Soul Slayer– Psychological ‘Evil,’ Spiritual ‘Evil’ or Both?

The one adjective I hear repeatedly connected to pathology is the word ‘evil.’ Spiritual, unspiritual, heathens, pagans, Christians, Jews, Buddists–it doesn’t matter. The word ‘evil’ is the chosen adjective-of-choice to describe pathology. But what IS evil? Is it more psychological than it is spiritual? Or is it a spiritual issue that has been picked up and defined psychologically? Are they the same thing?

I am not going to translate the lists for you below. They are self explanatory. I have taken the right list from Old Testament (of the Jewish faith) and New Testament (of the Christian faith) as examples of the definition of ‘evil.’ You could most likely find similar definitions of evil in other religious texts.

Draw your own conclusions.

Description from the DSM IV About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
Grandiose, self important and pre-occupied with self Wants people to worship him
Fantasizes about power, brilliance, success, and money Says to God “I WILL ascend, I Will Rise…” Showing power fantasies
Requires excessive admiration Says “You WILL bow down to me”
Is entitled Wants the same power as God, feels he’s as powerful as God
Exploits all relationships Tries to lure others to do his dirty work in the world
Lacks empathy Envious of others
Arrogant Fails to follow laws or rules/uses unethical, unlawful and immoral behavior
Deceitful, lies, cons for fun or profit Impulsive, wants it/takes it, sees it/does it
Aggression Disregard for the safety of others, puts others at risk
Irresponsible–bad with supporting others Lack of remorse, rationalizes stealing, lying, etc.

Other Characteristics (also mentioned in the Women Who Love Psychopaths book)

Description from the DSM IV About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
Pretends to be wonderful, helpful, supportive Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
Powerful Often beautiful or handsome; Lucifer called ‘the most beautiful’, name means ‘the shining one’
Superior attitude towards others Is superior to other angels in power and authority
Contempt for others especially authority figures Fights against God and wants His power
Use power and authority over others Called the Prince of Power
Prideful Heart is filled with pride and contempt
Splits people against each other Turned 1/3 of the angels against God and took them
Often rejected, expelled, dismissed, broken up with because of behavior God expelled him from Heaven
Places are created to contain them: jail, prison, mental institutions, probation God created a place to contain him in the future–Lake of Fire
Fights against any rules and others who try to make him conform Fights against God to ruin and hinder His plans
Destroy and deceive others (and enjoy doing it) Called ‘The Destroyer’ and “Deceiver”
Masquerades as anything you want him to be Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
Likes to scare others and show power so others fear him Prowls like a roaring lion
Looks for someone to overpower and control Prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour
Bold, cunning, self ambitious Boldness, subtlety in his cunning
Self willed and strong prideful self will
Narcissistic wanting to be better than everyone else Said “I will be like the Most High”
Fakes being wonderful, helpful, virtuous Many false prophets have gone in the world (like him), performs lying ‘signs and wonders’
Accuses others Called ‘The Accuser’
Adversary, enemy to any who turn against him Called the Serpent or ‘Adversary’
Liar, tempter, thief Referred to as a liar, thief and tempter
Motives are destructive to others Motives are to deceive and afflict

It is clear in some spiritual texts that spiritual evil has almost no separation from psychological evil, or vice verse. There are some things we don’t totally understand such as how the spirit realm can effect the psychological realm or how one’s pathology may taint their spirit. But it has been clear to me, and hundreds of survivors, that ‘evil’ straddles vocabularies of both psychological definitions and spiritual ones as well. The spiritual union of souls when united to a psychopath, is like none other. Those who have united in the spiritual realm can attest to the evil witnessed in that sharing. There is still much to learn about how psychology and theology meld.

A large portion of one of the chapters in Women Who Love Psychopaths as been devoted to this issue. Please check the chart in the book for a better grasp of this concept.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Testing the Edge

Women who end up in dangerous and pathological relationships often end up there because they like (or find interesting) ‘living on the edge.’ They don’t like their lives boring and that extends to liking men who are ‘edgey’ as well. No boring normal ‘geek’ men–Nope! The more the edge/bad boy/outlaw/rebel (or the more you perceive they need some support to keep an honest life afloat) the more you like them.

This ‘edge-walking’ landed you right in the lap of a dangerous and pathological man. In the beginning edgey seems ‘neutral’ — it’s too early to know that his edgey-ness is going to cost you. All you know is he’s a long way from boring and that’s ok with you.

It’s before you knew that:

  • His ‘edge’ is emotionally addicting for you
  • That his edge is narcissism (or worse!)
  • That his edge is about rejecting authority
  • That his edge isn’t the cool ‘James Dean’ type of edge
  • That this edge is all about him
  • That his edge consumes your self esteem for lunch
  • That his edge doesn’t make YOU cool for being with him
  • That his edge doesn’t mean you an ‘in’ girl to love someone like him
  • That’s before your realized his edge isn’t about you or your own enjoyment of everything edgey
  • It’s before you realized his edge wasn’t something for you to ‘tame’ a bad boy or ‘heal’ a wounded one

That’s before you knew that his ‘edge’ can’t be fixed, counseled, medicated, or churched.

His edge can’t be loved into something less savage and more soothing.

That’s before you realized his edge isn’t artsy, educational, intellectual, musical, poetic or religious. His edge isn’t about riding his convertible fast, or having daring sex or risky financial investments. His edge isn’t about his party lifestyle or his command presence when others are around.

That’s before you realized that his edge isn’t about the sad stories he told about his life to use as emotional bonding with you, before you realized that his edge was really just a trail of wounded women behind him. That’s before you realized that his edge was unrelenting lying, broken promises, and changes he could never make no matter how long he promised or how hard he tried.

That’s before your realized his edge really wasn’t brilliance unrecognized, charm unspoiled, or love unrequited.

That’s before you realized that his edge was one thing…and one thing only.

His edge was pathology.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Adult Children of Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Borderline Parents

Nothing is sadder or more destructive than not getting your needs met as a child because your parents were pathologically disordered. Narcissism, socio/psychopathic, antisocial or borderline are just four ways that your parents could have been pathologically disordered. There are a number of other ways and diagnosis as well.

But the fact remains that so many children raised by pathological parents (whom are often also addicts) grow up seeing the world through the eyes of the pathological. We call that ‘the pathological world view.’ No matter how you cut it, children are influenced, for the good or the bad, by the parents who raise them. That’s because we largely come to see the world, ourselves and others through their eyes. If they are healthy and normal people–that view of others and ourselves is a good thing. If they are dangerous and pathological, the view of others and ourselves could be a bad thing.

There are a number of aftermath effects of pathological parenting that you may have recognized in your own life–choices, patterns, feelings, behaviors that have negatively influenced your life.

  • You may be plagued with self-doubt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Chronic caregiving of others
  • A total disregard for your own needs or self care
  • You could battle depression or chronic anxiety
  • Or fight nagging pessimism about your future or the world around you
  • You might be dangerously naive never trusting your own instincts and being constantly taken advantage of
  • You could have eating disorders, sexual addictions/other sexual disorders
  • Or obsessive compulsive behaviors
  • You could medicate your feelings with drugs or alcohol
  • Or find abusive religious affiliations to take up where your pathological parents fell away
  • You may have emotional intimacy problems or jump from relationship to relationship fearing abandonment or being alone
  • Or you may engage in what they now call ‘sexual anorexia’ — the forbidding of yourself to ever be intimate or loving with someone else

While you may ‘understand why’ your parents behaved like they did or you are engulfed in compassion and pity for their illness, the rubber meets the road at the point where your needs went so chronically unmet that you now have your own emotional problems because of what you didn’t get at those crucial developmental points of your life. Compassion, pity, forgiveness and understanding about their disorder only goes so far as it doesn’t help you get what you never got from the most important people in your life.

Today, your choices in relationships can be largely influenced from pathological parenting. Picking dangerous and/or pathological men for relationships is often a devastating side effect of pathological parenting. Growing up learning how to normalize abnormal behavior is a set up for accepting pathology into all areas of your life—your boss, your friends, your partners. Becoming aware of your relationship choices is a good first start but may NOT be the only intervention you need in order to grieve your childhood losses and stop trying to fix pathologicals by having intimate or parenting-type relationships with them. You can’t fix your own pathological parenting deficits through a relationship with someone else. That can only be done one-on-one with yourself.

If you are sick of self sabotaging your own life, relationships, career, success and future because of what you might not have gotten in your childhood, there is help and hope. You don’t have to be a slave forever to your past.

Join us for the ‘Adult Children of Narcissistic, Psychopathic and Borderline Parents’ support group. If you are ready to make healthy choices you didn’t have the skills for before, then contact us for jump start on your recovery.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Should I React This Way?

Partners of pathologicals face chronic confusion about their reactions to his pathology. She feels the incongruency in the Jekyll and Hyde personalities, reacts to it, and then gets labeled by him as being hysterical.

The fact is, pathologicals project their traits and behaviors on everyone else and say it’s ‘them’ instead of ‘him.’ That IS part of pathology. In fact, several different personality disorders DO that in relationships because it is a feature and a trait of pathology. So just maybe those are HIS traits and not yours! Maybe what you are seeing is a glimmer of his pathological self view and world view and how he thrusts that upon others and labels them with his own disorder.

Many of you wonder if what you DO feel in the relationship is the ‘correct’ or ‘normal’ way to react. SHOULD you have certain reactions to certain disorders or behaviors? The answer is a resounding ‘YES.’

Normal people have very strong reactions when exposed short OR long term to pathological persons. In fact, it is normal to have these kinds of reactions and non-pathological persons SHOULD have strong reactions to abnormal behavior. I have the same types of reactions to pathologicals–I have just had to learn over the years to contain my reactions for professional reasons.

These types of reactions in you can be: confusion, frustration, anxiety, wanting to hurt them (slap them, verbally assault them and fantasies of REALLY hurting them). Some women have reactions of ‘trying to help him understand himself better so she can alter his behaviors.’ Others believe what he says about her and start to judge her own behavior, character, and history. She truly begins to think SHE is the one who is sick and not him. She begins to doubt her own perceptions (well I guess black IS white and bad IS good). Her whole world view becomes distorted like looking into a carnival mirror where the world becomes wavy and crazy looking.

Others shut down completely and stop communicating because every word is turned back on her by the pathological. Some become paranoid knowing he is doing something and not able to prove it.

Long term effects are a complete emotional shut down, physical exhaustion with resulting medical issues, chronic depression and/or anxiety, and an altered sense of self worth. Much like the elephant who only needs to be chained for a short time before it thinks it can never escape and it never tries to—women do the same thing. The emotional operant conditioning by pathologicals renders normally strong and independent women into lobotimized rag dolls that don’t move or respond as they have been trained ‘not to.’

Outsiders who are around the pathological also have their own normal reactions to his abnormal behavior. If he has children, they too have adversive reactions as does his boss, any normal family members he might have, the neighbors or anyone he has to deal with. It is normal to have BIG reactions to pathologicals. Even animals often don’t like them! Come on now—if a dog avoids him—we should too!

Then there are those of you who not only have had your training at the hands of intimate pathological relationships, but you have been trained in your youth by pathological parents. By now abnormal behavior must look and feel totally normal to you. The effects of pathological parenting are huge and set up reactions, behaviors and world views that need intense treatment in order to set straight.

Reactions to pathology are expected and to a large degree, normal.

We will be offering an Adult Children of Pathological Parenting Support Group exactly for this issue. Contact us for more information.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Reality and Suffering

Oh boy, have I learned a lot lately. What is becoming evident is that much of your intrusive thoughts, your obsession with him/relationship, your cognitive conflict known as dissonance, and many other symptoms as well are stemming from one major issue:

The inability to accept what he is, how he is, and what this means about your relationship.

This level of resistance isn’t always conscious. Some of it may seep out and drift up into your awareness where you notice yourself fluctuating between “He is pathological, I don’t want him to be pathological, He isn’t pathological.”

This cognitive conflict between your three different beliefs about whether he is pathological takes the form of:

  • How you think you SHOULD feel about him/this situation and
  • How you react/behave with this situation.

Each one of these beliefs:

  • He is Pathological
  • I don’t want him to be Pathological
  • He isn’t Pathological

have their own individual lives in your brain. We sometimes call this ‘Monkey Mind’ — each belief jumping around and back and forth and swinging from the branches of your brain until you can no longer concentrate. You are not entertaining just one thought/conflict–you are entertaining at least three and each of these have subpoints below each one producing MANY thoughts.

These 3 conflicting beliefs, thoughts, and wishes fill up probably 95% of your thinking patterns which leaves almost no time to:

  • Resolve it
  • Work on it
  • Rest
  • Work
  • or Find Peace

In the past, I had the great privilege of working with a woman who came here from the Netherlands. Her intrusive thoughts had so disabled her ability to work and enjoy her child. Within the four days she was here, we were able to harness her mind and free her from much of the distress of this invasive life-stealing mechanism.

At the heart of almost all major religions is the teaching (in different terms and lingo) about suffering. Intrusive thoughts and cognitive dissonance is the # 1 and # 2 distressing symptoms you complain about most. This level of ‘suffering’ as is many other types and reasons for suffering, stem from the inability to let our defense systems down (this is why they are called defense) and accept life as life is and stop defending against it.

Our defense mechanisms are designed to shield us from pain. But at some point, defense mechanisms can be over used and end up harming us by keeping too much of the pain (which could teach us) away from us. Pain 101 is often a good, and sometimes the only, motivator for change.

When our defense systems have become so elaborate, the pain that could help us face reality–can’t even get to us to teach us and show us the way. Suffering then continues because we have not found a way to help ourselves embrace reality so that the reality can bring acceptance and the acceptance can stop the intrusive thoughts.

Our elaborate defense mechanism is very invested in proving he is not pathological and keeping the relationship going. That way, you are not alone, you get what you want, your prove others wrong, and you can fulfill the fantasy in your head about how the relationship ‘should’ or ‘could’ be.

To end suffering, we must accept what we are keeping away from our heart–which is the Truth, Reality, or whatever you want to call it. All major religions have a cure for suffering–but it’s all the same–accepting who, what, where, when, why. Some religions call it Light, Truth, Enlightenment…the words that are all related to accepting reality.

That would mean our first belief system listed above:

* He is Pathological—might have to be accepted and the other two belief systems after that, would have to be dropped. Everything in your being would have to embrace the pain and the reality that he is in fact, now and forever, pathological.

Acceptance is so critical to accepting reality, truth, and what is…And the opposite ‘non-acceptance’ is so dangerous that every 12 Step group ends their meeting with a prayer about acceptance–knowing it’s importance in the ability to recover and heal. The 12 Steps remind us that in order to heal we must ‘Take life on life’s terms.’ That means, we must accept what is really happening in our lives, to our lives, and through our lives. In your case, that means accepting what his pathology is doing to you.

Maybe we need our own 12 Step Prayer to remind us about accepting who and what he is, and stopping the intrusive thought that is nothing but trying to bury the truth under some new image you come up with.

Serenity Prayer for Pathological Relationships

Lord, help me to accept the pathology and the things in him and this relationship that I cannot change
To change the things I can in my own life that will help me leave, heal, and recover since he cannot change
And the wisdom to know the difference between who can change and who can never change and what I can do now for myself.

AMEN

Remember, our retreats are focused on helping you reduce and eliminate cognitive dissonance. If we can help you, let us know. Also our product Maintaining Mindfulness in the Midst of Obsession is an e-book plus two CD’s that help neutralize the internal cognitive dissonance produced by Pathological Love Relationships. You can find it on the website.

(**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 info.)

Grieving The Pathological Loss–The Personal Side Part II

Last week we began talking about the grief process as it pertains to ending the relationship with your dangerous (and often, pathological) person. Even though the relationship was damaging and maybe you even initiated the break up, it doesn’t stop the necessary grieving. Women are then shocked to find themselves grieving at all given how abusive, damaging, or horrible the relationship was. She tells her self she should be grateful to be out and negates her own feelings of loss. The end of a relationship always constitutes a loss whether he died or whether the relationship merely ended–the heart recognizes it as the same–which is “loss.”

I also mentioned last week that grief is natural. It’s an organic way the body and mind tries to rid itself of pain. That’s why it’s so necessary because if you did not grieve you would have no way to eventually be out of pain. Grief is the way a person moves through the loss and to the other side of health and healing. Without grief there wouldn’t even be a POTENTIAL for healing because grief must occur for healing to later occur. To stuff your grief or try to avoid it is to sabotage your own ability to heal. So for every person trying to work through the ending of a relationship, grief is the healthiest response.

Some of the losses associated with the end of the relationship were discussed last week (and you can read any of our previous Sandra Says articles). Many of you wrote me to talk about the ‘personal side’ of grief–the other aspects that were lost because of the dangerous relationship and must be grieved.

These include the loss of:

  • your own self respect
  • the respect of others
  • your ability to trust your own instincts
  • loss of self identity
  • loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • the loss of the trust of others
  • the loss of your own dignity
  • the loss of hope
  • the loss of joy
  • the loss of the belief that you can ever be different

These significant personal losses may not always be recognized as ‘grief’ but more as all the deficits that have been left behind because of the pathological relationship. Although he is gone, this is his mark upon your life and your soul. These losses reflect the loss of your self and your own internal personal resources. Stripped away is your ability to recognize your former self, the ability to tap into what was once the strength that helped you in life, and to respect your self and your life choices.

Of all the things that need grieving, women indicated these personal losses are the most devastating. Because in the end, she is all that she has –when he is gone, she must fall back on her self for her healing. But what is left, is an empty shell of a former life. A garden that is over grown with weeds and in disrepair. A once stately estate that has been vandalized and abandoned. To begin the arduous task of healing and repair requires that she turn inward and draw on her resources. But what was there is now gone. She may want to begin the healing from the pathological relationship but is stopped short in her tracks by the necessary grieving of all things internal that are now gone or damaged. Clearly, the first step is to grieve. Let us know if we can help you begin the first step.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Grieving the Pathological Loss, Part I

Over and over again women are shocked to find out how bad it is and how horrible they feel leaving a pathological partner. As horrendous as the relationships has been, as hurt as they have become at his hands, and the emotional/physical/financial/sexual/spiritual cost it takes to heal and asks, “Why in the world am I so sad and in so much grief?”

‘Loving’ a pathological (not just a psychopath but any person with a pathological disorder) seems to produce a very intense attachment to the relationship. Most women report that loving them is nothing like anything else she ever experienced. They indicate that it’s more intense than other relationships, more mind-games that keep her very confused and unable to detach, and a kind of hypnotic mesmerizing that keeps her in the relationship LONG after she knows she should have left.

Because of this intense bonding, mental confusion, pathological attachment and a hypnotic connection her grief is likely to be huge. This is often confusing to her because there has been so much damage to her by the time she leaves she thinks she should be ‘relieved’ to simply be out of the relationship. But when the paralyzing grief mounts, she is aggravated with herself for being in so much pain and grief over the ending of something so ‘sick.’Lots of women are confused as to ‘whom’ or ‘what’ it is they are actually grieving. Grief can seem so ‘illusive’ and a haunting feeling that is like a gray ghost but can’t be nailed down to actually ‘what’ the loss is. But the ending of any relationship (even a pathological one) is a loss. Within the ending of the relationship is a loss of lots of elements:

  • Loss of the ‘dream’ of partnership or togetherness
  • Loss of a shared future together, as well as the loss that maybe he would someday ‘get it together’ or actually ‘love you’ of the dream of being loved (even if he was technically not capable of truly loving anyone)
  • Loss of your plans for the future-maybe that was buying a home, having children, or taking a big trip
  • Loss of shared parenting (if that occurred)
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of being touched or held
  • Loss of sex

Although a lot of women may actually see a lot of these hopes and dreams as ‘illusions’ it still constitutes a loss and women are often surprised at the kinds of things they find themselves grieving over.

Still more losses:

  • Some women lose their pets in the break up, or their house or career.
  • Some lose their children, their friends, her relatives or his.
  • Some have to relocate to get away from him because of his dangerousness so they lose their community, roots, and home.

No matter what it is you perceived you no longer have-it’s a loss and when you have loss you have grief.

People spend a lot of time trying to stay on the perimeter of grief-trying to avoid it and stay away from the pain. But grief is the natural way to resolve conflict and loss. It’s the body’s way of riding the mind and soul of ongoing pain. It’s an attempt at re-balancing one’s mind and life. Grief is a natural process that is GIVEN to you as a pain management tool. Without grief there would not be a way of moving through pain. You would always just remain stuck in the feelings and would always feel the same.

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Don’t avoid grief. While no one LIKES grief it’s important to allow yourself to feel the feelings and the pain because to suppress it, deny it, or avoid it will mean you will never work through it. I don’t know anyone who WANTS to live in this kind of pain.
  2. There is only one way through the pain of grief and that’s through the middle of it. There are no short cuts, quick routes or other ways ‘around’ the pain and grief. There is only through it—like a wilderness. But on the other side of it is the promise of healing, hope and a future.
  3. Don’t judge your grief. What hurts, hurts. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you (he was horrible, why am I grieving HIM?)-it’s your body’s way of moving through it so let it.
  4. Get help if you need it-counseling, group, medication, a grief group-whatever it is you need.
  5. Don’t set a predetermined ‘time’ that you think you should be ‘over it.’ It probably takes longer than you think it will or you want it to. But that’s how it is-grief takes its time.
  6. Grief can look like depression, anxiety, PTSD or a lot of other types of symptoms and sometimes it’s hard to know where one starts and the other one ends. That’s because often you aren’t having one or the other, you are having some of both. Have a professional assess that for you.
  7. Journal your losses, talk about them, tell others, get help when you need it. (We’re here too!!). Most of all, know that grief is a God-sent natural way of working through so you can move on.

Grieving the Pathological Loss

Over and over again women are shocked to find out how bad it is and how horrible they feel leaving
a pathological partner. As horrendous as the relationships has been, as hurt as they have become at his hands, and the emotional/physical/financial/sexual/spiritual cost it takes to heal…she asks, “Why in the world am I so sad and in so much grief?”

‘Loving’ a pathological (not just a psychopath but any person with a pathological disorder) seems to produce a very intense attachment to the relationship. Most women report that ‘loving’ them is nothing like anything else she ever experienced. They indicate that it’s more intense than other relationships, more mind-games that keep her very confused and unable to detach, and a kind of hypnotic mesmerizing that keeps her in the relationship LONG after she knows she should have left.

Because of this intense bonding, mental confusion, pathological attachment and a hypnotic connection
her grief is likely to be huge. This is often confusing to her because there has been so much damage to
her by the time she leaves she thinks she should be ‘relieved’ to simply be out of the relationship. But
when the paralyzing grief mounts, she is aggravated with herself for being in so much pain and grief over the ending of something so ‘sick.’

Lots of women are confused as to ‘whom’ or ‘what’ it is they are actually grieving. Grief can seem so
‘illusive’ – a haunting feeling that is like a grey ghost but can’t be nailed down to actually ‘what’ the loss is. But the ending of any relationship (even a pathological one) is a loss. Within the ending of the relationship is a loss of lots of elements.

  • There is a loss of the ‘dream’ of partnership or togetherness.
  • The loss of a shared future together
  • As well as the loss that maybe he would some day ‘get it together’ or actually ‘love you.’
  • When the relationship ends, so does the dream of being loved (even if he was technically not capable
    of truly loving anyone).
  • There is a loss of your plans for the future—maybe that was buying a home, having
    children, or taking a big trip.
  • There is the loss of shared parenting (if that occurred).
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of being touched or held
  • Loss of sex

Although a lot of women may actually see a lot of these hopes and dreams as ‘illusions’ it still constitutes
a loss and women are often surprised at the kinds of things they find themselves grieving over.

Still more losses:

  • Some women lose their pets in the break up, or their house or career.
  • Some lose their children, their friends, her relatives or his.
  • Some have to relocate to get away from him because of his dangerousness so they lose their community, roots, and home.

No matter what it is you perceived you no longer have…it’s a loss and when you have loss you have grief. People spend a lot of time trying to stay on the perimeter of grief—trying to avoid it and stay away from the pain. But grief is the natural way to resolve conflict and loss. It’s the body’s way of riding the mind and soul of ongoing pain. It’s an attempt at rebalancing one’s mind and life. Grief is a natural process that is GIVEN to you as a pain management tool. Without grief there would not be a way of moving through pain. You would always just remain stuck in the feelings and would always feel the same.

Here’s a few tips:

1. Therefore, don’t avoid grief. While no one LIKES grief it’s important to allow yourself to feel the feelings and the pain because to suppress it, deny it, or avoid it will mean you will never work through it. I don’t know anyone who WANTS to live in this kind of pain.

2. There is only one way through the pain of grief and that’s through the middle of it. There are no short cuts, quick routes or other ways ‘around’ the pain and grief. There is only through it—like a wilderness. But on the other side of it is the promise of healing, hope and a future.

3. Don’t judge your grief. What hurts, hurts. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you (he was horrible, why am I grieving HIM?)—it’s your body’s way of moving through it so let it.

4. Get help if you need it—counseling, group, medication, a grief group—whatever it is you need.

5. Don’t set a predetermined ‘time’ that you think you should be ‘over it.’ It probably takes longer than you think it will or you want it to. But that’s how it is—grief takes it’s time.

6. Grief can look like depression, anxiety, PTSD or a lot of other types of symptoms and sometimes it’s
hard to know where one starts and the other one ends. That’s because often you aren’t having one or the other, you are having some of both. Have a professional assess that for you.

7. Journal your losses, talk about them, tell others, get help when you need it. (We’re here too!!). Most of all, know that grief is a God-send natural way of working through so you can move on.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

How Pathological Is ‘Too’ Pathological?

In other words, ‘How sick is TOO sick?’

One of the characteristics of women who have been in pathological relationships is that they are very ‘forgiving’ and ‘tolerant’ of less than stellar mental health qualities in their intimate relationships. That’s because the women have very elevated traits of compassion, empathy, tolerance, and acceptance according to our research and to name but a few. These are excellent and humanitarian traits to have….except in a relationship with a pathological person in which these traits create ‘super glue’ that keeps you in a relationship you should NOT be tolerating, accepting, or being empathetic about. The problem is women often don’t realize that someone can simply have ‘narcissistic traits’ or ‘psychopathic traits’ and still be a danger to her in a relationship.

That’s because it doesn’t take much pathology to dramatically and negatively effect her and the relationship. It only takes a ‘drop’ of abnormal psychology to really screw up the relationship and the others around him. This is why even ‘just traits’ are important to identify. ‘Just traits’ means he has SOME of the criteria for, lets say narcissism or psychopathy, but not enough to fully qualify for the full diagnosis. But let’s not split hairs here…a few traits are enough to qualify for ‘too’ pathological. It DOES matter that he is a ‘tad bit’ pathological because any of the traits of pathology are negative and harmful.

Would it matter that he had a little or a lot of ‘low empathy?’ No–the end result is the same–low empathy and the pain he causes others. ‘Little-to-None’ is almost none–it doesn’t matter if he is a little unempathetic or a lot. Not being able to have empathy is the bottom line.

Would it matter if he had a little or a lot of poor impulse control? I doubt it if his poor impulse control effected his sexual acting out, his drug use, or his wild spending habits. A little goes a long way in poor impulse control.

Would it matter if he had a little or a lot of rebellion against laws, rules, or authority? Probably not…even just a little bit of rebellion has the propensity of getting him arrested or fired, ignoring a restraining order or refusing to pay child support. How about ‘just pathological enough’ to really screw up your children with his distorted and warped world view, his chronic inconsistency, his wavering devotion to you or them, his role modeling of his addictions, or his display of ‘the rules aren’t for me’ attitude?

I watch women ‘look’ for loopholes to minimize the pathology he DOES have instead of looking for ways he does meet criteria for the pathology he does have and find reasons to get out. Instead, they find reasons ‘it’s not THAT bad.’ But just a little bit of a ‘bad boy’ is probably too pathological…too sick for a normal relationship. Since pathology is the ‘inability to sustain positive change, grow to any meaningful depth, or develop insight about how one’s behavior effects others’ even just ‘some’ pathology is too much. Because if he can’t sustain change (you know…all those things he promises to change about himself) or grow or have insight about how and why he hurts you…he’s TOO pathological–TOO sick–TOO disordered to have anything that resembles a normal relationship. Why would you ‘want’ a relationship that has NO capacity to grow, change, or meet your needs?

Bad boy enticement is very real…that edginess he has makes many women highly attracted to him. But beyond the edginess can be anything from ‘just traits’ to ‘full blown pathology.’ Nonetheless, women must learn to draw a line in the sand that even ‘just’ traits is enough to guarantee their unhappiness and harm in the hands of a guy who is ‘too pathological’ for her!

(**Information about pathology and your recovery is in the award winning Women Who Love Psychopaths, also taught during retreats in the months of Feb and August, in 1:1 sessions during January, March, May and September or in phone sessions.)

He Seems Happy Now, Will I EVER Be Happy Too?

There are a lot of distortions that go on about the pathological man’s ability to ‘be happy.’ One of the issues of permanent personality disorders and pathology is that at the core of them is unhappiness. That is why they have so many angry outbursts, attitude problems, and failed relationships.

Some of them ‘fake’ the external appearance of ‘happy-go-lucky’ or act as if their lives are fine. Partners need to look below the ‘presentation’ and question what he’s showing at face value. Survivors fall for it the first time by getting in the relationship with him and then fall for it a second time when believing his external presentation of his ‘life without you in it.’

I chanted it like a mantra so I’ll continue to say it,

“Nothing changes in pathology because it’s hard-wired to not change.”

So if he was horrible with you, he’ll be horrible with her (eventually). If he was at the core of himself, miserable/unhappy/unsuccessful NOTHING will change. Go deeper than looking at this flash-in-the-pan faux presentation that he WANTS you to see and then feel bad about because you are not with him. Psychopathology does not change and neuroscience continues to teach us why his hardwired brain doesn’t allow for change. If you don’t believe me, at least believe science. His change is not going to happen now and not simply because he is with someone else. Pathology is not a light switch you turn off and on at will.

The real question is will YOU ever be happy again? Survivors misread their own ability to be happy in the future because they are all wrapped up in STILL watching him, rating him, gauging his happiness against hers.

A recovery question is: Why are you STILL watching him? What in the world does he have to do with YOUR future happiness?

You know why watching him effects your own ability to recover and find happiness? Because the longer you watch him the more intrusive the thoughts become, the more ping-pong brain of cognitive dissonance you keep, the more miserable you stay, and the longer you postpone your own recovery and joy.

When survivors are being honest about what they fear most, it is that he will go on and have this fabulous life and ‘be good to another woman’ and you will never meet anyone. Since you do want to eventually meet someone healthy to love…what healthy guy wants to be with a woman who is obsessed with a pathological man? Whose eyes are not on THEIR new emerging relationship but on what he’s doing next? Instead of your eyes being focused forward on the future, you have your neck turned backwards looking at her past and what he’s doing. What does new Mr. Healthy see–you filled with regret and revenge–not really good material for a new relationship, eh?

It IS understandable why you are angry that he ‘appears’ to be happy with someone else and you are not. It is also understandable after what you have lived through that you ‘wonder’ if you’ll always pick
pathologicals, if you’re too damaged to ever have a healthy relationship, if you are even capable of feeling anything other than intrusive thoughts moreless, joy….These are totally normal questions considering what you’ve been through. But finding those answers for yourself is not found in the glancing over your shoulder at him. There’s no going back.

‘Drag an ax and clear a path’ into your future. Work on yourself (let us help you!) so you understand ‘why’ you choose someone like that, ‘how’ you ignored so many red flags, and ‘understand’ your own personality traits that leave you vulnerable for relationships like that. There is plenty to heal from! Then, when you’ve done all the work, LIVE. Don’t search it out on internet dating sites where PREDATORS live. Just live a joyful life and allow that health, vibrance, and joy to direct you. It’s when you aren’t seeking that you find that which you have been waiting for. Joyce Brown, my mentor for this work said, “A man is not the ‘cake’ — a relationship is only the icing on the cake of a good life.”

Heal you, get a great life…and the rest will fall into place. My mother when she was dying said “I’m not afraid to die because I’ve lived a great life. I’ve had so much fun and I’ve been so loved. Who could ask for more?”

Let us know if our phone counselors or our retreats can help you heal so you can reclaim your joy!

(**Information on pathology and how to recover is in the award winning Women Who Love Psychopaths, also taught during retreats in the months of Feb and August, in 1:1 sessions during January, March, May and September or in phone sessions.)

The Other Woman–Now He’s HAPPY With HER!

Nothing cranks a woman up more than going through a drama-filled ending of her dysfunctional, pathological, abusive, addicted and/or sick relationship ONLY to find he rapidly moved on and now seems ‘so happy.’ Women tend to conclude it must have been ‘her’ and if he can be happy with someone else and not her, well then….it was some shortcoming in her and she needs to study up to figure out just what ‘went wrong.’

Ladies, ladies ladies….by now you have been reading enough of these newsletters to be able to ‘chant’ the ABC’s of Pathology I have been teaching you—pathology is:

The inability to:
– consistently sustain positive change
– grow to any emotional/spiritual depth
and
– develop meaningful insight about how his behavior negatively effects others

THE BEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE BEHAVIOR IS PAST BEHAVIOR when it comes to a pathological.

So what you have to ask yourself is how were his previous relationships? I don’t mean what he TOLD you they were (all her fault, she was a psycho, sleaze, or whacked) but what really happened in them.

If you developed a Relationship Time Line and wrote out all his relationships from his teen years forward AND the ‘quality’ of them and why they ended, what would you conclude? How successful IS this man in maintaining healthy relationships? Yup…that’s what I thought.

How was his relationship with you? No, I’m not talking about the honeymoon cycle when both of you are living off of endorphins. I’m talking about the guts of the thing….the meat and bones of it.

So, he has a history of his own ‘Trail of Tears’ — a path littered with the lives of wounded women and children? Your relationship has left you as one more statistic of his pathological heart breaks.

Now, there’s ‘HER’ — appearing all happy, snuggley and ‘in love’! You see her as getting all the good parts of him you always loved and none of the bad parts! After all, the reason
you left him was all that bad stuff!

Doesn’t it make you want to call her up and tell her what’s just around the corner in the relationship?

Doesn’t it make you want to curl up in a fetal position and cry that he has ‘found happiness in the arms of another?’

Doesn’t it make you sick in the pit of your stomach or consume you with intrusive and obsessive thoughts about how wonderfully ‘in love’ he is? STOP THE DRAMA!

Repeat after me….”Pathology is the inability to sustain positive change” “the best predictor of HIS future behavior is his past behavior” — so just what does that mean? There are honeymoon phases of every relationship. Lovers live on the high of the ‘falling in love stage.’ We already know that pathologicals don’t ‘technically’ fall in love but they do hang around and experience some level of attachment. But YOU experienced the whole endorphin falling in love sensation. Well, so is SHE.

How long did yours last? A few weeks, months or maybe a year or two of ok-ness? What happened next? Oh yeah, you found out his lies or noticed his inconsistency, or asked him to work, or caught him cheating….once you confronted him then you got the narcissistic rage, then maybe the aloofness, or maybe he even packed up and left.

Guess what’s gonna happen AGAIN? There will be the honeymoon for her, then she will notice his lies, inconsistency, ask him to work or catch him cheating, then she’ll eventually confront him (or live forever with the miserableness of knowing what he’s doing and not having the ovaries to confront him) and then he’ll rage, punish her, reject her, ignore her or leave.

~OUILA~ she is now on his ‘Stepford Wives List of Rejects’. She’s one more tear on his ‘Trail of Tears.’ You haven’t seen behind their closed doors to know what SHE’s dealing with….he hasn’t changed—he’s hardwired so she’s going to be dealing with the same thing you did. It’s just a matter of WHEN.

If I were a gambling girl, I’d put my money every stinking time on the consistency of pathology and his inability to ever change in ANY relationship–the previous one, yours, or the future ones. She’s not getting the best of ANYTHING. She’s you. And in a short time, she’ll be another statistic. If pathology doesn’t change, this relationship is wired for destruction.

There are NO happy endings in relationships with pathologicals. There are no pumpkin-drawn carriages, no sweet little house with three children…scratch that record! Stop attributing normal characteristics to a profoundly abnormal person.

Women spend all their precious emotional energy on obsessing about the quality of his relationship with the next victim instead of working on themselves–using that energy for their own healing. They live in a fantasy world where they are deprived of this wonderful relationship and he is off living the life of a normal person. This fantasy does not end with “And they lived happily ever after.”

Your positive fantasy thoughts of him being happy with someone are the memories that are
pulling all of your focus while you totally forget how this horror flick is going to end. If you need a reminder, read all of our archived Sandra Says columns.

Take a deep breath and come back…she hasn’t got anything you haven’t already gotten from him–MISERY. If she doesn’t have it right now, she will have it shortly. Once you really ‘get it’ about the permanence of pathology you’ll understand that his ability to be different in the relationship doesn’t exist. If he was capable, he would have done the changing with you. But he didn’t–and he won’t. Whatever exists right now is that short honeymoon cycle until she realizes what he is and ISN’T–and what he can NEVER be. Don’t bother picking up the phone and telling her what he is and isn’t. Just worry about your own recovery….from this
moment on, it’s all about you!

(**Information on pathology and how to recover is in the award winning Women Who Love Psychopaths, also taught during retreats in the months of Feb and August, in 1:1 sessions during January, March, May and September or in phone sessions.)

When Friends Don’t ‘Get It’ About Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Hate and Your Potential For Relapse Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Hate and Your Potential For Relapse Part II-Moving Towards Detachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths
and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

When Am I Ready to Help Others?

At the heart of any grass roots efforts or organizations 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 grass roots organizations (like ours) but 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, healed, 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 20’s 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 too. Luckily, a national pilot project for homicide survivors 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 spokes person 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 25 years ago. Since then, I have worked not only in homicide, but incest, cult survivors, domestic violence, rape, and every kind of trauma disorder imagniable. I have started non profit mental health centers, started the country’s first long term residential treatment program for women with multiple personalities (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder), started hospital trauma programs, outpatient programs, 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 the 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 do regular radio shows with several stations. I have written 7 books, numerous e-books, CDs/DVS and write for others women’s on-line websites and programs.

Now I direct The Institute, do research, phone coaching, writing, and therapeutic retreats/coaching. To tell you the truth, I can’t even REMEMBER everything I have done to date! LOL~(Maybe that’s a GOOD thing!). The point is, 28 years ago my life was altered by a murder. For 25 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 I make, I just dole 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.

A famous person said “You never help someone else without first helping yourself.” Every time I help someone else with PTSD, it helps mine 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 back out and give others the hope that you now have. It’s only hope that keeps others going and 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 got.”

But 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 coaching programs and centers and teaching coaching classes, I heard new fresh interns come in and say, “I was raped so I want to help the raped.” It’s a great grassroot 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.

They 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 melt down–crying in the group they were suppose to lead. They would go home and have night mares or flash backs 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 9/11) when so much over exposure to other people’s pain causes symptoms of PTSD they didn’t previously have. (For more info on reactivated PTSD, see my chapter on PTSD in my book Counseling Victims of Violence.)

Jumping in too early leads to reactivation of PTSD, career burn out (such as being in and out of the coaching field in only a couple of years), or the helper becoming so re-engrossed in their own trauma that they end up acting more like the people they are trying to help…they tell their own stories in too much detail in group, they go home re-traumatized as if they told their own story but didn’t, they become reactivated emotionally, physically, spiritually and sexually,  their startle reflex is increased, their sleep is disrupted, their irritability is high, they are TOO invested in helping other people change their lives, they believe they can ‘ save or fix’ someone else, they invest too much of their personal or family time in other people’s problems, they feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of helping others, they neglect their own self care, family, and their own emotional and spiritual needs amd  they become encased in a Messiah-Complex.

If this was happening to a professional mental health counselor, we would call this an “impaired practioner” and they 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 held 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 leary 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 health that allows us to listen with out triggers and to help without burn 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 fund raiser, 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 sslllooowwww…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 life style and 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 your self 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 pass it forward.

(**Information on your recovery is in the award winning Women Who Love Psychopaths, also taught during retreats in the months of Feb and August, in 1:1 sessions during January, March, May and September or in phone sessions.)