Living the Gentle Life—Part 7: Healing Sexually

Over the past month or so, we have been talking about healing from pathological love relationships and what is involved in this process.  It requires facing the damage that has been done and recognizing any stress disorders or PTSD that you might now have from the relationship. It then requires changing your life in order to heal – changing your physical environment and learning how to develop a lifestyle that helps you heal emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and sexually. Today, we’re going to talk about the sexual effect of pathological and dangerous relationships.

In an earlier article in this series, we talked about healing the spiritual effects of a pathological relationship.  Ironically, the sexual effects are also often spiritual effects. That’s because a lot of the spiritual effects have to do with attaching and bonding on many levels – including spiritually. In a spiritual sense, we have been designed to bond during sexual experiences – especially women.

(WARNING – THIS IS GRAPHIC!) Recent hormonal and sexual studies have indicated that orgasms achieved during sex release the same brain chemicals that are released during BONDING with your baby!

This phenomenal aspect gives great insight into WHY it is so hard to leave a relationship, even if it is dangerous.  Many of the dangerous types of men are hypersexual so there is A LOT of sex. A lot of sex equals a lot of opportunities for sexual bonding through orgasm and hormonal stimulation. Women are, by nature, NOT abandoners; they stay with those to whom they ‘attach’ or ‘bond’. So the more bonded you feel to him, the less likely you are to leave. The more sexually attached you are, which often feels like spiritually attached – “he’s my soul mate” – the more confusing and difficult it is to detach.

Additionally, many pathological men who are hypersexual bring to a relationship a lot of sexual deviancy. For the first time in your life, you may have been exposed to sexual behaviors or aspects that you had never experienced. Since the pathological is great at manipulation, guilt, and rewarding your loyalty, you may have been coerced into sexual behaviors that violated your own morality or normal sexual boundaries. Perhaps he introduced into the relationship pornography, sexual acts you were uncomfortable with, group sexual experiences, relationship rape, or other sexual violations. Additionally, most pathological men, in their hypersexuality, are NOT monogamous, so maybe you acquired an STD from him.

These deep soul wounds harm more than just your emotions. They harm you spiritually and infiltrate your sexual identity. A woman often feels so perverted in what she has experienced she may feel like she has to stay with him because no ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ man would want her after what she has done in the sexual relationship with him.

In some relationships, true sexual addiction may have occurred. You may feel as if you are addicted to him, the sex with him, or sex with anyone. What you have experienced IS sexual abuse in the relationship. However, pathological men have an uncanny way of making you feel like a willing participant, or that it’s YOUR deviancy he is responding to sexually. Remember – they twist and pervert every aspect of the truth!

The sexual side effects of the relationship can contribute to your overall stress disorder or PTSD. It is an aspect that should be treated in order to reclaim your sexual identity.  Untreated, your skewed sexual identity can cause you to continue to sexually act out, to cooperate in his sexual deviancy, or to use drugs or alcohol to numb your painful feelings.

It can also cause increased PTSD symptoms, anxiety and depression, or leave you despondent to stay in pathological relationships out of a sense of feeling dirty or unworthy of healthier relationships.

You can also be impacted spiritually – driving you away from the solace and help you find in your own connection to God.

From this standpoint, the ONLY way to live a gentle life is to heal your sexual side and to see the damage done to your sexuality as part of the overall picture of the after-effects of a dangerous and pathological relationship.

If you are in counseling, please talk to your counselor about the sexual effects of your relationship.

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


Living the Gentle Life—Part 6: Healing Your Own Worldview

Over the past month or more, I have been talking about healing from a dangerous and/or pathological love relationship. The chronic stress disorder and often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs from the damage done in the relationship requires a serious change in lifestyle in order to heal.

We have been talking about those changes – what needs to change physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In Part 5, we discussed the negative ‘worldview’ effects resulting from pathological exposure. The negative worldview impacts how you now see your post-pathological relationship world. This includes how you NOW see yourself, others, the world, your future, and God.

One of the seriously undertreated effects of pathological love relationship exposure is the healing of the personal worldview. The untreated aspects mimic PTSD symptoms with increases in depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, dread of the future and other similarly related PTSD side effects. Healing your worldview is critical to a healthy future.

Another often untreated effect of pathological relationship exposure is the ‘unconscious adopting of the pathological’s worldview.’ Not only was your worldview altered from the damage done to you IN the relationship, but your worldview was also altered from the damage done to you THROUGH the pathological. One of the unrelenting side effects is the ‘learned experience’ of seeing the world through his eyes.

One of the things that makes pathologicals pathological is the effect of their pathology on how they see themselves in relation to the world and others. Pathologicals are noted for their over/under sense of themselves, over/under opinion of others, and their unusual view of what the world should do for them.

While you may not have adopted these exact views like the pathological, chances are your views have been tainted with the pathological’s viewpoint. This can include normalizing abnormal behaviors or dissociating pieces of reality AWAY from you. Normalizing can make womanizing, over/under employment, drug dealing, alcohol/drug abuse, domestic violence, lying, cheating, stealing, or other overtly wrong behavior ‘marginal,’ when you have taken on his view of life and right/wrong. Pathologicals don’t operate by the rules. They create them for their unique situations and break them for fun.

When your grip on societal boundaries begins to slip, you have been affected by his view of the world. When his behaviors become ‘just a little different’ than other people’s or ‘all people are like this’ – your worldview has been infiltrated. When you begin to think of other people like he does, or define others by his warped definitions, when you believe his ‘take’ on things or tell yourself only partial truths so you don’t have to really see his real self – your worldview has been penetrated. When you become numb and lethargic to the things he has done, your worldview has been violated.

This is just one more aspect of your wounded worldview that needs healing if you are going to recover. A wounded worldview does not allow for living the gentle life. And the gentle life is probably not even possible until the way you see yourself, others and the world becomes ‘gentle.’

Pathologicals are harsh. They leave people feeling irritated, rubbed raw, and chapped. Your interior does not feel ‘gentle’ – it feels rough.

Pathologicals are notoriously negative, so you may have found your mood, thinking, and reactions to have taken on his negativity. It’s hard to heal when everything looks like he told you it looked – bad (and it’s all your fault!). It’s hard to live the gentle life for yourself when your emotions are anything BUT gentle.

This is the point about the necessity of healing the worldview – it’s a critical part of your recovery. Because having been warped by a pathological, ‘HOW you see determines WHAT you see.’

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

“Ah, just get a life!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much healing to you!

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


Living the Gentle Life—Part 3: The Emotional Effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are in need of the following:

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

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

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


Living the Gentle Life—Part 2: The Physical Effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Living the Gentle Life: The Cracked Vessel

Over the years, I have talked about the frequent aftermath of pathological love relationships which is often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many women emerge from these relationships either diagnosed, or not yet diagnosed, with PTSD—an anxiety disorder so extreme that the core concept of self is often fragmented.

To demonstrate PTSD, I use the analogy of a cracked vessel. PTSD causes a fracture to the core concept of self. This fragmentation produces a crack in the soul, but the soul, mind and body must continue to try to function as an undamaged vase or vessel. The vase can be glued back together enough to function, but push on the crack, and the vessel will break again.

PTSD is a mood disorder, specifically, an anxiety disorder. The common symptoms of PTSD (whether in you or someone you care about who has been in a pathological relationship) include:

  • Intrusive thoughts about him/relationship/events of the relationship
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks or sensing effects recurring in the present moment
  • Extreme reactions upon exposure to things that symbolize or resemble parts of the relationship
  • Trying to avoid thinking about him or the relationship
  • Trying to avoid situations that remind you of him or the relationship
  • Blocked recall of all the events that occurred
  • Decreased interest in daily activities
  • Feeling numb, detached, unable to feel loving feeling
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance (startle reflex)
  • Hyper-arousal (feeling keyed up or too alert)
  • Insomnia
  • Anger/Irritability

Some of the biggest concerns for women are the symptoms associated with PTSD, because it is interfering with the quality of their lives, their level of functioning, and often their ability to parent effectively. Many don’t realize they have PTSD so they don’t seek treatment. They just feel like they’re ‘going crazy’ or “I should be over it by now—why am I still having these experiences?” People are often relieved to learn the name and the reason for their experiences.

Unfortunately, others around them may also not realize what is wrong, and may tell them to “move on,” “get over it,” or “just meet someone else,” and yet, months, and even years later, women can still have PTSD symptoms. That’s because PTSD does not just ‘go away’ without treatment. In fact, it worsens over time when neglected.

PTSD is considered a ‘trauma disorder’ because you have lived through an abnormal and traumatic life event. Trauma disorders require specific types of treatment in order to recover. Untreated PTSD can lead to chronic anxiety and depression, substance abuse to help cope with the anxiety, other compulsive behaviors like eating, smoking, and sexual acting out, addiction to sleep aids, and chronic stress related medical conditions. It’s not a disorder to be taken lightly.

Those who have already been diagnosed with PTSD may not realize that PTSD is often a life-long condition. You won’t always feel as anxiety-ridden as you do now, but depending on the severity of your PTSD, it can leave the vessel cracked. Future damage can cause the stress crack to re-fracture.

Survivors either highly identify with the analogy of the cracked vessel, or hate the analogy. Some have written me and said, “I don’t like what you said about being a cracked vessel—anyone can change.” I didn’t create the symptoms and effects of PTSD.  I have only learned to live with them.

People with PTSD need to live quiet, gentle lives. Their households, jobs, environments, and relationships need to reflect the tranquility that an overtaxed body needs. These are not people who need to have fast-paced, dramatic, traumatic and chaotic jobs, lifestyles or relationships. These are people whose bodies, minds, and spirits need to exist in a healing environment.

In our upcoming seven-part series on ‘Living a Gentle Life,’ we will go into much more detail about recovery from PTSD and other parts of the aftermath from a pathological love relationship.

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


Am I Pathological, TOO?

People who were raised by pathological parents, or with siblings who are pathological, are more likely to repeatedly date pathological people. Some of the patterns of partner selection have to do with learned conditioning—learning to normalize abnormal behavior until that is the norm.

Some pathology can also be genetically transmitted, so people are often concerned if there are down lines in their family tree where pathology exists. For instance, one of the Cluster Bs with a fairly high transmission rate is narcissism. Psychopathy, too, is genetically transmitted way too often!

Clients have two concerns about pathology and its effect on them:

  1. If pathology can be genetic and my parents were pathological, am I PATHOLOGICAL, TOO?
  2. If damage can be done when parented by a pathological, am I DAMAGED?

Pathology can be genetic. There are many people who are born to, and raised by, pathological parents who are damaged by this pathological parenting, but don’t grow up to be pathological themselves. There has been a lot of research and study about this issue of resilience in people and why some do become pathological and others do not.  Nonetheless, about half of the children of pathological parents do NOT become pathological from genetic transmission or from pathological parenting.

However, many of these 50 percent who do NOT become pathological from genetic transmission or pathological parenting are STILL negatively affected by the parenting they did receive. They may carry aftermath symptoms that affect their choices, patterns, feelings, and behaviors. You might be plagued with self-doubt, low self-esteem, chronic caregiving of others, and/or 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 naïve, never trusting your own instincts, and constantly be 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 is known as “sexual anorexia”—the forbidding of yourself to ever be intimate or loving with someone else.

Whether you understand why your parents (or siblings) 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 don’t help you with what you never got from the most important people in your life. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself you probably were/are affected from pathological parenting.

If you learned to normalize abnormal behavior, no wonder dangerous and pathological men look like pretty normal people for you to date! Pathological parenting instills a pathological worldview about yourself, others, and the world around you. The “others” part of the worldview is how you keep ending up with pathological men—narcissists, sociopaths, and other dangerous types. What you learned at the feet of your parents was that black was white and white was black. So many women find that their level of attraction to pathological men was largely generated and supported within the pathological family.

This is a complicated issue that has its roots in several factors related to your adult life. Some of these patterns are related to:

  • Your chronic pattern of selection in men
  • Your inability to recognize and respond to red flags
  • Your non-existent boundaries in intimate relationships
  • Your pathologized worldview that sees black as white and white as black
  • Your ongoing symptoms of relationship confusion, PTSD symptoms or other symptoms you might be having

Reading relationship books or going to relationship counselors is not going to address your pathological worldview and your corresponding symptoms and patterns of selection in men. Your unique family system and relating difficulties need to have the specific understanding and treatment associated with adult children of pathological parents.

We do recognize your unique needs. And we also understand your concern about having been so chronically exposed to pathology through your early years and its devastating results now in your adult life. Rest assured that if YOU were pathological, you would most likely NOT be reading this newsletter or seeking out treatment for your symptoms. Pathologicals don’t stay in counseling or treatment. If you see yourself in the list of symptoms from pathological parenting in this newsletter, rest assured they are VERY treatable!

The good news is that you can recover! Get the help you need in order to stop the cycle of pattern selection and the aftermath symptoms that plague you!

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


The Power of Relapsing

Never before in my 30 plus-year career have I seen more relapsing back into Pathological Love Relationships than I have lately.

“What’s wrong with me? Why do I do this?” they ask. My answer is—I don’t know… why DO you do it?

“I didn’t know what I was doing…” Yes you did. Contact is a choice.

“I just thought he changed this time.” No, you didn’t—you know pathology is permanent.

“I was lonely.” Ok, loneliness is not fatal—but these relationships often are. Your loneliness and need does not change his permanent disorder.

Nothing has changed except your thoughts about him and the relationship. That’s the only change. Since pathology is marked by an inability to change and sustain positive change, your thoughts are the only change that there is in the relationship. And maybe your desire or need.

Relapsing begins FIRST in the mind long before it becomes a behavior-seeking missile that is fired off to destroy yourself and your recovery. This is why being in a Pathological Love Relationship support group is so important—whether it’s in a chat forum, an in-person support group you attend, social media group, or an online teleconferencing group. You need support that keeps your THINKING outside of the fantasy zone. Without support, you are likely to sink right back into the old fantasy hopefulness that keeps you glued to a go-nowhere and dangerous relationship.

Relapse thinking goes like this:

You take all the material you’ve learned from books or online back to the pathological and try to convince him he is pathological and needs help.

You tell him what your counselor has said about him, you, or the relationship—hoping the impact from a professional will change his mind about his condition.

You say, “Now that I think I know what might be wrong with him, I’ll wait and watch for him to do these behaviors.”

“Then I’ll have evidence for why I’m leaving.”

When he, in fact does one of the behaviors, you either point it out to him as proof you were right, or, you find reasons why the behavior isn’t exactly what you read and therefore, he may not be pathological after all.

You read the materials and literature looking to find all the traits he doesn’t have. You reread the literature on good days so you can cross off behaviors he isn’t doing today.

You find reasons to disbelieve the literature about the disorder.

You avoid your counselor, the Institute’s website, or anywhere there are others who know about the disorder.

You become ‘spiritually hopeful’ so you can stay in the relationship because God is going to heal him.

You begin reading Positive Psychology materials so you can hope he can change even though pathology is all about the inability to change.

You call his girlfriends or exes to get them to confirm or deny he’s pathological.

You hire a private investigator to follow him, ask friends to report back on his social media activity, break into his phone or computer, for ‘just a little more info’ on why you should leave him (but then you don’t leave).

You feel sorry for him more than you feel anger for your own pain.

You focus on the few good times and stuff your own feelings about the deceitful behavior.

You encourage him to carrot-dangle some future hope or potential to you, so you can say, “We’ll try it ONE MORE time.”

You think you are confronting him because you stand up to him, and so you are not being victimized by him if you are voicing your thoughts.

You minimize his previous deceitful, manipulative, dangerous, exploitative or lethal behavior by saying, “I was probably over-exaggerating it.”

You label yourself, “just as sick as he is” so you might as well stay with him. No one healthy would want you.

You envy his lack of conscience and remorse and see it as a ‘good life’ feature, and wish you were like that and cared less about what happened to you. Everything seems to go his way when he lacks conscience.

You hyper-focus on his behavior and avoid taking care of yourself. The relationship/he becomes the reason for your unhappiness, health, financial, and/or other problems.

You study to death all the traits of every kind of disorder you think he might have and don’t leave because you “want to totally understand it before you leave” and need just a little bit more understanding or validation from others—his family, his therapist, your therapist, your friends, etc.

You start softening, missing him, minimizing his behavior, focusing on your own loneliness, panic about who or what he is doing, make excuses to have contact with him. And ~VOILÀ~ you’re back in.

The ‘emergency therapy session’ call that everyone wants to have is AFTER they have done one of these behaviors and feel awful about relapsing. The emergency session needs to be WHILE you are having these thoughts and BEFORE you act on them. Every time you go through one of these cycles of relapses, it just numbs you more to why you should be out. It makes it easier and easier to relapse. And easier for the thinking to start back up in your head and be totally unrecognized by you.

Damage is done to YOU each time you are in and out of the Pathological Love Relationship, damaging your sense of reality even further—training yourself how to hypnotize your belief system with one of the thinking phrases listed above. You are also teaching the pathological how to get you back in the relationship. They aren’t stupid! They are master behavior analysts that study what works with you. Stop teaching them!

There is so much that the Pathological Love Relationship has legitimately done and damaged in you. But there is so much you DO TO YOURSELF in your relapsing. Relapse prevention requires work. It doesn’t just ‘happen’ that you declare you are ‘done’ and you stay gone. If “it takes a whole village to raise a child,” it takes a whole community to help you get out and stay out until MUCH TIME down the road and you are strong enough on your own. I said, MUCH TIME.

Day one of healing does not happen until you are out, and have been out and have been emotionally disconnected, for several months. I don’t consider people who say they are recovering but are in and out and having constant relapse contact, to have even day one under their belt. For those of you who are truly ready to start a new life, we are here to help you. Unwedge yourself!

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





Characterlogical Disorders: He is What He Does

Personality disorders are those permanent disorders that mar a soul. They impair a person’s ability to grow, to sustain enduring positive change, and to develop insight about how their behavior affects others. This is the path of pathology—when disorders so affect a personality that it leaves a person impaired and it disengages their character switch.

Personality disorders are often referred to as Character Disorders. No wonder! The problems associated with personality disorders largely manifest as inappropriate behavior associated as negative character reflection. We now know some of this inappropriate behavior is associated with poor impulse control. When low impulse control is not managed, a person begins to look like someone ‘characterlogically challenged’— displaying characteristics such as lying, conning, manipulation, overt or covert stealing, sex addictions, infidelity, violence, drugs/alcohol abuse, etc. These are all reflections on someone’s behavior which can reflect character.

Why would someone want to be with anyone whose character is ‘suspect’? Finding out about consistent lying or chronic cheating are all character red flags that, when heeded, could reduce the relational harm you experience; but ignored, become a path of pain. Character red flags are usually related to CHARACTER DISORDERS which are associated with personality disorders, which are permanent.

People who adhere to a ‘two-strike rule’ about character infractions could help reduce the number of people in therapy today because of Pathological Love Relationships. Behavior is often a reflection of character. What are you accepting as character and why are you shocked when they display more of the same behavior? And why do you end up making excuses for their behavior?

Over and over again I hear women of all ages say, “There isn’t anyone decent out there.” It seems to be especially true of this current 20-something generation in which “It’s all about me” has become a significant motto of the decade. Women give up and give in to the common dating practices that are prevalent right now, only to cycle through relationship after relationship not only not getting their needs met, but being damaged by their relationships as well. There HAS to be something better out there for women—but is that what you REALLY want?

Why do I ask that? I got a letter from a previous client who discussed the latest relationship she was in. While she was hoping she had overcome her previous relationship choice patterns, she was shocked to find herself in yet another relationship because “she didn’t want to be alone.” It wasn’t a crushing kind of loneliness—but a general “wanting to find the right guy.” She thought it started out well—and when problems arose, counseling was sought from several sources. Feeling like she had gotten a handle on what the issues were, and he had voiced his desire to work on the problems, she stayed trying to find the love that she was seeking. But after emotional and verbal abuse, a threat with a deadly weapon, a display of alcohol abuse, and some physical assaults—she decided the relationship was probably ‘dangerous or deadly.’ There went another couple of years down the tubes—another ‘dangerous man’ and her hopes and emotions dashed against the trigger of a deadly weapon.

In contrast, I am reminded of my foster son Cody’s character, who died at the ripe old age of 25. He was a young guy who, ironically in this day and age, never succumbed to the sex and drug culture.


He was gentle—with nature, with feelings, with people. His integrity was thorough, weaving a rich and deep seam through his character. In a blazing black-and-white contrast to what women have been selecting, I wondered why it’s so hard to see character. Yeah, yeah, I know—they hide and mask and do all the other subversive types of behavior that don’t allow you to see. It’s often said that “Character is who you are when no one is looking.” Well, a pathological could care less about that! They only want to fake character when someone IS looking.

But just knowing that character and its glaring deficits are often related to pathology should be enough to make people sit up and take notice. We live in a world that is numbing itself against any moral and behavioral absolutes. This numbing causes people to accept pathological behavior as the norm. “There aren’t any good ones left” is an excuse to accept the pathological culture that is developing before us.

It takes someone like Cody to make us realize that good people are worth waiting for. When you accept bad character, you get bad behavior. When you accept bad behavior, you accept being hurt because it’s inevitable. Thank you, Cody, for being a teacher to me about what good mental health looks like in a young man. I miss you, but always remember what you taught me.

Character counts, ladies. Don’t sacrifice.

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


All Memory is Not Created Equal—Positive Memory Seepage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.)