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
– develop meaningful insight about how his behavior negatively effects others


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.)


Change is redemptive. It’s transformational and it’s healing. No wonder not any of those things happen to pathologicals–they don’t change so they don’t redeem, or transform or heal. But for those negatively effected by the pathological, change is your only hope. Without the transformation of change you are hopelessly stuck on what feels like the karmic treadmill of relational bad choices that just gets worse with each selection.

But change is not only OUR hope, it’s God’s hope too. Why? Because God is the God of Ecology–He recycles everything we live through to make something out of the ‘dung’ of our nasty experiences. He’s invested in what happens to us, in us, and through us. As the original ‘Ecologist’ He always has an eye towards what can be recycled in us for better use because that which is used is not wasted. So our experiences with the pathological that are used to help ourselves first and OTHERS second is not a wasted experience of pain and suffering–it has been transformed into a healing gift for us and others.

This is Psycho-Ecology at it’s best…the good use of our bad psychological experiences. The recycling of our pain and bad choices into insight and help for others.

It recycles:

  • Naivety into prevention
  • Experience into intervention
  • It takes your story and makes it into a book, a support group, a website, or a speech
  • It takes your intrusive thoughts and turns it into a meditation on tape
  • It takes your tears and turns it into a poem
  • It takes lethargy and manifests exercise
  • It takes pain and creates a prayer
  • It creates hope out of hopelessness

Psycho-Ecology is the path of recovery which is why I am discussing this at the beginning of the year when our hopes are always high for what the newness of the new year will bring. The fact is, that which is NOT transformed is stuck. Stuck inside of you, stuck in your life, stuck in your path–stuck in your heart. TRANSFORM IT! That which isn’t redeemed is toxic. Pain that is not redeemed into the gift of hope and life for others is just pain, crammed in your body converting your health into something sick and bad. REDEEM IT! That which isn’t healed by passing it forward is an emotional cancer cell metastisizing in your heart—eating your hope, your future, and your potential healthy relationships. Pass healing forward. HEAL IT!

You have the largest most magnificent Force behind your healing–The God of Economy who will take one bad thing and have it help and bless THOUSANDS. Did you read that–THOUSANDS! He wants your healing so it can be broken, blessed, transformed, and released to others. He multiplies in His economy–so your ONE bad pathological can help many many more women than just you. His plan includes economically using your experience by releasing it to multitudes and includes recycling it from bad to good. That which we don’t use gets wasted. That which is wasted is not transformed and that which isn’t transformed WE ARE VICTIMIZED BY.

I can always tell those women who are going to be recycled and used in Psycho-Ecology in other’s lives. They are searchers–examining every thing they have been through for the opportunity to heal it and use it. They are not lethargically ‘waiting’ for healing to come to them while hyper-focusing on and memorizing every horrid thing the pathological did this week…their eyes are on herself, today, what needs to heal in her, where she will transform this train-wreck of a life into something worth living. These are the women who willing read the books, do coaching, come to a retreat…find every resource and use it to beat out the feeling of victimization that wants to swallow their lives. (Or these women find alternative community resources to help them heal right where they live. When money is a challenge, they use their community resources to help bring healing. They use what they got right where they’re at!) These women are silent powerhouses of potential that when healed are going to ROCK the women’s issues field! I grin to myself and can’t WAIT to see what they allow God to recycle in them.

I’m already seeing it…those that WILL go on to redeem their experiences in their lives and others, those that JUMP on anything that can move their healing forward as they eagerly wait to “pass it forward.” These women are the face of Psycho-Ecology. Their horrible pain is being recycled into something positive. They are the FACES of HOPE in Public Psychopathy Education. They are or will be single-handedly responsible for saving women’s lives. The lives they save through recycling their pain will only be known by The Great Recycler in the end because we never know who we have saved. We only believe we HAVE saved some.

Every single week I get emails from people thanking The Institute for saving their physical, emotional, financial, sexual and/or spiritual lives. The book, the website, the newsletter–something touched them and got them out of the relationship. It’s the most satisfying life mission there is: SAVING A LIFE!

The question is: will you be the next face of Psycho-Ecology? Will your pain teach other women? Will it speak to them? Will it speak to a community through a presentation? Will your pain teach others how to help these women? Will it go into schools, churches, women’s organizations, prisons, jails, and hearts?

Or will it stagnate inside of you producing the most insidious bitterness and paranoia? Change and growth for us is always a choice–a choice that allows the transformation of recycling so nothing is wasted.

The Institute’s mission is Public Psychopathy Education which means every single one of us does SOMETHING for the cause. Each week people contact me asking how to: start a group, come to a retreat, get phone coaching, how to get a workshop in their community, how to be a speaker in their community. The Institute is here to help you heal first so you can help others heal. There is no short cut (here let me tell others how to heal when I haven’t done it myself!). Nope.

There is only one letter differentiation between Nope and Hope. To not only heal but be recycled. Please let us know how we can help you in the new year meet the healing goals you have set for yourself.

(**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.)

Joy vs. Happiness

You were out looking for a little happiness when you stumbled upon Dr. Jekyll as he was appearing wonderful and considerate. Strangely, before you knew it, evil Mr. Hyde was instead dismantling anything that resembled happiness and leaving in its wake, destruction and despair.
Despair is a long way from the happiness you were initially seeking. How did you get from mere happiness-seeking to a totally despairing life? How can you embrace the happiness that you set out to find?

It might not even be ‘happiness’ per se that you were initially seeking. You might have been looking for someone much introspective, spiritual and existential.  But you tell me…

Happiness is external. It’s based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone. Happiness is linked to that ‘some day when I meet the right guy’ or ‘when he starts changing and acting right’ or ‘when he goes to counseling.’

Happiness is future oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else’s basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness. These expectations can be seen especially during the holidays when whether or not you have a ‘Merry Christmas’ or a ‘happy holiday’ depends on whether or not he is with you, shows up, isn’t drunk, isn’t cheating, or a list of other behaviors you expect for a ‘happy holiday’ experience. Unfortunately, pathology rarely obliges in that way. So when the relationship falls through, or he isn’t wonderful at Christmas, or you kick him out, or he cheats again, or he runs off with your money, or he was a con artist…then your holidays were not ‘happy’ and your happiness was crushed.

Unhappiness is the result. It’s a typical and inevitable result in pathological love relationships. After all, it’s the only way it CAN turn out. There are no happy endings to pathological relationships. After Christmas and New Years, he will still be pathological and you will still have the same problems you had in November. You notice that The Institute has not written a book called ‘How to Have a Happy Relationship with a Pathological.’

Chronic unhappiness leads to despair and depression. Remember the emotional roller coaster you rode with him?  You were happy when he was good and miserable when he was bad? You were hypnotically lulled into happy-land when you were with him and in intrusive thought-hell when you weren’t? Your happiness was hitched to his rear end.

When he was around (and behaving) you were happy. When he wasn’t, your happiness followed his rear end right out the door and you were obsessing, wondering, and pacing.

Happiness is what you feel when he says the ‘right romantic’ stuff, buys you a ring or moves in. But happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can’t be bought and it is not conditional on someone else’s behavior.

In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. You don’t have to have ‘him’ for the holidays to have joy. Likewise, you don’t have to get revenge, snoop out his short comings, and tell the new girlfriend the truth or anything else in order to have joy. You can lose in court with him; already have lost your life savings to him, watch him out with a new woman, or live out of the back of your car and still have joy.

You’re probably thinking, ‘sure you can have joy in those circumstances if you are Mother Teresa!’ Joy is almost a mystery, isn’t it? It’s a spiritual quality that is internal. My mother had a lot of joy and I learned from watching her joy. Her pathological man ran off with her life savings forcing her to work well past retirement.

It forced her to live simply so moved to a one room beach shack and drove a motorcycle. For cheap entertainment, she walked the beach and painted nudes. She drank cheap grocery store wine that came in a box, bought her clothes from thrift shops, and made beach totes from crocheting plastic grocery bags together. She recycled long before it was hip to do it. But what she recycled most and best was pain….into joy.

Instead of looking externally for yet another relationship to remove the sting of the last one or to conquer the boredom she might feel at being alone…she cultivated internal and deep abiding joy. It was both an enigma and a privilege to watch this magnificent life emerge from the ashes of great betrayal.

I use her a lot as an example of someone who went ahead and got a great life and turned this rotten deal into an exquisite piece of art called her life. Anyone who spoke of my mother spoke MOST of her radiant joy. She had the ‘IT’ factor long before it was even called ‘IT.’ Women flocked to her to ask ‘How did you do it? How did you shed the despair and bitterness of what he did and grow into this? THIS bright shining joyful person? What is your secret?’

Somewhere along that rocky path of broken relationships with pathological men, she learned that happiness is fleeting if it’s tied to a man’s shirt tails. She watched too many of the shirt tails walk out the door with her happiness tied to his butt. In order to find the peacefulness that resides inside, she had to learn what happiness was and what joy was.

The transitory things of life are happiness-based. She had a big house and lost a big house when she divorced my father. She had a big career and lost a big career when she got ‘too old’ according to our culture to have the kind of job she had. She had diamonds and lost diamonds.

So she entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away ‘stuff’ left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away there is stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside of us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. During this holiday season, this is a great concept to contemplate.

Her joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It’s not rocked by anything.

It wasn’t rocked as she lay dying three years ago in the most peaceful arms of grace–a blissful state of quiet surrender and anticipation. Those who were witness to her death still tell me that her death brought new understanding to them about the issue of real joy. Joy in all things….death of a dream, death of relationship, and death of a body. Joy from within, stripped down, naked and beautiful.

Untie your happiness from the ends of his shirt tales…

Merry Christmas and Peace to You in this Season of Peaceful Opportunities!

Mutual Pathology: Gasoline & Fire

Pathology is a mental health issue not a gender issue. Women have just as much pathology (in some areas of personality disorders) as men due in other areas of personality disorders. Some of the 10 personality disorders are seen more in men while some of the other disorders are seen more in women.

As you have heard me say over the years, pathology is pathology–meaning that each personality disorder has its own problems and challenges in relationships but pretty much holds to the Central Three that I talk about related to pathology:

1. The inability to grow to any true emotional or spiritual depth.

2. The inability to consistently sustain positive change.

3. The inability to have insight about how one’s behavior negatively affects others.

Given those 3 aspects of personality disorders, we can easily see how the 10 different types of personality disorders can be linked together by these three ‘inabilities.’

While men may be more bent towards Anti-Social Personality Disorder or psychopathy, women may be bent more to Histrionic, Dependent or Borderline Personality Disorders. And when you have a personality disordered man + a personality disordered woman = Jerry Springer Dynamics!

There is no guarantee that there is only one pathological in the relationship. Women have just as much mental illness, addictions, and personality disorders as men. And it’s quite common for personality disordered people to hook up. When this happens you have two people who can’t grow to any true emotional or spiritual depth. You have two people who can’t sustain positive change. And you have two people who don’t have insight about how their behavior affects others.  The relationships are dramatic fire-beds of emotionality, addiction, and violence.

Women’s pathology is just as damaging to others as men’s pathology is to women. Women’s pathology may ‘present’ a little differently than men’s overt aggression related to their pathology but it is not any less problematic. Women’s pathology can sometimes (and I use the word sometimes lightly!) be more subtle when it is masked behind emotional dependency, sexual addiction, sexual manipulation, financial dependency or high emotionality. Those types of symptoms can be associated with more than just a personality disorder. But women’s pathology is just as damaging to a partner, a boss, their family and friends, and God forbid, the effects of their pathology on their children.

While women are more likely to be diagnosed as Borderline, Borderlines are often misdiagnosed and under diagnosed female psychopaths and anti-socials. There seems to be some what of a gender-bias when it comes to diagnosing women with psychopathy. Unless they have participated in a Bonnie & Clyde episode or made the Americas Most Wanted TV program, they are likely to be down graded in their pathology. Dramatic, highly emotional or self injuring women may be down graded to Histrionic, Narcissistic or Borderline.  Those with a little more flare for hiding their real lives may warrant the same diagnosis as male psychopaths but are able to hide it better or have less violence associated with their behavior. But not all female psychopaths are NOT violent.

Many are horribly violent–to their children and their partners yet always present themselves as a victim. These are the women most likely to press un-warranted domestic violence assaults, cry rape that didn’t happen, and abandon their children. The point is, any gender can have personality disorders and each personality disorder may, or may not, present slightly different in the other gender.

Beyond mutual pathology, a woman’s own mental health can influence the dynamics within a relationship. A woman who has unmediated bi-polar disorder who is in a relationship with a borderline male can have unusually dramatic relationship dynamics. Her mood fluctuations and his can ignite a feeding frenzy of boiling anger in both of them which is likely to lead to violence. Both partners having a substance abuse or alcohol problem can certainly negatively fuel the dynamics.

And let’s not over look the ‘pathologizing’ that women often get from being raised in a home with a pathological parent. She brings to the relationship the pathological-like behaviors that are learned within pathological families. I have seen that in sessions with women (and hear it a lot in the emails I receive) where the pathological effects of her previous childhood, adult life or relationships is negatively effecting her world view, current functioning level and even ‘entitlement’ attitudes she brings to the table. Couple any of these mental health situations with her along with HIS pathology and you have some of the most volatile and difficult relationships and break ups in history.

There have been many times in working with women that I recognize he is not the only problem in the scenario. Not all women in pathological relationships are mentally ill. However, not all women in pathological relationships are NOT mentally ill. And some of her own mental illness can be the gasoline on the fire of the pathological love relationship which fans the flames of dangerousness for her. Red flags for me that there is possible mental health issues with her include entitlement, chronic victim mentality, unregulated mood issues that are not amenable to treatment/medication, chronic returning to the pathological relationship/replacing relationships with more pathological relationships, history of unsuccessful counseling/treatment, and doesn’t take responsibility for her own behavior/choices.

Those represent only a few of possible many different types of symptoms that there may be mental health issues in her as well. Clearly, pathology is not gender specific and pathology and other mental health issues in both parties can accelerate the dangerousness and problems seen in pathological love relationships.

Dissociation is Not a Life Skill

“Dissociation Isn’t a Life Skill” (Quote by Sandra L. Brown, M.A. )

Dissociation is described as:

1. The splitting off of a group of mental processes from the main body of consciousness, as in amnesia.

2. The act of separating or state of being separated.

3. The separation into two or more fragments.

Let’s talk about Dissociation a minute…it’s technically a defense mechanism–we separate out of our memory things that we don’t want/can’t deal with. In trauma (like abuse or rape), that’s helpful at the time. If dissociation becomes your major defense mechanism, it can become a full blown dissociative disorder which is a very intense type of disorder. But outside of full blown dissociative disorders, there is still the ability to heavily rely on dissociation even if you don’t have the disorder.

We can get trained to dissociate and use it against ourselves! Dissociation is when we separate from our awareness ‘details’ of an event. I think this happens with dangerous men as early as the first date when we ‘choose’ to not pay attention to our screaming red flags. We are dissociating their messages away from our awareness because if we truly became ‘aware’ we might ditch him early on and we don’t want to.

Dissociation can become a primary defense mechanism if you grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive, addictive, or violent home. That’s because children can easily go on ‘overwhelm’ and check out–or dissociate because they can’t handle what’s going on. If you never learned adult coping skills then it’s likely you use the ones you do know: which are from childhood. And if your primary skill was dissociation, then you’re probably using that now, and it probably has gotten you into a lot of trouble in your patterns of relationship selection.

After a while, you don’t even know you’re dissociating. It’s just automatic. So you can dissociate away a lot of IMPORTANT stuff early on: like discrepancies in his stories, his not-so-nice words he says to you, his tonality in his voice, or other behaviors that SHOULD cause you concern, but don’t.

Any time we separate a memory from all its components, you are dissociating from the complete or whole memory which is why remembering ALL the relationship issues are important–not just the good times. The bad times are a part of the memory or the memory is merely a fragment of what REALLY was going on. You can also separate out other parts of the memory like: sensations, words or phrases, physical or sexual pain inherent in the memory, things you tasted/smelled/saw, and various emotions that were prevalent in the relationship. That’s why women get these highly skewed ‘snapshots’ of just the good times and long after those times. The whole snapshot would look very different indeed if she incorporated all the senses in the memory.

Sometimes women can dissociate or fragment off the ‘meaning,’ ‘motive,’ or ‘intent’ as well. So he uses all your money and your response is “He meant well, he just doesn’t know how to handle money.” That’s not likely the situation so the motive or meaning of what he was REALLY doing is fragmented away from you so you don’t have to take action. Dissociation can become an unconscious reason to stay “I didn’t notice….” because underneath dissociation was naturally at work and it also ‘worked’ for the ability to stay in the relationship and ‘not notice.’  How long can you live on the reasoning behind dissociation which is “I didn’t know, I didn’t notice….” which is why I say that dissociation is not a life skill. It doesn’t help you move forward, it keeps you frozen in time.

Women describe dissociation as a numbing or a spacey feeling. They either don’t feel something OR they are too spaced out to do much about it. In the middle of a traumatic event, spacing out and numbing is a good thing. Even as adults, I still advocate that there are times for ‘therapeutic dissociation.’ Like in a root canal–who wants to be ‘present’ and ‘aware’ for that? But the problem is that dissociation becomes largely un-managed. Then it becomes downright dangerous to us–robbing us of our ability to be aware, in tune, and vigilant.

Look back over your childhood for patterns of dissociation. Look back over your adult relationships and see how influenced your choices were by dissociation. Look at your TODAY LIFE for signs of when you check out, become aware, drift off, or stuff feelings at the speed of light so you don’t have to make a decision about something. These are all aspects of dissociation. While it might have helped you in a time of trauma, as an adult your recovery is about growing into healthier and stronger coping skills than mere dissociation. All of real life is happening now—are you missing it?

(There is more information about Dissociation in my book ‘Counseling Victims of Violence.’)

External Locus of Belief: Is it True, is it REALLY True?

In psychology, we refer to the belief about where control over events in our lives resides as ‘internal and external locus of control’. This means we see our behaviors either generated by personal efforts or by destiny. We believe that we make things happen or we believe others do it for us whether we like it or not.

But also related to internal and external locus of control is its effect on impulse motivation. This means that a person who has internal locus of control can self regulate their impulses and desires themselves. They find their motivation for behavior, choices, and reactions inside of themselves by themselves. (By the way, pathologicals normally have poor internal locus of control except for brief periods of time when they are conning someone. One of the true signs of pathology is poor impulse control).

Other people who have external locus of control (like the pathologicals) are not self regulated in their behavior, choices, and reactions inside of themselves. Instead, they look outside themselves for motivation and consequently since they don’t regulate themselves well, outside themselves for limits on their behaviors. People with poor internal locus of control often need the external world to regulate themselves for them—unfortunately this is often the legal system, jail, or some kind of negative consequence.

But today, I am talking about internal and external locus of belief systems. Where is your belief system (especially about the pathological) located? Is it inside you or externally in others? Do you come to understand, see, and accept his pathology within yourself? Do you read materials, go to counseling and then come to believe and hold that belief in you that he is pathological, can’t change, and destructive to your own future? Are you able to pull up inside of yourself the facts of his dangerous or misleading behavior in your relationship? Are you able to point to the ways in which he has been destructive to others? Are you able to latch on to his diagnosis and use it as a life raft for yourself to drift away from him?

OR, are your beliefs externally hinged? “If you say so Sandra–if you say he’s pathological, then I guess he is.” “If he scored high on the P-scan (developed by Dr. Robert Hare) then I suppose that is correct….”  Statements like these are related to people who have external locus of belief. They don’t really believe it themselves; they are hinging their belief system to someone else’s belief systems–usually mine or another expert in pathology. Somewhere along the line they haven’t really ‘come to believe’ that the pathology is his. It’s still some distant reality ‘labeled’ by a therapist but you don’t own it inside your self. This makes accepting it, reallllyyyyyy accepting it, hard for you because you then need to be reminded every 30 seconds that he is in fact, permanently pathological. Once you are out of ear range of a therapist or some other external validating system (books, DVDs, CDs, etc.) will you still accept his pathology?

‘Coming to believe’ pathology is a hard thing. It’s a shock to learn that someone you thought was the most wonderful person in the world is secretly very, very (did I say very?) sick.  NOT only do you have to believe that the person is very, very (did I say very?) sick, but that sickness has no cure. Not only are they sick and have no cure, but staying around them is detrimental to your own (and your children’s) mental health. Not only that they are sick, have no cure, staying around them is detrimental to your own mental health but they have all the capacities of breaking both your knee caps–either financially or even physically given no conscience. This is a big wad to swallow all at once with no chaser of hope.

Most people need a time of ‘coming to believe’ — it’s like building faith in anything else–we study and come to believe. Pathology is the same way–you need some education, some time to digest this big wad of bad news, and some time to work a plan of ‘accepting the things I cannot change.’ Almost everyone who faces the fact of pathology in someone else has this same ‘coming to terms’ process. We expect it.

But, there is also the problem of when you don’t ever come to truly accept it and then hinge your belief system about his pathology on some external person, organization, or book. The Institute cannot be your belief system (He’s pathological because Sandra says so). If after a few months, that belief system doesn’t become internal for you (I know this to be self evident, that he is pathological and for all of these reasons….) then you’re in trouble for potential relapse.

Just like in external locus of control explained above, external locus of belief stands in the same jeopardy–that someone else can’t be responsible for what you do with what you know (or what you don’t come to accept).  That your pathology destiny is not in The Institute’s hands–it’s in yours. That whether you ignore the info and go back is entirely up to you—not a support group, not a book, not a program or a retreat–just your destiny in your hands.

If your locus of belief is still external and it doesn’t shift and become internal–just know this is a risk factor for you. Holding the belief system steady is the challenge of overcoming cognitive dissonance. When it doesn’t get over come eventually, either you learn to do what the 12 Steppers call ‘Fake It ‘Til You Make It’ (do it ’til you believe it) or face the rising statistics that you’re likely to believe the internal chatter and make a beeline back.

Just Because You Believe It, Doesn’t Make it True

The last few weeks we have been talking 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 reminded frequently that this statement ‘Just because you believe it, doesn’t make it true’ is accurate when it comes to denial in pathological love relationships. There’s something about a narcissist and psychopath that can make you forget all about their pathology and return to your previous ‘fog’ of beliefs.

F.O.G.–Fear, Obligation and Guilt

Entrenched in your own desires is to have a normal partner. Couple that with the NPD (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 finger nails into the nano-second of his normal behavior and she’s not gonna let it go! Otherwise highly educated, bright, and successful women can be reduced to blank-stared-hypnotized-believers when it comes to believing he is normal, can be normal, or that it’s her that is really the messed up one.

You may feel you have made substantial headway in understanding the nature of the unchangeableness of his disorder and then what appears to come out of nowhere, you are blank-staring and hypnotized yet again.

While pathology never changes, what did change is your belief system. Obviously an NPD and/or PP are not capable of true sustainable change. He didn’t change. But your desire to believe his normalcy 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 the belief system.

Most partners live a life of cognitive dissonance–this conflict between ‘He’s good/He’s bad’ that 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 remembrances that support both view points–remembering the good, but still feeling the bad. This circulating remembrance keeps them straddling the fence with the inability to resolve a consistent belief system about him.

This inability to hold a consistent belief system is what causes cognitive dissonance; it’s also what increases it and causes intrusive thoughts. Dissonance is caused by thought inconsistency which leads eventually to your behavioral inconsistency–breaking up and making up constantly.  Thought and behavioral inconsistency 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) 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 ok, he’s going to stop doing the thing 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 items 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 help you with your beliefs or cognitive dissonance, join us for phone coaching, telesupport groups or retreats.

Fantasy and its Effect on Your Reality

Two weeks ago we talked about the power of denial which is a defense mechanism.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at various defense mechanisms that are employed by you that actually enhance your own emotional suffering.  The reason is, you suffer enough from the pathological love relationship and the last thing you need is for your own psychology to be working against you. Today we’re going to talk about ‘fantasy’ and how that too can play with your mind and effect emotional suffering.

Eckart Tolle said “Emotional suffering is created in the moment we don’t accept what is.”

Women who are in relationships with pathologicals have a very strong trait of ‘fantasy.’ Fantasy is not just merely wishful thinking. Fantasy has other components in it that affects your here and now life.

Fantasy is often associated with the future and in some ways the past. Here’s how… women often stay in pathological relationships because they feel panic or fear of abandonment when she or the pathological tries to end the relationship. She ends up re-contacting or allowing re-contact because of these feelings of fear/panic/abandonment.

Abandonment is an early childhood feeling. As adults, we don’t technically feel ‘abandoned’ nor are we technically capable of being abandoned (unless you are for instance medically dependent.) The reason we aren’t capable of being abandoned as adults is that as mentally healthy adults, we really can’t be abandoned in the childhood sense. That feeling is an early childhood feeling usually associated with a time of adult or parental abandonment. It is an age-regression feeling–something that pulls you back to your childhood or a very young emotional state.

The feeling of ‘ending’ a male relationship often subconsciously sets off childhood feelings of abandonment. These are past associations and it taps into fantasy that it is happening all over again when it really isn’t. The previous male in your life who did abandon you as a child (for instance) is not the same thing as a pathological leaving your adult life.

But inside, internally, the child feeling is so strong that it feels like a ‘hole in the soul.’ The fantasy of THIS being the same as THAT takes hold and your panic makes you go back or allow him back in.

Fantasy is also future oriented. Fairy tales are fantasy and are based on “Once upon a time….and happily ever after” which is all the good stuff that ‘might’ happen in the future.

Women stay in relationships with pathologicals based on a lot of ‘fantasy future betting’ — that is ‘he might stop acting pathological, ‘ he might marry me, ‘ ‘he might stop cheating,’ ‘he might tell the truth.’ Fantasy betting is a lot like gambling…betting on a future that is not likely to happen with a pathological.

Why? Because pathology is the inability to change and sustain change, grow in any meaningful way, and the inability to for him to see how his behavior negatively affects others.

But women also stay in pathological relationships based on ‘projected fantasies’ that is, she fantasizes he will be happy with the NEXT woman and she will get all his good traits and none of his bad. This too is fantasy….that his pathology somehow will not effect HER the way it effects you. (You can’t turn pathology on and off like a light switch!)

Here’s some info: Pathology Effects EVERYONE the SAME!! (Unless she’s pathological as well–then who cares if he goes on to have a relationship worthy of a Jerry Springer Show?)

* Women fantasize that this ‘abandonment’ feeling will affect her the way the childhood abandonment did. (And it will not–just as an FYI for you).

* Women fantasize that he will be different with them. If he is truly pathological he is hard-wired. This IS his DNA.

* Women fantasize that he will be happy in the future and she is missing out on something. If he is truly pathological, his patterns don’t change.

Fantasy is not the here and now. It’s not being present in the real life that is happening around you in this moment. It’s ‘out there somewhere’ kind of thinking. Come back to what’s real right now. List the 5 most real points about him right here:






Now stand back, step out of the childhood feelings, and look at the list with adult eyes. You can’t be abandoned as an adult because where ever you go, there you are and you are all you need as an adult. You don’t have dependency needs as an adult like you did as a child. To be abandoned is to be dependent on the one who is abandoning. Adults are not dependent.

Your real life is going on right NOW while you are in your head about his drama and the pathological intrigue. You are MISSING your real life that is happening right now! Drama, obsession and intrusive thoughts are usually about fantasy–the past or the present. It sure isn’t about this present moment and what’s happening right now. Such as, you might be ignoring your own health, your own self care and happiness and maybe that of your children and friends because of how much time you spend in fantasy. Fantasy is telling you ‘just a little longer and he’ll get it and then I’ll have the life I really want.’

Your life is right now–not back there and not up there in the future.