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

When Am I Ready to Help Others?

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

At the heart of any grassroots effort or organization is the concept of the wounded healer. There wouldn’t be a women’s movement without those who have been victims of something or other helping newer victims. It’s not only the heart of grassroots organizations like ours, but of the victims-rights movement and many other strong and healing national movements in general. I think of Alcoholics Anonymous or any other 12-step program—drug addicts helping other addicts, rape survivors helping new victims, domestic violence victims volunteering at shelters, Hurricane Katrina victims helping at Habitat for Humanity. And the list goes on. It’s the genesis of any giving organization—someone gets hurt, heals, and then helps. That’s how it all works. The trick is to know when you are well enough to help.

In 1983 my father was murdered. I was in my 20s and happily working in the field of marketing—far, far away from psychology or the self-help field. But after seeing the murder scene, acquiring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), finding no help and getting worse, I decided if I EVER got better I’d help others with PTSD. Luckily, a national pilot project for survivors of homicide victims was forming to see if we responded to group counseling. I was fortunate to be in the first test group—I was helped and I did keep my word. I stayed on at the group… helped open an office, developed training programs to teach others how to treat surviving family members of a murder, did court advocacy with family members of murder victims, was a media spokesperson on large public murder trials, spoke at conferences, lobbied for new laws and went back to school to get my degree so I could do even more. As I began to heal, I slowly became more involved in the field of victimology.

That was over 30 years ago. Since then, I have worked not only with survivors of homicide, but those of incest, cults, domestic violence, rape, and every kind of trauma disorder imaginable. I have started nonprofit mental-health centers, the country’s first long-term residential treatment program for women with multiple personalities (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder), hospital trauma programs, outpatient programs, and church programs. I have worked in domestic violence shelters, women’s programs, and court-ordered battering programs for men. I have worked with the sexually addicted and the sexually traumatized. I have traveled to Brazil and helped start victim organizations there to help millions of abandoned street children. I have trained workers for Australia in cult deprogramming. I developed and hosted my own TV show called, “A Voice for Victims” and did regular radio shows with several stations. I have written seven books (and counting), numerous e-books, created CDs and DVDs, and written for several women’s online websites and programs.

Now I direct The Institute, conduct research, phone counseling, writing, therapeutic retreats and counseling. To tell the truth, I can’t even REMEMBER everything I have done to date! LOL! (Maybe that’s a GOOD thing!) The point is, many years ago my life was altered by a murder. For over 30 years I have given my life’s work to reaching out. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s all been easy or even financially supportive work. It’s been a financially ‘barren’ field of work—I’ll never make retirement. Whatever financial gain there is, I just dole it back out to other women’s organizations. BUT it’s at the heart of my own recovery and belief system that when we are ready enough and healthy enough, giving back strengthens our own recovery.

Someone once said, “You never help someone else without first helping yourself.” Every time I help someone else with PTSD, it helps me too. Every time I help someone recognize pathology in others, it helps me remember it too. At the core of recovery is the need and almost spiritual mandate to reach out and give others the hope that you now have. It’s only hope that keeps others going, not ‘end it all’ or want to give up and go back to him.

We don’t really have the answers for another person’s life; we only have information and hope. That’s what we give. But like Mother Teresa said, “Give what you’ve got.” The title, ‘wounded healer’ is a little misleading. It sounds like anyone wounded can be a healer; that any trauma leads to triumph, that any hurt can help others.

Over the years of running counseling programs and centers and teaching counseling classes, I heard fresh new interns come in and say, “I was raped so I want to help the raped.” It’s a great grassroots philosophy and, when it works, it works great. And when it doesn’t work, it hurts other people. I would try to explain to interns when they would really be able to EFFECTIVELY give back, but many didn’t want to hear me; if they wanted to do it, it must be time to do it.

When it matters more that you “just do it” than if you do it safely and effectively, then it’s probably not about the victim and more about your own woundedness that still needs healing.

The interns would volunteer to run an abuse group and the first story that hit too close to home or sounded like their own trauma, they ended up in a meltdown—crying in the group they were supposed to lead. They would go home and have nightmares or flashbacks or become so preoccupied they could no longer function well. We call this ‘vicarious trauma’ or Secondary PTSD—when PTSD becomes reactivated from working or helping too soon after their own trauma OR, like in the 9/11 attacks, when so much overexposure to other people’s pain causes symptoms of PTSD they didn’t previously have.

Jumping in too early leads to reactivation of PTSD and career burnout (like being in and out of the counseling field in only a couple of years). The helper can become so re-engrossed in their own trauma that they end up acting more like the people they are trying to help because they…

  • believe they can ‘save or fix’ someone else
  • tell their own stories in too much detail in group
  • become reactivated emotionally, physically, spiritually and sexually
  • feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of helping others
  • are too invested in helping other people change their lives
  • invest too much of their personal or family time in other people’s problems
  • go home re-traumatized as if they told their own story even though they hadn’t
  • neglect their own self-care, family, and their own emotional and spiritual needs
  • can become encased in a Messiah Complex

Then they end up burning out because their startle reflex is increased, their sleep is disrupted and their irritability is high. If this happened to a professional mental-health counselor, we would call this an ‘impaired practitioner,’ and she might be put on a hiatus for R&R. If you are a volunteer and you act this way, you get the Volunteer of the Year Award and are rewarded for burning yourself out. In too many self-help areas, vicarious trauma is applauded and upheld as a standard of devotion to a cause instead of an unbalanced act of self-neglect.

We need people in our organizations who WANT to give back. We need them to be healed enough that they actually HAVE something to give back, which is why I’m leery of online forums run by survivors who might not be in the greatest emotional shape themselves. Gauging your own self-health may be subjective… Am I ready? is a great self-exploratory question. Because at the heart of all of us who want to give back robustly, we want to do it with a right motive—giving, not expecting, to get anything back from extremely wounded people—AND with a healthy mental state that allows us to listen without triggers and to help without burning out.

If you feel you are ready, there are lots of great places to help. Go work at a women’s organization—answer the office phones, help with a fundraiser, work in the office, pick up donations. Get your feet wet and stay around the issue you want to work in and see how you do. Don’t offer to answer the crisis phone line if you are only a few months out of your own crisis relationship. That isn’t realistic.

Recovery from abuse is slo-o-ow… it takes longer than you think it does. But you probably have skills you CAN use now—in other ways. When I was too burned out to be of help to anyone, I knew I could plate food at a homeless shelter and offer a smile. I could do that much at that time. Do what you can, stay healthy yourself, continue to work on your own recovery—recovery isn’t an event, it’s a lifestyle. The opportunity to help others will continue to present itself. It’s just what happens when the hurt heals and the hurt helps others.

If you know you are ready give the best of yourself to a women’s organization in your own community, don’t volunteer to distract yourself from your necessary healing. Volunteer when you’ve achieved a healthy, strong recovery and can maintain it. If we can help you in your recovery, we’re here to help you strengthen so you too can pay it forward.

(**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

What We Believe About Pathology and Relational Health

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

“Some of the most disturbing realities are not that pathology exists, but that so little public pathology education for the general public exists.”

—Sandra L. Brown, M.A., The Institute

The Problem with the Unrecognized Face of Pathology

 We live in an age where “Positive Psychology” has ingrained a mantra into society’s psyche—which is:

If you think it

                     (i.e., the narcissist/psychopath needs to change his behavior)

Then you can make it happen

                           (i.e., your relationship will be successful when he changes)

That may be true when you are with a person who has normal psychology.  But it’s a long way from being true for those who have pathology.

For many years, people have thought that if they focused hard enough, loved long enough, tolerated more, and carried a positive attitude, their partner would somehow become unaffected by the personality disorder—even the psychopathy they bore. People believed this because they were often told this by professionals—all under the guises of different therapy approaches and theories.

For years, people who had gone through traditional forms of couples counseling came to us bearing the scars from not only the pathology in their partner who abused them, but by the wrong application of couples counseling therapy.  When there was the pathology of having no conscience, a lack of remorse, impaired insight, or low impulse control in a partner, traditional forms of counseling proved unsuccessful.  What occurred were often techniques in Mirroring, Love Languages, Communication Building, Intimacy, or Spiritual Reflecting for a partner who had no insight and lacked empathy for what his partner had experienced.  Equally prevalent were ideologies that “the pathological came into my life to heal me,” or “this is a spiritual manifestation for me to grow by,” or “he is in my life to heal my issues from early childhood.”

Equally damaging, lack of public information often occurs through women’s organizations that lump problem behavior in one category (abuser) and leave the impairment of pathology out of the equation.  People are then forced to conform to theories that do not fit their dynamics in order to get help, and miss the crucial ability to understand which disorders hold hope for change, and which do not.

There is emotional, physical, and relational danger in applying pop psychology principles to something as aberrant as pathology.  Trying to attract the positive to the relationship so the pathology is transformed leaves people ignoring the traits of pathology that can seriously harm them.  It is no wonder we are not further ahead in being able to spot abnormal psychology in others and avoid it.

The truth is, nothing impacts non-pathological people as much as being in a relationship with someone who is pathological.  Add to that the lack of understanding of how pathology manifests in relationships, and the manipulative behavior of those with pathology—and you have partners, families, and children who are devastated almost as much by the lack of information, as by the destruction that happens at the hands of the pathological.  Without the education of what the disorder is, how it came to be, whom it affects, and why it harms others—partners, families, and children live in the shadows of unspoken confusion and pain.  This also “bleeds over” to family court, mediators, social workers, and judges, who also do not recognize pathology, or care to understand it, leaving cases in limbo and in danger, labeled as “contentious” or “high conflict.”

Many who have found The Institute’s programs and products have said, “This is the first time anyone has ever explained this to me in a way I can understand.”  I have seen that when people finally found information that described their partner’s pathology, the awareness often gave way to crying, and then to anger.  It was the information they wanted that was out there all along, but was not easy to find, or was sometimes not easy to understand or explained in layman’s terms.

Equally as frustrating is such poor and inaccurate training generated out of generic approaches to pathology in graduate schools which leaves professionals with the inability to spot pathology in others, and a total loss about how to treat the survivors.  Consequently, the mental health field has done little to train the public about what pathology is, the limitation of wellness it implies, and what it looks and acts like in relationships, because they themselves do not know.

The efforts of The Institute are to bridge the gap in public pathology education to both survivors and treatment providers.  One of our bridges in public pathology education is for survivors and is achieved by providing the best and most up-to-date recovery options for their unique aftermath symptoms.  The second bridge is our approaches for victim service providers in the fields of mental health, criminal justice, nursing/medical, pastoral, addiction, and law enforcement.  Our products for service providers as well as our trainings have equipped professionals in many fields from many countries with the tools they need to help heal the aftermath of pathological love relationships.

An M.D. said to me recently, “I consider pathology and its untaught concepts to be the number-one health crisis in this country.”

 We couldn’t agree more.  We hope that the work of the many professionals who are involved with The Institute will be the part of the solution to the unrecognized face of pathology and its victims.

(**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

Addictive Relationships

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

Let’s face it. If we were really good at choosing healthy relationships, we wouldn’t be here reading information about dangerous men. We would be happily somewhere else with a healthy guy! So let’s at least begin with the universal assumption that we haven’t done our best job at selecting potential relationships with men who actually HAVE potential!

There are a lot of ways to define relationships that don’t work well. Often they are called ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘abusive’ or ‘bankrupt.’ But, what I’d like to focus on are those relationships that, despite all the horrible things going on in them, the women are encased in a web they cannot climb out of because their relationships are ‘addictive’.

Some people do not realize that relationships/love/sex can qualify as an addiction or an out-of-control behavior. Addictive relationships are characterized by attachments to someone who, for the most part, is not available emotionally. In addictive relationships there is a single overwhelming involvement with another person that cuts the women off from other parts of their lives. The results of trying to be in an addictive relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable are:

  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Franticness
  • Obsession
  • Loneliness
  • Despair
  • Anger
  • Feeling stuck

Addictive relationships have similar qualities to other patterns of addiction, which ‘rob’ people of the quality of their lives. They impact the ability to:

  • Have healthy communication
  • Have authentic enjoyment of one another
  • Love each other outside of dependency
  • Be their healthiest self
  • Be able to leave the relationship if it becomes unhealthy or destructive

Addictive relationships are described by women as “a feeling that I just cannot leave him no matter how bad he has been or how awful I feel”. There is a battle going on inside of them and, despite a normally rational approach to life, they still cannot unhinge themselves from this pattern of destruction that they know is bad for them. They often feel helpless to make the choice to leave. They are ‘hooked in’ in ways they do not even understand.

As is true in other addictions, you lose the ability to constructively manage your own life. Like drug or alcohol addiction, addictive relationships show the same signs of:

  • Magical thinking
  • Helplessness to stop the addiction/relationship
  • Feeling bad about one’s inability to stop
  • Passivity
  • Low initiative to stop the behavior and/or relationship

The inability to manage one’s life is often connected to belief systems that you hold about yourself, your future and relationships. Often these beliefs are what they call “stinking thinking” — that is, at the core of these, are erroneous beliefs often developed from childhood on.

Unmet childhood needs warp into adult ‘neediness’, which places a person at higher risk for developing dependent and addictive relationships as an adult.

If your childhood was affected by your parents’ relationship or someone your parent dated, please be aware that the same thing can happen to YOUR children. A good reason to work on yourself and to stop dating dangerous men is your children and to stop the damaging effects on them. Addictive relationships are always the destructive exploitation of one’s self and the other person which masquerades as love.

The following checklist is a guide to help you identify any tendency towards relationship addiction or unhealthy relationships in general. If you answer ‘Yes’ to most of the following statements, you probably have a problem with relationship addictions.

  • To be happy, you need a relationship. When you are not in a relationship, you feel depressed, and the cure for healing that depression usually involves meeting a new person.
  • You often feel magnetically drawn to another person. You act on this feeling even when you suspect the person may not be good for you.
  • You often try to change another person to meet your ideal.
  • Even when you know a relationship isn’t good for you, you find it difficult to break it off.
  • When you consider breaking a relationship, you worry about what will happen to the other person without you.
  • After a break-up, you immediately start looking for a new relationship in order to avoid being alone.
  • You are often involved with someone unavailable who lives far away, is married, is involved with someone else, or is emotionally distant.
  • A kind, available person probably seems boring to you, and even if he/she likes you, you will probably reject him/her.
  • Even though you may demonstrate independence in other areas, you are fearful of independence within a love relationship.
  • You find it hard to say no to the person with whom you are involved.
  • You do not really believe you deserve a good relationship.
  • Your self-doubt causes you to be jealous and possessive in an effort to maintain control.
  • Sexually, you are more concerned with pleasing your partner than pleasing yourself.
  • You feel as if you are unable to stop seeing a certain person even though you know that continuing the relationship is destructive to you.
  • Memories of a relationship continue to control your thoughts for months or even years after it has ended.
  • Even though you know the relationship is bad for you (and perhaps others have told you this), you take no effective steps to end it.
  • You give yourself reasons for staying in the relationship that are not really accurate or that are not strong enough to counteract the harmful aspects of the relationship.
  • When you think about ending the relationship, you feel terrible anxiety and fear, which make you cling to it even more.
  • When you take steps to end the relationship, you suffer painful withdrawal symptoms, including physical discomfort that is only relieved by reestablishing contact.

SO—Are you addicted? Finding the true answer, while it may be concerning, is at least a step towards taking more control of your pattern of selection to stop the cycle with dangerous men. The first step is awareness. Here are some tips for overcoming your relationship addiction:

Robin Norwood, in her excellent book, Women Who Love Too Much, outlines a 10-step plan for overcoming your relationship addiction. While this book is directed toward women, its principles are equally valid for men. Stated here (reordered and sometimes paraphrased), Norwood suggests the following:

  1. Make your recovery the first priority in your life.
  2. Become “self-ish,” by focusing on getting your own needs met more effectively.
  3. Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
  4. Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself. Fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.
  5. Learn to stop managing and controlling others. By being more focused on your own needs, you will no longer need to seek security by trying to make others change.
  6. Develop your spiritual side. Find out what brings YOU peace and serenity and commit some time—at least half an hour daily—to that endeavor.
  7. Learn not to get hooked into games in relationships. Avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, such as rescuer/helper, persecutor/blamer, victim/helpless one.
  8. Find a support group of friends who understand.
  9. Share with others what you have experienced and learned.
  10. Consider getting professional help/counseling.

Some women get stuck trying to get out. Others get stuck trying to choose differently the next time by trying to not end up with a dangerous man AGAIN. Here are some signs you might need professional assistance for a short time to help you get unstuck:

  1. When you are very unhappy in a relationship, but are unsure whether you should accept it as it is, make further efforts to improve it, or get out of it.
  2. When you have concluded that you should end a relationship and have tried to make yourself end it, but remain stuck.
  3. When you suspect that you are staying in a relationship for the wrong reasons, such as feelings of guilt or fear of being alone, and you have been unable to overcome the paralyzing effects of such feelings.
  4. When you recognize that you have a pattern of staying in bad relationships and that you have not been able to change that pattern by yourself.

Know that, as your relationship addiction increases, it becomes more difficult to cope with anyone or anything else. This becomes all-encompassing. There is the rush of the addictive relationship that is absent from healthy relationships. Often women misread that sign to think it means there is a strong connection—it just might not be a healthy connection! Addiction is where two people use each other to fill their own loneliness. They are distractions from the inner pain of what someone is feeling.

The only way through pain is going through the middle of it. The only way to find healthier relationships is to work on yourself so that YOU are healthy and you are choosing relationships out of the healthiest part of yourself. (Thanks to the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois for information on addictive relationships.)

In closing, the only defense is self-defense. And the only self-defense is knowledge. We can help you realize your potential need for future insight into the area of dangerousness. Perhaps this article illuminates areas in which you need more knowledge, more insight or more information. If, after reading this, you recognize your own patterns, please avail yourself to more information through our products and services or through your local women’s organizations and counseling programs.

(**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

Real Love, Not Just Real Attraction

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

So many people confuse the feeling of attraction with the emotion of love.  For some who are in chronically dangerous and pathological relationships, it’s obvious they have these two elements mixed up.  Understandably, not being able to untangle these can keep people on the same path of unsafe relationship selection because they keep choosing the same way and getting the same people!

Attraction is not only unconscious but also largely physical.  There is actually something called “erotic imprint” which is the unconscious part that guides our attraction (I talk about this in How to Spot a Dangerous Man.)  Our erotic imprint is literally “imprinted” in our psyches when we are young—at the age when we begin to notice and be attracted to the opposite sex.  As I mentioned, this is largely an unconscious drive.  For instance, I like stocky, dark-haired men. Whenever I see that type of image, I immediately find that man “attractive.” I can vary slightly on my attraction but I’m not going to find Brad Pitt attractive. I might forego the full “stocky” appearance, but I’m not going to let go of some of the other traits that make men appealing to me. We like what we like. For instance, I am attracted to Johnny Depp and George Clooney. I don’t like any of the blondes or overly tall and lanky body types.

If you think back to what your “attraction basis” is, you may find some patterns there as well.  Attraction, however, can also be behavioral or based on emotional characteristics.  For instance, some women are attracted to guys with a great sense of humor.  The attraction is based on that particular characteristic.  Other women may be attracted to athletic guys, not because of what physical exercise does to their bodies, but because of the behavioral qualities of athletes.

Attraction can be subtle—like the unconscious erotic imprinting that makes us select men based on physical attributes—or attraction may lead us to choose relationships based on behaviors or emotional characteristics like displays of empathy, helpfulness, or friendliness.  (I have discussed your own high traits of empathy, helpfulness, and friendliness in Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Although these traits might guide our relationship selection, this is not the foundation of love.  It’s the foundation of selection.  Often, our relationship selection comes more from attraction than it does anything else.  So knowing who and what types you are attracted to will help you understand your patterns of selection.  Some people choose characteristics—helpfulness, humor, gentleness, or another quality that they seem to be drawn to.  Other people are more physical in their attraction and find the physicality of someone either a “go” or a “no.” Maybe you like blondes or blue eyes.  This may also drive your pattern of selection.

Also, in the area of attraction—sometimes it’s “traumatic attraction” that seems to drive our patterns of selection. Those who have been abused, especially as children, can have unusual and destructive patterns of selection.

This Valentine’s Day, be very clear about love and attraction.  This is a time when you might be likely to want to reconnect with him.  Let me remind you, NOTHING has changed.  His pathology is still the same. On February 15th you could hate yourself for reconnecting with him for one weak moment on February 14th, a day in which the world is focused on love, but he is focused on manipulation, control, or anything OTHER than love.  If you open that door, you will have weeks or months of trying to get him out and disconnect again.

Instead, plan ahead for your potential relapse by setting up an accountability partner AND something to do! Go to a movie with a friend, go out to dinner—do SOMETHING that takes responsibility and action for your own loneliness at this time of year.  Whatever you do, don’t have a knee-jerk reaction and contact him.  One day on the calendar about love is just an ILLUSION!

(**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

Relationships Found On the Internet

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

With the need to date fast and find quick relationships, on-line dating and the internet have taken on the role of ‘hook-up’ locations. Unfortunately, it is also a potential stalking ground for relationship seeking gone awry.

There are some inherent problems with on-line and/or internet relationship seeking:

  • It is difficult to read body language, eye lingo, and verbal pacing of sentences via email.
  • One of the ways people can keep themselves safe in dating relationships is to feel and respond to their red flags. Red flags are greatly reduced by the inability to see firsthand someone’s immediate response to statements or questions.
  • Texting and email, which are usually how people first talk when they’ve met on-line or via the internet, impair the ability to get early insight into potential relationship problems.
  • You never know, for certain, that the other person is really who they say they are.

People have created false senses of intimacy via on-line and internet relationships. I know of one woman who met a man from Iran on the internet and went there to marry him without ever having met him in person. It was a disaster and hard for her to get back to the States. He was nothing that he had represented himself as.

A false sense of relationship intimacy contributes to rapid disclosure of personal information. The relationship connection with someone on-line (that you have no idea if he is safe or not or who he says he is) becomes privy to a bulimic-like purge of personal problems and detailed information. This is very common for women to rapidly disclose, and over disclose, personal and historical information.

Dangerous and predatory men have stated that “women who rapidly and overly disclose make my approach easy.” Men who are not highly verbal in person may be very verbal online and the woman mistakenly perceives this as a relationship, connection, truth-based knowledge about the person, and intimacy.

These dating venues increase relationship fantasy–anyone can be whoever they want you to think they are, and someone you aren’t sure you will ever meet. The increase in non-credible information about someone is significantly higher. People can lie about where they live, their marriage status, previous relationship history, career, appearance, or criminal history.

People who are unhappy in their marriage find on-line and internet relationships to be the perceived escape out of misery they have been seeking. Many are disappointed (or even horrified) to find the relationship on-line is all fantasy and not much reality. Women have left husbands for on-line men who never materialize. When it comes to who the person or what the relationship is, they find it’s more about what the person has projected and fantasized the relationship to be – not what it really is or will become in the future.

In the beginning of on-line dating, many women report it’s how they found their current husband and are very happy with him. But as time has gone on, more and more predators and con artists have learned that it is an easy place to hide their true self and identities and use it to find their next victim.

While it is unlikely that on-line and internet relationship seeking will ever disappear, women need to understand the risks of using these methods for meeting someone and the ways they put a woman at a distinct disadvantage in reading body language, hearing the tone of voice, and being alerted to red flags.

Be vigilant in your attempts to get back into dating and stay safe!

(**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

What Do You Tell Them

By Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Survivor Services

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

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

There are a couple things to consider when deciding what you are going to tell others.  You might be tempted to tell everyone the severity of the manipulation, or the details of every gaslighting incident, or the shame he made you feel for HIS affair.  But this temptation is often driven by your need for validation.  You can temper this desire by validating yourself.  You have to come to accept that he is what he is.  When you fully understand Cluster B, you will know that it is a complicated disorder.  You will know that, really, it is a disorder of social hiding.

Cluster Bs, by nature, do not make themselves known as such.  The disorder is marked by a perfectly placed mask.  This is what they want others to see.  They have worked their whole lives creating that mask.  It was created through a process of learning what works, what can be believed and what is socially acceptable for their environment.  It is pure survival for them—life or death.  It is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will see who they are.  And it certainly is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will understand the two sides.

If they don’t show it, how are others expected to understand it?  Because of this mask, only you might know.  You will know the good and the bad, the sweet and the sour, the lies and the truth.  You saw the behaviors, you heard the contradictions, you felt the fear.  Essentially, you don’t need anyone to tell you that.  And if you believe yourself, the need for validation ends.

Once you have established a pattern of self-validation, you can begin to determine who needs to know what.  First, consider your audience.  Everyone does not need to know everything.  You might want to evaluate who needs to know what.  Your co-worker might not need to know as many details as your sister.  Your boss may not need to know as much as your co-worker.  Your acquaintances may not need to know what your neighbor needs to know.

Each of these groups may have very different experiences of your Cluster B; therefore, proving to them who he is may put you in a defensive position.  That’s the last place you need to be in the recovery process.  So, be honest with yourself about what your Cluster B gave to the people in his life and the people in your life.

Think about telling some people nothing.  What a novel idea—not talking about your trauma.  This strategy can be helpful in keeping your mind in a place of validation and away from defensiveness.

You can maintain recovery thinking by not looking outside of yourself for answers once a traumatic memory has been resolved.  You have done the work; you know what you know, so now use it to validate yourself.

To say nothing can also protect your recovery.  The co-worker who questions, “Why didn’t you leave sooner?” might not need to know all the horrible things that he did which prevented you from leaving.  But worse than that, the co-worker may not need to know that you did not leave because he continued to build a fantasy for you.  That every time you finally decided to leave, he pulled you back in with roses, a romantic getaway or a sentimental recounting of your first Christmas together.

If you decide to launch into positive memories with your co-workers… you are re-traumatizing yourself. You have now taken the leap back into cognitive dissonance just to explain to someone else what you already understand.  What if you just said to your co-worker, “I left when I was ready to leave and I’m glad he’s gone.  How was your weekend?”

Once you’ve determined who to tell what, you can then begin to craft the language that you will use.  Some people can understand the clinical words and explanation.  These are the people who can understand what it means to be with a psychopath—someone who might read some of the books you’ve read or read an article about pathological relationships.

Other people may need more common phrases like, “I was in a dangerous relationship,” or “I was psychologically manipulated.”  Still others may respond to the use of a metaphor.  Sometimes it helps just to say, “He’s like a little child,” or “He’s like a bad case of the flu … I just can’t shake him.”

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

As singer Natasha Bedingfield says—your story is “unwritten.”  In every moment you decide what to say and what NOT to say.  There are so many layers and intricacies to a pathological relationship.  And each moment, each experience that you had, was traumatic.

It is crucial that you manage the story you tell.  With a blank page before you at each new opportunity to speak about what happened, remind yourself that speaking the words represents your power.  That should not be considered lightly, and with each word that leaves your mouth, you are risking your power.

(**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

Just Because You Believe It DOESN’T Make It True

By Sandra L. Brown, MA

In the past we have talked about how your defense mechanisms affect your emotional suffering. We’ve looked at denial and fantasy. Today we are going to look at how your own distortions in thinking can also cause emotional suffering.

I am frequently reminded that this statement: “Just because you believe it, that doesn’t make it true” is accurate when it comes to denial in Pathological Love Relationships. There’s just something about narcissists and psychopaths that can make you forget all about their pathology and return you to your previous ‘fog’ of beliefs:

F.O.G. = Fear, Obligation, Guilt

Entrenched in your desires is to have a normal partner. Couple that with the NPD’s (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and PP’s (Psychopath’s) ability to convince you of their—at least fleeting—normalcy, and you have a woman who has dug her fingernails into the nanosecond of his normal behavior. And she’s not gonna let it go!

An otherwise highly educated, bright, and successful woman can be reduced to a blankly staring hypnotized believer when it comes to believing her mate is normal and can be normal, or that it’s her that is really the messed up one.

Just when you feel you have made substantial headway in understanding the nature of the ‘unchangeability’ of his disorder—wham!—out of nowhere, you are staring blankly, hypnotized yet again.

While pathology never changes, what does change is your belief system. Obviously, narcissists and psychopaths are not capable of true sustainable change. He didn’t change. Your desire to believe he’s normal and to deny his pathology is the only thing that has changed. It’s not so much a ‘change’, per se, as it is a return to straddling the fence about your belief system.

Most partners live a life of cognitive dissonance—this conflict between ‘he’s good/he’s bad’ which is so distracting they never resolve the internal conflict of whether he is MORE good than bad, or MORE bad than good. They live in a fog of circulating memories that support both viewpoints—remembering the good, but still feeling the bad. These circulating memories keep them straddling the fence with the inability to resolve a consistent faulty belief system about him.

This inability to hold a consistent belief system is what causes cognitive dissonance. It’s also what increases the cog diss and also causes intrusive thoughts. Dissonance is caused by thought inconsistency which eventually leads to your behavioral inconsistency—constantly breaking up and making up.

Inconsistencies in thought and behavior increase dissonance which increases intrusive thoughts. No wonder you can’t get symptom relief!

Your desire to believe it doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t make him normal. It doesn’t cure his NPD or Psychopathy. It only keeps you stuck straddling a belief system that has caused you emotional paralysis.

Joyce Brown (the mentor in Pathological Love Relationships for The Institute) once said, “The only thing that happens when you’re straddling a fence is you get a fence post up your butt!” Try moving when you’re paralyzed by a fence post!

Just because you believe it, doesn’t mean he’s okay, that he’s going to stop doing the things he said he’d stop, that counseling is going to work, that there never was anything wrong with him, that it’s probably you—or any of the other things you tell yourself in order to stay in a relationship of pathological disaster.

Even Benjamin Franklin said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” For us in the field of psychopathology, these self-evident truths are that pathology is permanent, whether you believe it or not.

(**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