Why It’s Not Just About ‘No Contact’ — It’s Much More — It’s ‘Disengagement’

by Sandra L. Brown, MA

It doesn’t take longer than five minutes into a break-up to know that having contact is not helping your recovery. I see lots of facebook pages and websites touting the benefits of ‘No Contact’ but the issue for recovery is far beyond merely ‘No Contact.’

The merits of ‘No Contact’ are obvious. It’s hard to retract yourself, rewire yourself, or recreate yourself when you are still having contact with the source of your traumatic injury – the pathological partner.

Let’s look at each one of these—

  • Retracting—Moving out of the injury of pathological exposure is the first step that most people associate with ‘No Contact.’ You remove yourself from the presence of harm—harm physically but mostly the harm of the psyche that is exposed to that much relentless pathology. Retracting is almost a physiological reaction to the harm and enduring pathology itself—like recoiling into one’s safe space.  So removing oneself is one way of moving into ‘No Contact.’
  • Rewiring—‘No Contact’ is also to soothe the fight/flight/freeze patterns of trauma. It’s so that the adrenaline and cortisol can stop pumping and the brain can calm down. The neuro impact from pathological love relationships is very real (see the book Women Who Love Psychopaths, or Dr. Rhonda Freeman’s material on Neuroinstincts.com). Contact is perceived by the brain as threatening (even if it isn’t) and is autonomic, meaning it can quickly bypass the reason centers of the brain to become an automatic physiological trigger. Smells, sights, sounds, words, and memories are all vehicles for traumatic patterns of fight/flight/freeze that include emotions, neuro reactions, and physical reactivity. While you may think that speaking, emailing, texting, or seeing him is not likely to be ‘any worse’ than any other time you have seen him, trauma is an accumulative injury. Each exposure creates layers of trauma and each time there is exposure there are connections to memories associated with him. The cologne he is wearing, the shirt, the words, the tonality, the smirk, the smile, the glint in his eye—any or all of it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and causes the house of cards and all of its triggers to bring you to your knees. In fact, it is only a matter of time until that is likely to happen. ‘No Contact’ then becomes a necessity for traumatic symptom management so as not to expose yourself to more triggering effects of pathology. It helps to soothe the craving and pain centers of the brain that still ‘long for the pathological relationship (Dr. Rhonda Freeman).
  • Recreating—‘No Contact’ helps to reassign the sense of self that has been wrapped in the one-ness of the relationship. Self is associational in a sense, that is, it is relational. We see ourselves through our loving connections to other. The injury to one’s self-perception or how you see yourself is one of the items that takes the longest to heal in recovery.  You have to recreate how you see yourself and how you experience yourself. Much like grief when someone dies, you have to face the empty house, the empty bed, the empty coffee cup. You have to recreate the patterns of your life—what you do in the morning, after work, and on weekends.  You have to recreate how you date and mate. The more contact you have the harder it is to extricate your sense of self from the sense of couple-ness. So ‘No Contact’ helps you to get on with the necessity of learning to see yourself without the pathological partner.

But ‘No Contact’ is just the beginning of your steps in recovery.  First steps in recovery are to get your brain in a recovery condition that can guide and steer the rest of your recovery. If your brain doesn’t work, then it’s going to be even harder to get your emotions on board.  Brain first, and the rest will follow which is why No Contact for re-wiring is foremost. But it is not merely not texting, calling or emailing that creates havoc with the brain.  It’s why ‘No Contact’ is a first step but it is hardly the totality of recovery.  You must proceed to disengagement.

Disengagement, as The Institute refers to it, is 2nd Step recovery.  To help manage the pathology-exposed brain, to tame rumination, to calm intrusive thoughts, to not trigger fight/flight/freeze patterns is to disengage from things that stimulate memories, flashbacks, ruminations, trauma, and autonomic reactivity. What is the one thing that is related to memory/flashback/ruminations/trauma/autonomic reactivity? It’s the storyline related to the pathological love relationship.

The commonality of a trigger is the subject. Disengagement as an act of recovery and as technique for symptom management must include the disengagement from the pathological partner which includes the history, and its retelling, of the relationship.

Rumination occurs not only from the memory but from engagement with the subject which includes the compulsive need to talk about it, tell the story, seek validation, compare and contrast details of the events, or obsessively read other victim stories.

Survivors are compulsively driven back to the very item that gave them the traumatic injury. Discussed in Women Who Love Psychopaths, this can be related to traumatic replay or a dozen other defense oriented mechanisms. But just as in the saying “a dog returns to its vomit” survivors find ways of reengaging with the subject without ever having ‘contact’ again.   This is an emotional loophole. And this is why it is not merely about ‘No Contact.’

When our clients are maintaining ‘No Contact’ but are still highly symptomatic, I ask how much ‘engagement’ they are having with the topic of pathology. Most tell me they have purchased every book on the topic, are on multiple social media sites about the topic, in chat forums, and have ‘support friends’ with the same issues whom they met online that they talk to by phone.  Their phone pings every 5 minutes with a new article on ‘My Life with a Psychopath’ story. This is not disengagement. This is engagement with a deadly weapon.

I am honest when I say I am dismayed at the peer run websites and social media sites that are ‘validation’-only sites – that do nothing but post lists of symptoms of the survivor and behaviors of the pathological.  Let me say sensitively, there is a fine line, especially in recovery, between understanding what happened to you, having your experience validated, and re-injuring yourself with the same trauma that harmed you.

In the beginning, many survivors don’t know what can happen with over exposure on these sites. If a little information is validating, than a lot must be utterly therapeutic. Nothing could be further from the truth! We have had emergency sessions with plenty of survivors who binged on peer sites which triggered a PTSD reaction.

Engagement in similar stories of the same type of trauma a survivor has experienced themselves, sets off the autonomic physiological reactivity—on comes anxiety, depression, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, cognitive dissonance, hyper vigilance, sleeplessness and the worst – craving and longing.  But ‘no pain, no gain’ – the information and inundation in the subject matter they feel likely hurts because it is so true.  Your discomfort is normal because you are being triggered by the information.

Our clients are told that recovery is not merely about not contacting HIM, it’s also about not contacting the subject including story-telling sites or, as we call them, ‘sit and spin’ sites that are peer run and which allow people to just tell story after story of their pathological love relationship. They call this ‘validation.’ We call it a prescription for relapse and meltdown. The survivor spins their adrenaline and cortisol, stirs the agitated mind, and if that’s not enough, whoever is reading their story is also having the same reactions. Unguarded and unguided sites like these can do untold harm to those on the edge with anxiety, PTSD and complex PTSD.

Disengagement with the subject is far from not texting him, not driving by his house, or fly bys on his facebook page. It is disengagement in behavior related to the pathology subject so that the brain has time to catch up, slow down, and release its death grip attachment to the subject and memories. Behavior guides the brain.

Disengagement means the survivor has made a commitment to healthy forms of recovery –

  • Including finding sites that are not ‘sit and spin’ sites. Instead, finding sites and groups that are run by mental health professionals with historical relevance in the subject.
  • The survivor commits to choosing only behaviors that do not reactivate pain centers in the brain which includes not compulsively discussing the storyline with others who aren’t equipped to help them process the trauma—online or in person.
  • Not reactivating pain centers by compulsively reading other survivor’s stories on websites, social media and forums. Even forums about this topic create the same neuro pathways for the pain center in the brain as did the pathological partner.
  • The survivor finds alternative ways to getting pathology education information and trauma processing without re-traumatizing themselves through peers.

Dear survivors, ‘No Contact’ to help yourself retract, rewire, and recreate are great first steps.  But to really rewire in a neuro recovery way means more than just not texting or talking on the phone. It means recreating a new self with a new outlook on what hurts and harms you in your own recovery and not choosing (again) overexposure to pathology oriented information that inflames the craving, longing, reward and pain centers of the brain.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Your Medical Conditions—Are the Root of Your Relationships?

Many women don’t know that ongoing stress (whether it is recognized or not) leads to very predictable medical conditions. Our mental state is our physical state, so women with the worst health issues are often women with the worst emotional stressors.

Women who were in addicted, mentally ill, abusive, or pathological families often have the most severe and lingering medical symptoms and diseases. One reason is that they have a cumulative effect of stress-related disorders because of the length of time they have been stressed. Since many women who were in disordered families go on to pick disordered men, their stress simply rolls over into the next relationship. Or, if a woman is able to avoid the disordered intimate relationship, her previous exposure to the disordered family or resulting stress may go untreated. In those cases, the stress is still stored in the body.

We now know that stress has to go somewhere. It goes into your body as deep as the cellular level as well into your muscles and tissues. This type of stress storage can result in diseases that affect the muscles and tissues like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), lupus, or fibromyalgia.

Stress attacks the immune system and renders it ineffective. This can result in diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein-Barr, and other autoimmune disorders like lupus and fibromyalgia, that end up moving from the immune system to the muscles and tissues. (Ever say, “He’s wearing me out!”?  He literally IS!)

Stress negatively affects blood pressure. And we know that high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart disease, and other long-term diseases. (Ever say, “He’s killing me!”?)

Stress floods the body with cortisol that produces too much adrenaline in the body. This causes you to be irritable, have sleep disruptions, and fight-or-flight symptoms. Cortisol affects metabolism which produces weight loss or weight gain, especially in the stomach area, and blood sugar instability, which can lead to hypoglycemia or diabetes. (Ever say, “I just feel like I want to jump out of my skin!”?)

Stress negatively affects hormones, causing chronic menstruation problems, endometriosis, infertility, early menopause, PMS, and other female reproductive disorders.

Stress causes inflammation in the body, which we now know is the beginning of most disease processes. This can lead to arthritis and other inflammation-related diseases.

Stress causes tension which can be held almost anywhere in the body. This affects the skeletal system, resulting in back or neck pain requiring chiropractic adjustments.  Sometimes it’s stored in the face and produces TMJ or migraines. (Ever say, “He’s such a pain!”?)

Stress causes the release of gastric juices, which inflame the throat, stomach and colon, resulting in digestive disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. (Ever say he was a pain in the butt?)

Stress negatively affects the absorption of vitamins in your body resulting in depletion during ongoing stress which can result in fatigue, hair loss, allergies, and skin problems. (Ever say, “He really gets under my skin!”?)

Stress screams to be managed, which is why so many women end up with addictions, trying to “manage” the chronic stress conditions—addictions to anxiety medication, pain meds, street drugs, alcohol, food, sex, religion, and overachieving. (Ever say, “He is going to drive me to drink!”?)

Over the past 25+ years of treating women, I’ve seen every one of these disease processes at work. PATHOLOGICAL RELATIONSHIPS ARE A LEADING NEGATIVE CAUSE IN WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUES ON EVERY LEVEL! If we want to improve women’s health in this country, we need to address these pathological relationships that are literally killing them!

Stress hides because we are adaptive in some ways, and become used to the level of stress we are currently under, OR have ALWAYS been under since childhood. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t highly damaging our bodies with it. Some women only become aware of their stress if it jumps significantly. By then, you are in a severe category of stress disorders and, by that point, you probably have several of the conditions listed above.

By far, the condition of the 21st century for most people is stress. Women with histories of abuse or current pathological relationships have even higher stress levels than people without these contributing factors. Stress demands to be treated and then managed … either do it now or it will demand treatment in the form of medical issues.

Many women say they don’t even know where to begin in managing the stress that is contributing to their medical conditions because they have had it for so long. On our shopping cart is an mp3 download for Relaxation Techniques for Stress Disorders—that’s a good start. Consider physical exercise, yoga, or pilates as some ways of metabolizing all of those stress hormones. Learn deep breathing, relaxation techniques, or quiet meditation. Find a counselor or a group in order to verbally express the underlying issues of your stress. Learn how to manage addictions to sex, relationship hopping, drugs (even prescriptions), and alcohol.

When assessing your overall health, do consider the underlying possible reasons for your health issues—your emotional stressors and HIM!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Not All Abusers Are Created Equal

Just as not all victims are the same, not all perpetrators of harm are the same either. There is a temptation to ‘lump’ them all together making ‘who’ they are is what makes them abuse others the same as other abusers and what they ‘do’ as abusers the same as other abusers. Perhaps this is where Domestic Violence theory and pathology theory walk different paths.

Pathology is often the missing piece when looking at the domestic violence or abuse scenario. Pathologicals are part of the continuum of abuse but usually hover at the upper end of the continuum. They represent those who relapse into abusive behavior (emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, and/or financial) no matter how many batterer intervention groups they are forced into. Their biology and hard wiring is often overlooked by the court system that mandates these groups and overlooked by the organizations who offer batterer programs. But it is exactly their pathology that differs from other abusers.

I have suggested repeatedly that those who run Batterer Intervention Programs need to personality disorder test those who are entering anger management, batterer groups, and other similar programs. That’s because we need to weed out those who will not only NOT be helped by the program, but as Robert Hare says, will only learn HOW TO USE the information learned in the groups against the victims, the system, and other organizations running similar programs.  There’s also no use in wasting tax payers money on treatment for those who don’t benefit from treatment.

Pathologicals (those with the ‘Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorders of Cluster B/Psychopathy) are those most likely to abuse the group by gathering info and becoming a slyer abuser. They are the ones most likely to use the information they learned in group later on the judge, their attorney, court evaluators, child evaluators, etc. If Hare didn’t think pathologicals should be given treatment in prison, why do we think they should be given similar treatment information outside of prison like groups that end up being ‘pre-prison’ routes for many pathologicals?

Pathologicals are also those most likely to get sent to intervention groups over and over again. There is a danger in ‘graduating’ the pathologicals for having ‘successfully’ completed their weeks in batterer intervention and/or anger management. They return to the victim with a certificate in hand by an organization that says ‘They have completed the program’ when what really occurred was that they did not benefit in a long term manner from what they were taught. But the certificate helps the abuser get in the door again. Many victims think they are protecting themselves by mandating the abuser has to go through intervention to be able to come home again. It’s a mirage that we offer when we give a pathological a certificate of completion. Batterer groups and court ordered anger management need to be offered for those who can truly ‘complete’ the program because they have the capacity to sustain the positive change that the program says they need to change. I have known many a case in which the victim was killed after the batterer intervention program when they let the new ‘graduate’ back into their home.

Pathologicals are those most likely to convince others that they are not the problem–that she is, or  it’s the world, their job, their childhoods, their attorneys, etc.

Pathologicals are those most likely to stalk. They don’t take no or “go away” as answers. Instead, they take it as a challenge. When programs like DV are helping women with stalking, they need to understand that, by nature of what causes most stalkers to behave the way they do, they are either personality disorders/pathology or they are chronically mentally ill as in schizophrenia and often un-medicated bi-polars. Your run-of-the-mill unhappy husband who has been dumped doesn’t stalk.

Pathologicals are those most likely to abscond children and bolt. Giving partial custody or unsupervised visitation is to invite the natural outcomes of a pathological with poor impulse control.

Pathologicals are those most likely to expose children to abuse, neglect, and their pathological lifestyles. They are those most likely to ‘program’ children against the protective and non-pathological parent.

And last, but certainly not least, pathologicals are those most likely to kill or attempt to kill. Without conscience, empathy, guilt, remorse or insight, someone so ‘inconvenient’ like an ‘abuse tattler’ is likely to be seen by a pathological person as a swarming gnat and killed with the same amount of forethought.

Clearly, not all abusers are pathological. I have seen many people go through batterer intervention and ‘get it,’ go home, change their behaviors, positively impact their marriages and families and never do it again. But in pathology, there’s ‘nothing wrong with them’ so why change? In pathology, it’s always someone else’s problem – it’s never about their behavior. In pathology, it’s not merely about the Power & Control Wheel that explains their abuse of power. In narcissism and psychopathy, power is food. It’s not ‘a way of looking at relationship dynamics’ — it just ‘is.’ It’s biological, not dynamic.

The newest information on the Neuroscience of chronic batterers and other pathological types show us the parts of the brain that are impacted and that prevent them from change. This is not merely willful behavior, this is his hard wiring.

All abuse is an abuse of power. But not all abuse of power is treatable or curable. It’s not that there aren’t similarities in the abuse or even the abuser, but in pathology the abuse of power has no cure. Abuse, addiction, mental health issues all have the hope of treatment when there is insight and the ability to sustain change. But in pathology, the inability to grow, sustain consistent positive change, or develop insight about how their behavior negatively affects others precludes them from the benefit of treatment.

That IS what pathology is – the inability to be helped by medication, counseling, spiritually, or even love. Abusers who are not pathological have the ability to grow, change, and develop insight about how their abuse of power and control harms others. Pathologicals can never do that.

That’s why all abusers are not created equal.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Unexamined Victim: Women Who Love Psychopaths

“We can’t prevent what we don’t identify, we can’t treat what we don’t diagnose. And we can’t teach how to spot them unless we understand pathology ourselves.”

Millions of dollars have been spent researching and writing about psychopaths while almost nothing has been spent, either in terms of time or money, on the profoundly disturbing byproduct of psychopathy – its victims. Since male psychopaths outnumber the female variety by about 3 or 4 to 1, I’ll be talking mainly about female victims of male psychopaths in this article.

Despite the fact that psychopaths devastate everyone in their path including the women and children who love them, why have clinicians not seen fit to study and write about the single most obvious source of insight into this issue: the survivors of intimate relationships with psychopaths? The study of any disease involves carefully collecting and examining its symptoms, and psychopathy is definitely a societal disease. Even our legal system gathers information about criminals by taking testimony from on-site, first hand witnesses. So again, I ask: why is there no clinical material about – much less interest in – the psychopath’s partner?

I think one answer is that therapists don’t recognize her as a victim of psychopathy because they usually don’t recognize him as a psychopath! On the rare occasion when a psychopath’s victim is identified, she is lumped together with more typical domestic violence survivors; or labeled as co-dependent, a relationship/sex addict, and/or assumed to be suffering dependent personality-disorder. These inaccurate and often biased explanations of pathological love relationships have neither helped victims find specific treatment for their unique relationship dynamics and aftermath symptoms, nor have they contributed (as they could) to our knowledge of psychopathy itself. It’s a travesty within the clinical profession that the victims are not more readily identified or better understood and that this rich source of vital information has not been mined.

I came into the field of pathology through the back door – I was not looking to work with Cluster B relationships (i.e., with narcissistic, antisocial, histrionic, and borderline personality disorders; personality disorders are grouped into one of three clusters based on common characteristics) – I was just trying to offer counseling to victims of crime. However, going through that door led me into a whole career within the field of psychopathology and, after 20 years of ‘treating’ personality-disordered people, I gained a new appreciation for the depth of permanent devastation caused by what Otto Kernberg called the “dangerous and severe personality disorders.” These severe disorders affect not only the sufferer, but family members, partners, friends, children, and even the therapists themselves. I continue to be overwhelmed by the fact that the therapeutic progress of those with personality disorders is measured in millimeters, while the devastation they leave behind is measured in miles.

After years of working with the disordered, my focus began to shift; I realized that my time and energy would be far more fruitfully spent helping those who didn’t recognize the oncoming pathological in their lane of life. The problem was clear: women became victims because they didn’t recognize the difference between normal personality diversity and the signs and symptoms of pathology. Despite the fact that most personality disordered individuals can hide for some period of time behind a ‘mask of sanity’, there are signs and symptoms that the non-clinician can learn about and thereby avoid some of the most devastating life events known to our society. I noticed the ‘dangerous man’ experiences from which women were healing were largely due to two types of pathology: narcissists and the whole antisocial end of the pathology spectrum, which includes antisocial personality disorders, sociopaths and psychopaths. And so, I initiated psychopathology education for the community-at-large. Through one of my earlier books How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved I focused on the effects that Cluster B personality disorders can have on a relationship, coining the term ‘relationships of inevitable harm’.

As I counseled victims of the personality disordered, learning things from them that made my hair stand on end, I wondered why others had not bothered to study the persons who were exposed to the most dangerous relationships on the planet! If the field of violence prevention had been around since the 1970s, why wasn’t this pool of potential homicide-risk victims better identified for prevention or treatment at the very least? Why had no one ever thought to collect the precious data they – and they alone – could provide?

As one of the first therapists to extensively study the clinical aspects of the partners of psychopaths, I was fascinated to discover that these women were remarkably similar in personality traits. Their stories of their relationship dynamics were comparable, and their aftermath symptoms identical. At the same time, despite the therapeutic mislabeling mentioned above, and the societal misunderstanding of them, women who loved psychopaths didn’t turn out to fit any of those labels! It was ironic that there was so much similarity between all of them, but none of it had anything to do with the labels which had been assigned to them!

The Institute, which I founded, conducted an in-depth study of over 75 women worldwide (and has recently completed a study with more than 600 respondents that shows the same results). The initial intensive survey collected data, relationship stories, histories, symptoms, temperament traits, and characteristic behaviors along with the dynamics of their interactions with pathological partners. This victim-based research brought into sharp focus the long-missing issue of their unusual relationship dynamics and their often masked aftermath of symptomatology. (For more information read Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists 2nd ed., Sandra L. Brown, M.A.) It also highlighted some unusual aspects that only psychopaths could bring to, and perpetrate in, an intimate relationship. This was shocking insight into the dynamics of the psychopathic lifestyle.

Here is what was discovered:

  • Educated and otherwise well-adjusted women described entrancement or ‘vortexing’ into relationships with psychopaths who have extraordinary skills for exploiting the suggestibility of others.
  • The psychopath lured them through a form of hypnotic induction into trance states which contributed to how strongly women can be ‘held’ in these relationships.
  • The role of intensity of attachment and fear affected her perception of sexual and relational bonding with psychopaths.
  • The ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ dichotomous personality of the psychopath coupled with ‘crazy-making’ relationship dynamics aided the development of cognitive dissonance in the victims, weakening an otherwise strong emotional constitution.
  • The victim aftermath symptoms either resembled or were in fact post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), even without physical violence.
  • Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience explained brain differences in psychopaths (and other Cluster Bs). It aided the clinical understanding of the permanent hard-wiring nature of these disorders. While we hope this eventually adjusts the erroneous belief that psychopathology is not merely willful behavior, it is evident that the lack of education for victims has hindered their ability to understand the permanence of these disorders; victims continue to assume batterer intervention or therapy will change the psychopath.

The seminal aspect of the research was in detecting these women’s unique and astounding elevated ‘super traits’ of temperament, personality strengths and weaknesses. These proved to be an amazingly compatible match for the strengths and weaknesses of a psychopath and brought a natural ‘balance’ to the honeymoon aspects of the relationship.

While the uncovering of her innate traits and conditioned behaviors explained much about these dangerous relationships, and has brought huge intellectual and emotional relief to the victims, it does not seem to have gone very far in modifying the public misperceptions about psychopaths or their victims. On a recent radio show, after describing the huge elevation of some of the victim’s temperament traits and explaining how it could affect her patterns of selection and even tolerance in these relationships, the host said, “That’s a crock of crap! You’re telling me that a few temperament traits can do that? I don’t believe it. She picked him, she stayed, she needs to own it and she was probably abused as a child.” These simplistic answers are what have been, and continue to be, at the core of the abysmal lack of public psychopathology education.

As mentioned, my research has revealed that women who love psychopaths (and other Cluster B personality disordered individuals) possess rather unique and extraordinary ‘super traits’ of temperament that make them the perfect target/victim of the psychopath. While the following does not cover all of her traits, these were the ones most highly elevated and were thus likely contributing factors:

    • Extraversion and Excitement Seeking. (Psychopaths are also extraverts and excitement seekers.) In other words, these women started out being the least dependent types on the planet!
    • Relationship Investment. The victim gives great emotional, spiritual, physical, financial investments in any of her relationships, not just the intimate ones.
    • Attachment. She has a deep bonding capacity.
    • Competitiveness. She is not likely to be run out of relationships – she will stand her ground. Again, not the co-dependent type at all.
    • Low Harm Avoidance. She doesn’t expect to be hurt, sees others through who she is. In other words, not a person looking to recreate an abusive relationship of childhood. In fact, more often than not, these women were never exposed to abuse of any kid as children.
    • Cooperation.
    • Hyper-empathy. This can actually be genetic.
    • Responsibility and Resourcefulness.

I think we can all agree that these sound like outstanding women in all respects! These stellar qualities don’t look like a problem at first glance, but some of these traits were measured in the range of 97% higher than average, proving that even too much of a good thing can be bad.

What happens when you put all this together:

Too much empathy

+ high bonding

+ high sentimentality

+ and low harm avoidance?

= You get inevitable harm.

You get fabulous women who love deeply, who have a big heart, who get much out of their relationships and who tend to trust openly because they believe that everyone is as good and decent and loving as they are. What’s more, their super-traits make them able to hold fast to that belief in the face of some of the most horrifying evidence to the contrary imaginable.

While finding these kinds of off-the-chart trait combinations sounds foreboding, it is actually good news. We can’t prevent what we don’t identify. We can’t treat what we don’t diagnose. And we can’t teach how to spot them unless we understand pathology ourselves. With this new understanding we have the ability and possibility to use this information to develop targeted and appropriate survivor treatment programs and – more importantly – to design Public Psychopathy Education targeted at those who are most at risk for developing or sustaining relationships with individuals of the psychopathic ilk.

Since the first printing of Women Who Love Psychopaths, I have spent years using this specific information and developing new approaches in our treatment programs. I designed the programs exclusively for women emerging from relationships with psychopathic men. After treating hundreds of clients I have learned a great deal about the unique aspects of the destructive consequences that these women experience in the aftermath of these relationships. I have added that new data related to these findings later in the book.

Both my understanding and my clients’ intimate first-hand knowledge of psychopathy are different from many conventional and even clinical writings about the psychopath. Considering how the women came to know what they do know, it should be different. My understanding about the disorder has grown out of my unique experiences treating the psychopath’s victims who have shared their personal life-destroying lessons about their encounters. When you approach the subject of psychopathy through the outcome of victimization, the view and insights are wider and deeper.

My perspective may differ from other psychopathy researchers who work primarily with criminal psychopaths in the prison system or those researchers who work in laboratories, as well as from instructors in academia who teach about psychopathology. In most of those cases, the only psychopathic subjects available for study or report are those who were caught or incarcerated. In the cases in the book, the psychopaths are primarily not, and have never been, incarcerated. They are what you might call ‘successful psychopaths’.

This factor highlights one difference in the book’s approach. I based the psychopath profiles on information provided by their intimate partners – not through standardized research approaches which depend, to a great extent, on ‘self-reporting’ by the psychopaths themselves. (This is problematical at best since lying is one of the chief characteristics of the psychopath.) The women answered detailed questions about the psychopath’s behaviors and their unique relationship dynamics. Experience taught me that you can learn a great deal from how victims and witnesses describe the psychopath’s behaviors. Words and actions, closely observed over long periods of time, provide a rich source of data from which to infer the psychopath’s mental landscape.

I wrote Women Who Love Psychopaths to help the psychopath’s victims understand their unique and unprecedented at-risk status – past, present, and future. Since it was published, it has taught them how to safeguard themselves from other predators and prevent the devastation psychopathy causes. Over my 25+ years of providing counseling, I have sadly seen hundreds (if not thousands) of lives destroyed by varying levels of mixed pathology and psychopathy. This growing global pathology stands as one of the primary public mental health issues facing our world today simply because of the number of victims it will inevitably create – because that’s what psychopathy ‘does.’

More importantly, I believe this book has begun a process in the US towards Public Psychopathy Education. I believe the way to prevent psychopathic destruction within society is through public awareness education. Education can help women make better parenting choices by explaining:

  • the risk of psychopathic fathers passing their disorders on genetically
  • how psychopathic fathers emotionally damage the children they parent.

Pathological parenting always leaves its brutal and twisted world view imprinted upon impressionable souls.

To impact the public’s future knowledge, women must know what psychopathic traits look like in men. They can’t understand a psychopath until they learn what pathology in the psychopath looks like, acts like, and hides like.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

When a Divorce is Unexpected

By Susan Murphy-Milano

 You are now in a position where all your decisions will most assuredly impact your future. You must think logically and strategically while going through this period. If you feel you don’t know which way to turn and need advice, you may want to consult a relationship strategist or divorce planning expert before you take the first steps and consult an attorney. Be sure that the professional is someone who has your best interests at the forefront and represents you well. They should be able to advise you on a number of things, especially how to choose the right attorney and how to prepare yourself for your first consultation.

Follow these steps to keep on track:

  • Consult a lawyer immediately (consultation for the first half hour or so is usually free).
  • Bring with you to the lawyer a list of prepared questions to ask.
  • Try not to spend that free time crying or talking about your marriage. A lawyer is not there to be your therapist. Stick to only the facts as it pertains to children, finances and property. You are there to interview and possibly hire them.
  • Copy or scan all documents including wills, car titles, etc., and anything you find on the computer.
  • If you have an iPod, video camera or camera, take two pictures of everything including appliances, cars, artwork, antiques, jewelry, furniture etc.
  • Whatever you do, do not pack up and move out until the divorce is final (consult a lawyer first).
  • If you have never had a credit card in your own name, start applying now to establish a credit history of your own.
  • Try to remain as calm as possible when you tell the children. Do not speak negatively of or badmouth the other parent.
  • Do not use your children as a confidant. Do not involve your children in divorce preparation.
  • Try to keep the kid’s regularly scheduled activities and routines as normal as possible.

Consulting with a legal professional before you are served with divorce papers will better prepare you in the days and months that follow. A good attorney will be able to provide you with a clear understanding of your legal rights.

For more information refer to “Moving Out, Moving On.” You can order the e­book from http://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/movingoutmovingon.

Important Note: If you have been in an abusive marriage you should inquire as to the lawyer’s expertise as it relates to domestic violence, orders of protection, stalking, and whether or not s/he has represented women who have been abused.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Isolation

Not long ago I had a conversation with another pathology blogger who was adamant that isolating herself is what she needed. I recognize it’s what she wants. I want it too. I struggle with wanting to isolate especially when I’m triggered.

But really recovering from ALL of the PTSD symptoms means we have to challenge ourselves and deal with the parts that we are avoiding. Avoidance and it’s aftermath of isolation, is after all, a big part of PTSD and other stress related behaviors.

If our recovery was based on only doing what feels ‘good’ then we will only get partially recovered. The need to reduce hyper vigilance through isolation is paramount but it often squelches real legitimate needs for dealing with our avoidance and reaching out to build support and community.

Hyper vigilance feels horrible and many survivors get stuck in just trying to deal with that one symptom by isolating to the exclusion of dealing with that very real thing of isolation and avoidance. Isolation is used to manage hyper vigilance but if isolation is then dealt with it might not be what’s used to deal with hyper vigilance and forces another solution to be sought other than isolation.

Hypervigilance is one of the categories of symptoms in PTSD. But so is isolation. So as an example, the blog owner is essentially using some of the other categories of symptoms, isolation and avoidance, to try to deal with the category of hyper vigilance. It is like trying to use anxiety to manage depression. You can’t use one of the symptoms of the disorder to manage the other symptoms of the disorder.

PTSD recovery is not just about reducing hyper vigilance as this one blog owner stated. It is often a reflection of where our recovery stops, where we are stuck in getting to one place that we feel we can semi-control, like hyper vigilance, and the absence of that symptom feels as if we are ‘there’ or conquered some mountain in our symptom-lives. Or we become satisfied that if ‘at least’ we are not hyper vigilance it feels ‘good enough.’ It is unfortunate that we stop at managing one symptom and think ‘it’s enough’ and our avoidance swells at the thought of taking the next step to deal with the next set of symptoms.

Recovery is about ways of managing symptoms such as hyper vigilance, but as we know, there is MUCH MUCH more to PTSD or other stress disorders than one symptom. We can’t use one of the symptoms of our aftermath to try to manage another symptom. The answer is a full recovery, facing those things that are uncomfortable for us knowing that in the end, we will build mastery.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Grief and Its Impact on Relationship Selection

If you are still actively grieving the loss of a previous relationship, that grief can have devastating effects on the type of person you choose for a new relationship. Many people do not realize they are grieving when a relationship ends, which actually places them at risk of choosing dangerously while being impaired by their grief.

Some people assume that grief occurs only if your partner has recently died and if you are currently still saddened by the loss. But actually, grieving occurs when any relationship ends—whether it is anticipated, desired, prepared for, or not. The longer the relationship existed, the longer the grief normally takes to run its course.

People are often distressed to learn that there should be a ‘time-out’ from dating or future relationships when a relationship has ended. The rule of thumb is 6 months’ time-out for every 5 years of relationship. So if you were with someone (married or not) for 10 years, that would mean you take 1 year off (at least) from being in a relationship or dating. I get horrified reactions to that because most people think, “just get back out there; the best way to get over someone is with someone else.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many of my clients ended up in counseling with me because they did exactly that. While still grieving from a previous relationship, they made some bad choices in the selection of their next relationship which caused them even more problems and pain. When you are coming out of a relationship, you are in pain even if you aren’t acknowledging it, even if you wanted out of the relationship, even if you had planned for the ending of it. When you are in pain, you are not in your best decision-making mind. When issues of the previous relationship are not resolved, many people go on to choose someone just like the person in the relationship that just ended. Subconsciously they are trying to work out those relationship issues—but with a new person instead of the one they just left.

Drastically, many people jump from one relationship to the next to avoid being alone. Alone does not necessarily have to mean loneliness. But in these cases, people don’t really care about the quality of the next relationship. They only desire to avoid themselves and the feelings of the lost relationship. These are issues for the person to work out with a professional because people who cannot be alone are at a significant risk of choosing anyone to avoid being alone.

The baggage we carry from the last relationship has the ability to impact current and future relationships. Ideally, none of us want to hurt new relationships with our old relationship issues that are unresolved. That’s why time off between relationships helps us get some distance where we can assess the good and bad things of the relationship—our part in it, the types of people who we tend to select and whether we need to make some changes. These insights do not happen overnight or even within a few weeks. That is why following the formula listed above protects you from your own impaired relationship choices. Sometimes it allows enough time for you to see that you might need a few counseling sessions to work out your anger or fear, or look deeper at your relationship selection patterns.

The longer we wait and the more we work on ourselves between relationships, the better chances we have of bringing a more healthy self to the next relationship and being able to spot potential bad dating choices.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Emotional (Phantom Limb) Pain

In a session someone says, “I really miss what we had.  I could get over this if it hadn’t been the most wonderful relationship of my life.  I just feel like something has been cut out of me—like I’m missing a big part of myself now.”

Illusion is the mark of pathology.  It’s why our logo is a mask, because it best represents the mirage of normalcy that pathological individuals can often project … at least for a while.

Dr. Hervey M. Checkley, a psychiatrist and writer of pathology from the 1940s, entitled his famous book, The Mask of Sanity, and tells of pathology giving all the surface signals such as having a deep connection, having the most fun ever experienced with a person, of someone who is really into you—while behind the scenes you are being used as a distraction, a paycheck, grotesquely—as a “vaginal doormat,” or some other form of “feeding” of the pathological piranha.  What you are experiencing, you are internally labeling as “normal,” “wonderful,” or “love,” and yet it really isn’t any of those things.  It’s just a label of experience you have tagged with him.

If someone was watching your relationship as a movie, and watched scenes in which the pathological individual is exposed for his true self, your scene would be tagged and labeled very differently by the viewer than what is labeled in your own experience.  That’s because the viewer would see the pathological individual’s behaviors and words as manipulative and would have a distinctly different view of the storyline.  Your labeling of your experience isn’t always accurate.  As I often say, “Your thinking is what got you into this pathological relationship.  Don’t always believe what you think.”

Being invested in being correct is part of the human condition and is, in part, the way our brains work.  The more important the questions are—“Does he love me?”  “Is this the one?”—the greater the pleasure will seem from labeling the experience as positive.   The more positive the relationship is perceived, the more invested you will be to label the experiences and his behavior as positive, and to get the reward of your label, whether it is of him, the marriage, or the relationship.  Of course, none of this is problematic, except if you have misread the illusion, believed the presented mask, and labeled an experience with a narcissist, anti-social, or socio/psychopath as “positive.”

The illusion:

  • He was normal.
  • He was in love with you.
  • He was what he said he was.
  • He did what he said he did.

In pathology, that’s never the case, because:

  • They are mentally disordered (which isn’t normal).
  • Their attachments are shallow (which isn’t love).
  • They never present themselves as disordered, sexually promiscuous, and incapable of love (so he isn’t what he said he is).
  • They harbor hidden lives filled with other sex partners, hook-ups, criminality, or illegal and immoral behavior (so he doesn’t disclose what he’s really up to).

What you had (that you can’t possibly miss) is a pathological relationship.  What you want and miss is the ability to wrap yourself up in the illusion like a blanket—to go back to the time before you knew this was all illusion.

Women often say, when they try to break off the relationship, they have the feeling that something is being cut out of them.  They feel like they are missing a part of themselves.  This sensation is similar to what is called phantom limb pain, which is a medical mystery of sorts.  When a person has an arm that has been amputated, the portion of the brain that used to receive sensory messages about the existing arm goes through a series of changes.  This causes it to misread the brain message and creates the “ghostly” illusion that the arm is still there and in pain.  Even though the patient can see that the arm is gone, and what they are experiencing is an illusion; they can’t stop the distressing phantom limb sensations of wanting to believe the arm is still there.  The arm is in pain, but the arm is gone.  Amputees must learn to cope differently and begin to re-label the experience they are having that the presence of the arm is a perceptual illusion.

So it is with those leaving the illusion of the pathological relationship.  The emotional pain you experience is based on the illusion the pathological presented, a perceptual illusion that was mislabeled, experienced as positive, and invested in.  Keeping that positive illusion is initially important to you.  Learning to adjust the cognitive dissonance (which is the ping-ponging between thinking “he was good/he was bad”) is the challenge in overcoming the ghostly emotional baggage of phantom relationship pain.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Don’t Fake the Funk

“Don’t fake the funk.” ~Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

“Put a smile on your face no matter what.” “Turn your frown upside down.” “If you keep your face like that, it’ll freeze. Whoever came up with these statements was never in a relationship with a dangerous man.

The predominant thing women want to know in their phone counseling sessions is: “Is what I lived through in my dangerous-man experience normal?” “The effects I suffer today from that experience—do others have those experiences too?” “Why am I so depressed/anxious/obsessed/paranoid?” “What is it called that I have, and will I always be like this?”

Women greatly underestimate the damage done in dangerous and pathological relationships. Why? Often because they have been in so many of them that it’s now normal… being with someone so dangerous is normal to them AND feeling this bad is normal. It’s been so long since they didn’t have depression, anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, obsessions or paranoia—they have no idea what it feels like to not have these symptoms.

Some women also underestimate the damage because they were raised in families where dangerous behavior was also the norm. The chaos, drama, trauma, stress, and instability were the foundations of their home lives. Their childhood simply melded into their adulthood of the same kinds of relationships—except now, by their own choosing.

Women who have gone from pathological families into Pathological Love Relationships have been chronically depressed for so long that the biochemistry in their brain is currently altered. They have been anxious for so long that their biochemistry is altered by all the adrenaline they have lived on for so long. Long-term exposure to chronic stress, so often seen in dangerous relationships, eventually can create medical disorders. Some of the disorders suspected of being linked to unrelenting traumatic exposure include: autoimmune disorders like lupus, chronic fatigue and the Epstein-Barr virus.

Stress manifests in TMJ pain from teeth grinding, digestive disorders, migraines, hives and female disorders like endometriosis, phantom pelvic pain and other similar disorders. Stress has to go somewhere and often it is crammed into the body to wreak havoc on the body’s systems. Even when trauma has been so severe that much of it is not remembered, the body still remembers what the mind has chosen to forget. Your body always tells the truth.

Mood disorders are among the most common disorders associated with life in disordered relationships. Women are often in denial of the extent of their depression and/or anxiety—either it now feels normal or they don’t want to face what the relationship has cost them in medical and emotional disorders. ‘Faking the funk’ is just one way of coming to the truth of how ‘bodily expensive’ that relationship was. You can’t heal what you don’t see. So, taking your own inventory about how you really are is the first step in recovery. Mood disorders are often manageable through various means but you won’t be managing anything until you stop faking how affected you are by your own relational history.

Many women emerge from these relationships either diagnosed, or not yet diagnosed, with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—an anxiety disorder so extreme that the core concept of self is often fragmented. The cracked vessel must try to now function as an undamaged vase—but push on the crack and the vessel will break again.

The Institute’s books and programs are all geared to helping you face the aftermath damage of what you have experienced and helping you to recover from it.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Mutual Pathology: Gasoline and 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 do in other areas of personality disorders. Some of the 10 personality disorders present more frequently in men, while some of the disorders present 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 mainly holds to the central three aspects 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 these three aspects of personality disorders, we can easily see how each of the different types of personality disorders can be linked together by them.

While men may be more bent towards Anti-Social Personality Disorder or psychopathy, women may show more of a bent towards Histrionic, Dependent, or Borderline Personality Disorder. When you have a man with a personality disorder coupled with a personality disordered woman—it equals Jerry Springer dynamics!

There is no guarantee that there is only one pathological in the relationship. Women have just as many mental illnesses, addictions, and personality disorders as men. It’s quite common for people with a personality disorder to hook up with another disordered individual. When this happens you have two people who can’t grow to any true depth emotionally or spiritually, two people who can’t sustain positive change, and two people who don’t have insight about how their behavior affects others. These relationships are dramatic fire-beds of emotionality, addiction, and violence.

Women’s pathology is just as damaging to men as men’s pathology is to women. Women’s pathology may present 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 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, friends and, God forbid, the effects it has on their children.

While women are more likely to be diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder, borderlines are often misdiagnosed and are really underdiagnosed psychopaths and anti-socials. There seems to be somewhat of a gender bias when it comes to diagnosing women with psychopathy. Unless they have participated in a Bonnie and Clyde-type episode, or made the America’s Most Wanted television program, they are likely to be downgraded in their pathology. Dramatic, highly emotional, or self-injuring women may be downgraded to Histrionic, Narcissistic, or Borderline Personality Disorder. Those with a little more flare for hiding their real lives may warrant the same diagnosis as male psychopaths. Their ability to hide it better, or having less violence associated with their behavior, goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

But not all female psychopaths are nonviolent. Many are horribly violent—to their children and their partners—yet always present themselves as the victim. These are the women most likely to press unwarranted domestic violence assaults, cry rape that didn’t happen, and abandon their children. The point is, both genders can have personality disorders, and each personality disorder may or may not present in a slightly different way in the other gender.

Beyond mutual pathology, a woman’s own mental health can influence the dynamics within a relationship with a pathological man. A woman who has bipolar disorder that is untreated, and who is in a relationship with a borderline male, can bring unusually dramatic dynamics to the relationship. Their fluctuations in mood can ignite a feeding frenzy of boiling anger in both which is likely to lead to violence. Both partners having a substance abuse or alcohol problem can certainly fuel the relationship dynamics in further, severely negative ways.

Let’s not overlook the “model” of pathological behavior that a woman often gets 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 this in sessions with women (and read it a lot in the emails I receive) where the pathological affects of her childhood, adult life, or past or current relationship is negatively affecting her worldview, current level of functioning, as well as the entitlement attitudes she brings to the table. Couple any of HER mental health issues and situations along with HIS pathology, and you have some of the most volatile and difficult relationships and breakups in history.

There have been many times in working with a woman that I recognize the man is not the only problem in the scenario. Not all women in pathological relationships are mentally ill. However, some women in pathological relationships ARE mentally ill. Some of their own mental illness can be the gasoline on the fire of the pathological love relationship that fans the flames of danger for them. Red flags, for me, that show there are possible mental health issues with women include the following:

  • Entitlement
  • Chronic victim mentality
  • Unregulated mood issues not amenable to treatment/medication
  • Chronically returning to the pathological relationship
  • Replacing relationships with more pathological relationships
  • History of unsuccessful counseling/treatment
  • Lack of responsibility for her own behaviors/choices

These represent only a few of the many symptoms that could indicate a possible mental health issue in the woman as well.

Clearly, pathology is not gender specific. Pathology and other mental health issues in both parties can accelerate the dangerousness and problems seen in pathological love relationships.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Will I Ever Find MINE?

February brings Valentine’s Day—a trigger month for many women who want to just ‘slip back into the fantasy’ of everything we associate as a culture with Valentine’s Day. It’s one of those trigger months, like November and December (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve), where women want to ‘look the other way’ in order to have a nice day or time with him. Just for 24 hours she wants to pretend he really isn’t pathological. She wants the chocolates, the flowers, a dinner out, dancing, a little romance—and 24 hours of normalcy. But at midnight, the Cinderella dress turns back to what it was and the carriage that carried the handsome prince is once again a pumpkin with field mice.

Pink and red hearts do not make his pathology ‘turn off’ for the convenience of a lovers’ holiday. Women get frustrated and want to know, “Will I ever find MY love? When will it be MY turn to find someone worth loving?”

I don’t know… can you:

  • Stop focusing on him?
  • Be willing to manage your intrusive thoughts of him?
  • Redirect your obsessions from him to your own self-care?
  • Create a full life so you aren’t lonely?
  • Build a foundation of support that doesn’t include ‘having to be’ in a relationship?
  • Learn to find fulfillment in activities that don’t only include intimate relationships?
  • Treat your symptoms of anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
  • Heal your sexuality?
  • Embrace spirituality?
  • Learn to be attracted to guys who aren’t proverbial bad boys?
  • Dig deep to see what all your relationships have in common so you don’t repeat the pattern?
  • Memorize what pathology is, and stop looking for loopholes?
  • Take a year, or maybe even two years, OFF from dating to nurture all those places in you that are wounded and broken?
  • Take time to learn what your trait proclivities are (read Women Who Love Psychopaths) so you know how to safeguard yourself in the next relationship?
  • Seriously UNDERSTAND how your traits and his traits are a magnet to each other?
  • Most of all… can you LOVE yourself?

Realize YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR YOU! If another relationship DOESN’T come along… you WILL survive. If you’re really determined, you’ll even THRIVE. Get grounded—sink your feet into the earth of your soul and declare you’ll never be uprooted again… no matter what. You’re grounded in you and reality—not fantasy. Be willing to challenge old belief systems, old assumptions, old patterns, and old preferences.

This month is Valentines Day… you’ve fallen in love with all sorts of things and people… you’ve fallen in love with illusions, dreams, hopes, and pathology. It’s time to fall in love with you! I know who you are… you know how? After all that research we have done, we know EXACTLY who you are—you deeply attach and love, you are loving to the Nth degree, loyal, trusting, sensitive, and very invested in relationship happiness. You’re a TERRIFIC woman that any NORMAL man would be blessed to have.

No one is alone during the ‘month of love.’ We stand hand in hand, bridging the gap for each other—connected and bonded by a sorority of shared experiences, pain, and yet, hope. If you need a hug for Valentines Day, there are plenty of cyber hugs floating through here.

Learn to love YOU. Nothing happens and no one else does until you do. Give to the world that part of yourself that is so rich and deep. There are lots of ways to be loved—be loved by giving back, by reaching out to others. Valentine’s Day is for lovers. Be the lover of your own soul. We celebrate that with you…

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

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Bearing Witness to Suffering and Recovery

I have spent over 25 years huddled up bearing witness to other’s incredible pain caused by pathology. Honestly, I don’t know (and don’t need to know) how many thousands of hours and hundreds of stories I have heard of mind-destroying evil.

I have been called ‘a counselor, a writer, a researcher, a pioneer in pathology’ but really all I am is someone who has bore witness and sat with those who are tormented by someone else’s directed evil. That’s all. I opened my soul and my ears and I listened. I opened my mind to comprehend. I opened my eyes and watched tears fall and hearts break and I just sat there and felt it with others.

There are those who have worked the trenches of Bangladesh with starving children and leprosy-ed adults. I have worked the pathology trenches of those discarded by remorselessness. I have faced my own powerlessness to stop evil or repair intrusive thoughts. I have embraced the not knowing of what to say why evil exists. I have struggled against knowing if a person will succumb to the desire to die and be out of pain.

There are those who sit with the dying in hospice. I sit with those who have died and are still alive. I don’t administer morphine, I administer the balm of being heard. All I bring to anyone is the ability to bear witness and see them, see what happened to them, see their suffering. To say yes, I see you are nearly dead. To say yes, your soul is gashed—I feel it. To say yes, evil blew its devil breath on you, it scorched your edges, but you are still here.

I work the ER of the psyche, the critical care unit of the soul, the rehab unit of the walking wounded who were scourged by what all that is holy calls a seared conscience. I don’t even know why except it’s where God put me and never moved me (and I think I will retire or die, whichever comes first) doing what I do. I am quite sure (and my body confirms it) that I have heard way too much pain for one powerless person to witness.

But that’s what we are all here for—to simply bear witness to the suffering of life. Jesus said “you WILL have tribulation.” He was quite sure of that. And that ‘the poor will always be among us’—which did not mean merely financial, but the poor in spirit – all those who were disheveled from brushes with darkness. That’s what darkness does—it tries to break the spirit because spirit is strongest.

And He also reminds us ‘Blessed are those who are poor in spirit for they shall see God.’ Because where else would God be but bearing witness to real life? Not bearing witness to life’s mountainous experiences but to real life lived in the trenches of pain—the places where everyone else wants to bail—when you can’t rise from your bed, or stop crying, or wanting to kill yourself for loving a psychopath. Yeah, that trench of a life. That’s where you need a witness—someone to say you are bleeding but breathing, out of your mind with pain but conscious, gas lighted but not insane. This bearing witness is simply validating reality. Sharing in someone else’s suffering and being present to it is being present to what really IS….and reality can be quite holy. It is watching each other’s lives and walking each other home—all the way to bearing witness to recovery.

And that’s home—the recovery part. Home is not suffering. Home is recovery.

People ask me how I’ve done this work for so long…how I have managed to bear this much pain with patients over the years, how my own psyche doesn’t collapse from facing evil day in and day out—bearing witness to the monumental amount of darkness in the world. This much I know is true—bearing witness is not just about the suffering because suffering rarely has the last word.

If I have learned anything from thousands of hours of this work and a God that is my wing-Man, it is that I am not only bearing witness to suffering but to the dawn that breaks afterwards. Suffering is not the end of the story. It’s the introduction, it’s the fore word, it’s the prelude, it’s the chapter titles, but it is not the conclusion. Holiness trumps pathology. Light makes darkness recede.

I have lived by Psalm 27:13 which promises that I will not be swallowed up in staring at evil my whole career. It says, “I remain confident of this: I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” And this too is the bearing witness of your recovery—that the goodness of the Holy is that recovery happens and that we all are here to validate that you are less numb, less distracted, less in flash backs.

Our community of helpers and survivors is here to do just that—simply to bear witness. The path back needs a witness—because we all are just walking each other home—to recovery. Don’t mistake the journey for your destination.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Pacing and Planning Your Own Recovery

We have been focused on discussing your recovery in great detail. Because the power of pathology saws people off at the knees, you need to have a plan for your own recovery in order to heal. We consider this so important that a portion of all of our coaching whether it be in-person, or during retreats, is focused on how to pace and plan your own recovery.

Women fantasize that somehow getting over this pathological relationship will ‘just happen’ and don’t realize they should be planning their recovery, or even how to go about planning it. In fact, most women have done zero to plan or facilitate their own healing process. Those of you who have found the website are at least that much further ahead than the women who haven’t even begun reading about the topic of their relationships yet! So finding the information is a great first step. But, it’s only a first step, and too many women stop there only to relapse and get into yet another pathological relationship.

Previous newsletters have spent a lot of time examining the depth of damage done at the hands of your pathological. In them, we have discussed PTSD, The Cracked Vessel and the need for Living the Gentle Life, intrusive thoughts and obsessions, healing spiritually, healing sexually, and about fantasy and hatred. We have looked very deeply at the issues of how this relationship has hurt you emotionally, physically, medically, spiritually, sexually, and financially.

There will always be those women who won’t do anything about their lives except continue to be victims of them. How do I know this? I get the same e-mails from the same people, week after week, asking me the same ‘loophole-based’ questions like, “do you think I should leave him because, after all, he SAID he would change?” Week after week, the same people with the same questions who haven’t read the book, who haven’t spent time working on the Dangerous Man workbook, who haven’t listened to one of our mp3s or CDs, who haven’t spent one hour in counseling… keep asking the same questions, expecting things to get better, but getting the same results.

Any 12-stepper knows that the only way they can stay away from something so life-gripping like drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex is with a concerted daily focused recovery on themselves, and the behaviors, habits, and beliefs that led to the life-damaging events that have altered them. Women who will recover from pathological relationships are those who take the same serious and focused approach to the life-gripping and life-damaging relationship that has altered their lives.

We spend 40-plus hours a week at The Institute developing ways to strengthen YOUR recovery—after all, this isn’t about US! We do this by writing books, e-books, making mp3s and CDs and other products, and by giving workshops and conferences, training therapists so they can counsel you, operating a retreat center so you can get specific and unique treatment for your issues, and intense research so we understand WHAT you need in order to heal from this.

It is our hope that you will knuckle-down and focus on your recovery—taking the steps you need to heal from the life-damaging experience at the hands of the pathological. Why? First, we don’t want pathology to win by destroying the lives of strong and wonderful women. We exist to kick butt on this issue! Secondly, WE NEED YOU!

  • If you don’t teach the woman you sit next to, how will she learn to spot and avoid pathology?
  • If you don’t heal and recover, who will be a teacher to others?
  • Who will run support groups?
  • Who will give community lectures?
  • Who will operate an outreach?

It’s not us. Our focus is to educate YOU. Your job is to recover and heal! Now is the time for you to heal so you can eventually reach others.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Illusion of Managing (Or Controlling) a Pathological Person

Part of how people convince themselves to stay in a pathological love relationship is that they think they are making “progress” by managing the pathological’s behavior. Once there is a glimmer of doubt about the pathological’s behavior, the partner begins to do one of two things: they either change their belief system or they change their own behavior. Most of them will change their belief system. That means they will tell themselves there are “ways” to manage the pathological’s lying, infidelity, addictions, sexual acting out, or whatever negative behavior they bring to the relationship. If they can manage the behavior, they can change the person. If they change what they don’t like in them, they have a shot at being happy.

That means they will change how they see the pathological. If they are noticing too much negative behavior, they might look the other way, rename it, minimize it, deny it, justify it, or use any other defense mechanism that allows the partner to change how they see the pathological.

When there is the thought that, by enforcing strong “rules” for the relationship, or by “demanding” their own rights, the pathological will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that by enforcing the “three-strike rule” for the relationship, or by “demanding” the pathological attend church, counseling, or treatment which will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that, by “putting the pathological on a short leash,” and checking on them frequently, calling their cell, sending people out to find them, breaking into the pathological’s phone or computer, that the fear of being caught will “stop” the behavior, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

When there is the thought that the pathological is “now working” or staying at home, or being kind, or saying the kinds of things you always wanted to hear, and that the previous behavior is now gone, the belief is based on the illusion of management.

Pathologicals and/or addicts are not managed. Shortening the leash, making demands, watching closer, hiring a P.I. is not managing a person’s acting out.

Pathology is noted for three things:

  • the inability to grow to any emotional or spiritual depth
  • the inability to sustain the changes that you have demanded
  • the inability to develop insight about how their behavior harms or affects others.

People with pathological disorders are not managed—not by you, not by jail or prison, and not by church. The inability to sustain change may show that the pathological APPEARS to do whatever it takes to stay in the relationship, but the disorder itself means they cannot sustain the change that will please you.

People embrace the truth of pathology when they realize that the idea they are ‘managing’ the pathological’s negative behavior or addictions is simply an illusion. Jails and prisons are packed full of personality disordered and pathological individuals because probation ‘management’ or ‘psychological management’ did not work. As they say in 12 steps, ‘When nothing changes–nothing changes.’ Pathology has an inability to change which means nothing consistently changes in the pathological individual except maybe new ‘ideas’ about how to con others.

Managing manipulative behavior, drugs or alcohol, porn or sex addictions, infidelity, lying, and conning are an illusion used by the partner in order to ‘buy a little more time’ to try to figure out how to make the pathological be ‘more normal.’ In the end, it’s your defense mechanisms telling you that by changing your belief system (he can be different, he can do better) you can ‘help them find the resources they need in order to grow into their full potential.’ If you’re over 30, falling in love with ‘potential’ is a crap game risk. People not living up to their potential in adulthood are called–pathologically disordered. By adulthood, either you ‘have the ability for life skills and success’ or you are ‘life challenged’ by addictions or pathology. In either case, partners need to understand there is no ‘managing’ someone else’s negative and pathological behavior. That is an illusion!

Additionally, playing with the illusion of management increases cognitive dissonance in you. It causes a miserable symptom of your thinking “ping-ponging” back and forth between “he’s good/he’s bad.” This is simply responding to both sides of his Jekyll/Hyde nature. The longer you play with the illusion, the more cognitive dissonance (CD) you overload your mind with.

If you have CD, make sure you get treated for it. It increases over time and makes the symptoms worse. Getting a handle on the “illusion” is a first step toward managing your CD.

The Institute always treats the cognitive dissonance—in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone coaching —the issue of cognitive dissonance is always addressed. We are the leading provider of CD treatment for aftermath symptoms from pathological love relationships.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Happiness vs. Joy, Part 2

In my last article, I talked about the issue of happiness, and how happiness is hinged on external conditions such as relationships, things, careers – stuff. … Our happiness is largely conditional based on “if things go the way we think they should go” or “if people act the way we think they should act.” This leaves a lot of our own happiness tied to someone else’s shirt tails and when he leaves, your happiness goes right out the door with him.

 

I also related some fun stories about my mom and her concepts of happiness. What I talked about regarding my mom was her JOY which was far different than her happiness. She wasn’t always happy. My father was murdered. That certainly did not bring happiness. Her second husband stole her life savings and was a sociopath. No happiness there. Her last “main squeeze” in her life died of prostrate cancer—a lot of sadness there. Yet, my mother was unusually “joyful.”

 

Joy has to do with the quality of US, not them. It’s a ME factor, not a him or them factor. Happiness may be external but joy is internal, and, in many ways, eternal. It emanates from within us and can exist even when the external circumstances of our lives “suck.”

 

Joy can be infectious and can touch others when HOW we are has nothing to do with WHO we are with. It’s a barometer reading of how we are doing with ourselves and in our own spiritual development. It reminds us of how we are doing with managing our own outlook, optimism, and future. We may not have control over what he’s doing, who he’s doing, or how he’s doing, but we do have control over how we choose to see our circumstances. This is the essence of internal joy—managing your worldview from the inside instead of taking your emotional temperature based on how well he’s behaving. How we are, or how our joy is, can’t be taken by a thermometer from his mouth. It has to be taken from our internal and eternal well-being.

 

When you are finally able to shift your focus of where and how joy is created, it is a mind-blowing change because you no longer hold tight to the reins of external control—“I’ll be happy when someone else does _________.” You are able to refocus on finding joy in your life, just the way it is, with yourself and all your warts.  In fact, a few years ago, I wrote about this regarding Viktor Frankel, a Jewish psychiatrist who went through the Holocaust and developed what is now called Existential Psychology which is finding meaning in pain AND taking control of how you see what you have lived through.

 

If all pain is bad, then there is no gift in it. If there is no gift, there is no learning. If there is no learning, there is no opportunity to transform it. If you can’t transform it, you are its victim.

 

Joy comes from the right perspective when we tweak how we see ourselves, our lives, and the lessons of our lives. When life is a spiritual walk, not just a relationship destination, we are able to see the lessons as part of the journey and the OPTION of having joy even in the midst of an unplanned disaster like a pathological relationship. Joy is like a new eyeglass prescription—it clears up and crisps up how we see who we are on this journey and path of life even while in pain.

 

Your pain does not have to define you. That’s your choice. You are more than your pain. And so is your life!

 

(**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, on-on-ones, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com