techniques can greatly impact the amount of emotional symptoms you experience. Learning ‘emotional regulation skills’ for stress and PTSD is a must.

If you are in need of the following:

  • Pathological love relationship education
  • Healing the aftermath symptoms of intrusive thoughts, obsessive thinking, flashbacks, anxiety, depression
  • Learning to manage PTSD

…The Institute is just the place to get your life back! For information on the services we offer, go to www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com. We’ll be happy to help you find a treatment modality that is right for 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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 2: The Physical Effects

Last week I began talking about the normal aftermath of pathological love relationships—Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is often reactivated by ‘triggers’. These can include people, places, things, or sensory feelings that reconnect you with the trauma of the relationship. In the last newsletter, I talked briefly about the gentle life and how an overtaxed and anxious body/mind needs a soothing life. I cannot stress this enough: people MUST remember that their PTSD symptoms CAN BE reactivated if they aren’t taking care of themselves and living a gentle life.

What IS a gentle life? A gentle life is a life lived remembering the sensitivities of your PTSD. It isn’t ignored or wished away—it is considered and compensated for. Since PTSD affects one physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually—all of those elements need to be considered in a gentle life. Just as if you had diabetes you would consider what to eat or what medication you need to take, so it is with PTSD.

Interestingly, although PTSD is listed in the psychiatric manual as an emotional disorder, PTSD has some very real physical effects as well. In fact, there has been some discussion among professionals about having PTSD listed in physicians manuals as well, because the untreated, ongoing effects of acute stress are well-known in the medical community. Since PTSD has both components of emotional and physical symptoms, someone recovering from PTSD must take those aspects into account.

Physically, PTSD often becomes a chronic condition by the time you get help. That means you have been living with it for a while and it has been wreaking havoc on your physical body during that time. Unbridled anxiety/stress/fear pumps enormous amounts of adrenaline and cortisol into your body. This over-stimulates your body and mind, and causes insomnia, paranoia, hyperactivity, a racing mind/intrusive thoughts and the inability to ‘let down’ and ‘rest’.

A body that has been living on adrenaline needs the adrenal glands to ‘chill!’ People often complain of chronic insomnia, which also leads to depression. Depression can lead to lethargy, overeating, weight gain and hopelessness. It is possible to have both anxiety and depression occurring at the same time. Unmanaged stress, anxiety, and adrenaline can lead to long-term medical problems often associated with stress—lower GI problems, migraines, teeth grinding, aggravated periods, chest pain, panic attacks, and most auto-immune disorders like fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and MS.

So, CLEARLY, PTSD is something that SHOULD be treated. Physically, that means going to someone who can diagnose you—a therapist or psychiatrist. In the early part of treatment, it is normal to take anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants or sleep aids in order to rectify your depleted brain chemistry and to allow the adrenal glands to rest and stop pumping out adrenaline. Your doctor is the best person to tell you what will help to relieve your physical symptoms. Some use alternative medicine to deal with those symptoms. What is effective for each person varies.

Additionally, you need to help your body and brain produce the ‘good stuff’ in your brain chemistry. This means exercising, eating well, and learning relaxation techniques. Too much adrenaline has been pumping through your body with no way to get utilized.  Excessive adrenaline makes you feel jumpy and restless. Exercise (even moderate walking) helps to produce endorphins in your brain, which produce those feelings of well-being and help to burn off the adrenaline and any extra weight you might have gained.

Although during depression you often don’t FEEL like exercising, you will always feel bad if you don’t get your body moving. Stress is even stored at the cellular level of our bodies. You must, must, must get moving in order to feel better.

Eating well means not trying to medicate your depression and low energy with carbs. When you are depressed your body craves carbs as a source of quick energy, but the spikes in blood sugar add to the sense of mood highs and lows. You’ve already had enough ‘junk’ in the relationship—think of it as nurturing your body with good food to replace all the ‘junk’ that it has been through. You can greatly help mood swings by eating well.

It’s also necessary to deal with the negative habits you have acquired as coping mechanisms. Many people with PTSD try to medicate their anxiety and depression. This could be through smoking, relationship hopping, sex, eating/bingeing/purging, drugs (legal and illegal), and the increased use of alcohol. In fact, one of the devastating side effects of PTSD is how many people develop alcoholism as a result. Any habits you are prone to right now tend to increase when you have PTSD, because the particular habit becomes more and more a way to manage your PTSD symptoms. Finding positive coping skills instead of negative habits is a great step toward your recovery.

Physical recovery also means paying attention to not reactivating your symptoms. Your physical environment in which you live, play and work must be conducive to low stimulation. That means low light, low noise, low aggravation. Sometimes that means making big changes in the people you hang out with—getting rid of the loud, noisy, overactive, aggressive and pathological. And sometimes it means making big changes in a job where the environment does nothing but trigger you.

Lastly, learning relaxation techniques is not optional for people with PTSD. PTSD is a chronic state of hyper-vigilance, agitation, and restlessness. Your body has been over-ridden with adrenaline for a long time and has ‘forgotten’ its equilibrium in relaxation. It must be re-taught. Re-teaching means doing it daily. Take 5 to 10 minutes a day to use relaxation breathing and allow your mind to unwind. Give positive messages to your body to relax to help you tap into this natural relaxation, even during times you are not actively trying to relax. The more you use these techniques, the quicker your body can relax—even at work or when you are doing something else because it has ‘remembered’ how to.

There are many tapes, CDs and videos you can buy on relaxation that walk you through the process of relaxation. We have products created especially for managing PTSD on the magazine site—www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com/category/audio-products.

Taking yoga will also teach you how to use correct breathing techniques that help correct the shallow/panting breathing that is associated with PTSD and anxiety. Shallow breathing or panting can actually trigger panic attacks. Learning to breathe well again is a metaphor for ‘exhaling’ all the junk you’ve been through and releasing it. If you don’t have a relaxation tape, you can download our mp3 audio on relaxation techniques. Most important is to just become acutely aware that PTSD is as physical (and often medical) as it is emotional.

Next week we will talk about PTSD and the emotional effects.

(**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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 1: Be Gentle with Yourself

 

“Be gentle with yourself. The rest of your life deserves it.”  (Sandra L. Brown, MA)

As we’ve discussed before, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma-related anxiety disorder, and is often seen as an aftermath constellation of symptoms from pathological love relationships. Exposure to other people’s pathology (and the corresponding emotional, physical/sexual abuse) can, and often does, give other people stress disorders, including PTSD. Our psychological and emotional systems are simply not wired for long-term exposure to someone else’s abnormal psychology. Often the result is a conglomeration of aftermath symptoms that include PTSD, which is described as a normal reaction to an abnormal life event.

The profound and long-term effects of PTSD create what I refer to as a ‘cracked vessel.’ The fragmentation caused by the trauma creates a crack in the emotional defense system of the person. While treatment can ‘glue the crack back together,’ and the vessel can once again function as a vessel, if pressure is applied to the crack, the vase will split apart again. This means that the crack is a stress fracture in the vessel—it’s the part of the vessel that is damaged and weakened in that area.

There are numerous types of therapies that can help PTSD. If you have it, or someone you care about has it, you/they should seek treatment. PTSD does not go away by itself, and if left untreated, can worsen. People often have missed the opportunity of treating PTSD when it was still relatively treatable and responsive to therapy. The sooner it’s treated, the better the outcome. But any treatment, at any time, can still help PTSD.

However, what is often not recognized is the ‘continual’ life that must be lived when living with the aftermath of PTSD. Because the cracked vessel can crack again, a gentle and balanced life will relieve a lot of the PTSD symptoms that can linger. I have often seen people who have put a lot of effort into their recovery and NOT put a lot of effort into the quality of a gentle life following treatment. This is a mistake, because going back into a busy and crazy life, or picking another pathological, could reactivate PTSD.

As much as people want to ‘get back out there,’ and think they can return to the life they used to live, often that’s not true. Wanting to live like you did in the past or do what you did before does not mean that you will be able to. I know, I know… it ticks you off that the damage is interfering with the person you used to be… before pathology exposure (BPE). But wanting it to be different doesn’t make it different. If you have PTSD, you need to know what to realistically expect in your prognosis.

Consequently, many people’s anxiety symptoms return if their life is not gentle enough.  Much like a 12-step program, ‘living one day at a time’ is necessary, and understanding your proclivity must be foremost in your mind.

Living the gentle life means reducing your exposure to triggers that can reactivate your PTSD. Only you know what these are. If you don’t know, then that’s the first goal of therapy—to find and identify your triggers. You can’t avoid (or even treat) what you don’t know exists.

Triggers are exposures to emotional, physical, sexual, visual, auditory, or kinesthetic reminders that set off anxiety symptoms. These triggers could be people, places, objects, sounds, phrases (songs!), tastes, or smells which reconnect you to your trauma. Once you are reconnected to your trauma, your physical body reacts by pumping out the adrenaline and you become hyper-aroused, which is known as hyper-vigilance. This increases paranoia, insomnia, startle reflex and a lot of other overstimulated and anxiety-oriented behaviors.

Other triggers that are not trauma-specific, but you should be on the alert for, are violent movies, TV, or music, and high-level noises. Also, be alert to lifestyle/jobs/people that are too fast-paced, busy environments, risky or scary jobs, bosses or co-workers who have personality disorders and are abrasive, or any other situations that kick-start your anxiety. Women are often surprised that other people’s pathology now sets them off. Once they have been exposed to pathology and have acquired PTSD from this exposure, other pathology can trigger PTSD symptoms. Living ‘pathology free’ is nearly mandatory—to the degree that you can ‘un-expose’ yourself to other known pathologies.

The opposite of chronic exposure to craziness and pathology would be the gentle life.  Think ‘zen retreat center’—a subdued environment where your senses can rest… where a body that has been pumped up with adrenaline can let down… and a mind that races can relax. Where the video flashbacks can go on pause, and fast-paced chest panting can turn into slow, diaphragmatic breathing. Where darting eyes can close, soft scents soothe, and gentle music lulls. Where high heels come off and flip-flops go on. Where long quiet walks give way to tension release … quieting of the mind chases off the demons of hyperactive thinking… so when you whisper, you can hear yourself.

Only, this isn’t a retreat center for a yearly visit… this is your life, where your recovery and your need for all things gentle are center in your life. It doesn’t mean you need to quit your job or move to a mountain, but it does mean that you attend to your over-stimulated physical body. Those things in your life that you can control, such as the tranquility of your environment, need to be adjusted. Lifestyle adjustments ARE required for those who want to avoid reactivating anxiety. This includes psychological/emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual self-care techniques.

The one thing you can count on about PTSD is, when you aren’t taking care of yourself, your body will SCREAM IT! Your life cannot be the crazy-filled life you may watch others live. Your need for exercise, quiet, healthy food, spirituality, tension release, and joy are as necessary as oxygen for someone with PTSD. Walking the gentle path is your best guard against more anxiety and your best advocate for peace.

(**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