PTSD as Trauma Disorder—Not Psychiatric Illness

This week we talk about how women can level the playing field in court with a pathological. This could be related to a divorce, separation, restraining order, or child custody. If you have PTSD, the courts are mandated to offer you special accommodations while in court to protect you, and to help your level of functioning due to the PTSD.

In order to do that, you must legitimately have PTSD, be diagnosed and have an Accommodations Report prepared by a professional that is presented to your state’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Coordinator’s Office. From there, special accommodations are granted. The range and what the accommodations are, are listed in the column, “Helping Women Find Effective Strategies for Court.

First of all, PTSD is a trauma disorder. If you are given the diagnosis, it already implies you have been traumatized. You are going to court regarding your traumatized relationship, so it fits and supports your argument in court, as well as the symptoms that have arisen because of this relationship. If he produced trauma, this needs to be said. If we want the court to understand pathology, we need to teach through our own experiences and relationships if we want the court system to change.

Second, PTSD does not necessarily have the type of stigma you may fear. Our vets that come home from war more often than not have PTSD. Fighting for our country is honorable—they were doing a good thing, and yet were damaged from their experience. The same is true for you.

One of our previous presidential candidates has PTSD. Firefighters and law enforcement that bravely saved many on 9/11 have PTSD. Missionaries helping the poor in other countries have PTSD. Social workers working in dangerous situations have PTSD.

I have PTSD. I have lived over 25 years with it. I openly discuss having the disorder—through no fault of my own. I acquired PTSD from seeing my father’s murder scene. I have worked with others that have had PTSD now for 20+ years. And because I am a survivor, I live with the effects of chronic PTSD daily. I know how it has changed me and my life, my abilities, my health, and my endurance. I have seen in hundreds of others how it has affected their lives—sometimes long-term.

If you have it, say it. Nothing starts healing until we acknowledge it. It is what it is.  Some worry that they will be labeled with mental illness if the court acknowledges their PTSD. Well, let’s think about that… do you think a pathological is going to go into court and NOT say you are crazy? You don’t think he will argue every point of your illness, behavior, or symptoms (whether they are true or not) in order to win? You don’t think he’s GOING to use some kind of emotional disorder argument? OF COURSE HE IS—that’s what pathologicals DO!! So, in order to prevent being labeled something far worse than PTSD, if you have PTSD, let IT be the label instead of something else that can greatly impair your ability to get rehabilitative alimony, custody of your children, etc.

Having a PTSD diagnosis before court can greatly help HOW FAR the pathological can go in trying to make you look mentally ill. PTSD is NOT a mental illness. Having a PTSD diagnosis may help prevent them from labeling you mentally ill with other more debilitating types of mental illness.

So don’t shun the PTSD diagnosis if you have it. It may prevent you from being labeled something far worse.

 

(**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 Your Symptoms Look Like Something Else

Women tell me their therapists have diagnosed them with a variety of diagnoses, which has made them not only confused, but often ANGRY! They have been diagnosed, for instance, with disorders like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, paranoia, and other not-so-fun labels.

Most therapists are undertrained in recognizing and treating the aftermath symptoms in victims of Pathological Love Relationships. The reason you are being diagnosed with various disorders is because your symptoms are similar to those various disorders—they are mimicking true mental-health symptoms.

For instance, when your moods are swinging all over the place and you are depressed and anxious, you look bipolar. When you are cranky, highly reactive and want vengeance you look borderline. When you are scared about what he will do next, fear you’re being  followed, or afraid he is spying on you so he can accuse you of something, you look paranoid. When you think things are happening that you can’t prove to other people, you look delusional.

The issue is, these are ALL normal reactions to coercion and Stockholm Syndrome, similar to those found in prisoners of war—in other words, aftermath of a Pathological

Love Relationship. In THAT context, your symptoms make perfect sense! You were coerced, your mind was played with, you felt stuck and held in a pathological relationship against your own spiritual will. You feared that your emotional and physical existence were in jeopardy. And the pathological DOES do things he never gets caught for but that you can’t prove.

In Pathological Love Relationships, women emerge with signs of PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome, and coercion. Unfortunately, not all therapists understand the overlap between PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome and coercion—which is why you are often misdiagnosed. A lot of this is discussed in my book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, in which I talk about the pathological worldview and how women acquire the pathological’s view of the world and how that entraps them in the relationship.

The symptoms of coercion are:

  • Isolation: The individual is deprived of social support, effectively rendering her unable to resist. This makes the individual become dependent upon her interrogator/captor. The victim then develops an intense concern with self.
  • Monopolization of Perception: The captor fixes his attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection in the victim; eliminates outside competing stimuli with the captor, so the victim can only focus on him, and frustrates all actions not consistent with her compliance to him.

(In the mid-relationship dynamics in the book, all of this is discussed. Your Super Traits are very high in what we call relationship investment and cooperation which means you are highly cooperative because you get so much enjoyment out of your relationships that you will ‘bend over backwards’ to make things work. The book discusses when the mid-relationships ‘shift’ and what happens to the women’s perspective.)

  • Induced Debility and Exhaustion: People subjected to this type of abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet their abuser’s standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid demands and requirements make the exhaustion and ability to resist even worse.
  • Occasional Indulgences: Serve to provide motivation to her for compliance.
  • Devaluing the Individual: Creates in her a fear of freedom and dependence upon him, creates feelings of helplessness, develops lack of faith in her individual capabilities.

The symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome are:

  • Perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival, and the belief that the captor would carry out the threat.
  • Perceived small kindnesses from the captor to the captive.
  • Perceived inability to escape.
  • Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor.

When you look at it as a mixture of PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome and coercion, your symptoms make perfect sense… at least to me! While that doesn’t mean you can’t also have bipolar or other disorders—it’s too early to know. Very often many of the symptoms of other disorders fall by the wayside when effective and appropriate treatment is begun. Many of the women do, however, meet the criteria for PTSD. PTSD is most associated with war vets (and yes, you too lived through a war!) and trauma victims (yes, you were traumatized!). To that end, you probably do have a disorder, but it is related to PTSD or other acute stress disorders.

Be hopeful that the symptoms you live with may not always be as problematic as they are in your life today. There is hope and healing available!

 

(**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

External Locus of Belief

Is it True, is it REALLY True?

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

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

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

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

OR, are your beliefs externally hinged? “If you say so Sandy–if you say he’s pathological, then I guess he is.” “If he scored high on the P-scan (developed by Dr. Robert Hare) then I suppose that is correct….” Statements like these are related to people who have external locus of belief. They don’t really believe it themselves, they are hinging their belief system to someone else’s belief systems–usually mine or another expert in pathology. Somewhere along the line they haven’t really ‘come to believe’ that the pathology is his. It’s still some distant reality ‘labeled’ by a therapist but she doesn’t own it inside herself.

This makes accepting it, reallllyyyyyy accepting it, hard for her because she then needs to be reminded every 30 seconds that he is, in fact, permanently pathological. Once she is out of ear shot of a therapist or some other external validating system (books, dvds, cds, etc.) will she still accept his pathology?

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

Most people need a time of ‘coming to believe’ — it’s like building faith in anything else–we study and come to believe.

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

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

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

If your locus of belief is still external and it doesn’t shift and become internal–just know this is a risk factor for you.

Holding the belief system steady is the challenge of overcoming cognitive dissonance. When it doesn’t get over come eventually, either you learn to do what the 12 Steppers call ‘Fake It Til You Make It’ (do it til you believe it) or face the rising statistics that you’re likely to believe the internal chatter and make a bee line back.

 

(**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

Who Does That? Part 2

(Last week we began discussing the WHO of certain behaviors and crimes often perpetrated by Cluster Bs, and how the various systems who come in contact with Cluster Bs have differing names, thus views, of their destructive patterns. How convenient for pathologicals that each system is only focused on its identified behavior, which helps pathologicals continue to fly under the radar. Instead of seeing the big picture of pathological disorders in action, the systems are focused on the sub-directory of behaviors associated with only their system and one small aspect of each pathological’s destructive nature.

When teaching about Public Pathology, I always provide education about the pathological disorders of Cluster B (Borderlines, Narcissists, Anti-Socials, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths). No matter who hires me to speak, they all get the training on Cluster B. I teach this to nurses, the military, therapists (who seem to have forgotten), the criminal justice system, law enforcement, judges, custody evaluators, prosecutors/lawyers, and mediators. I teach it to clergy, addiction professionals, and social workers, victim advocates, and DV programs.  I teach it to every frontline ‘system’ that is likely to encounter various forms of behaviors that fall under the category of Cluster B, but are referred to within each system’s own labeling vernacular.

All these systems deal with the same disorder, with different faces, different statuses in life, different careers and titles, with money or without, different crimes and different charges against them, different social services requests, different spiritual confessions, different story lines, different excuses, different projections of their behavior onto societal causations. But in the end, it’s the same disorder over and over again.

When I teach about Cluster B, I see the moment of “aha!” that comes across their faces when they recognize their own clients within this cluster of disorders. Learning the emotional, physical, psychological, behavioral, financial, sexual, and spiritual behaviors of these disorders quickly helps them to affirm who does that. Looking across the room and seeing law enforcement, judges, therapists, and mediators all nodding in agreement rushes them into the center of reality that we are all dealing with the same disorder in our offices, courtrooms, therapy offices, and pews. That whether they are a defamer, cyberstalker, repeat domestic violence offender, financial con artist, or killer, we are still talking about the Cluster B of disorders.

  • When asking my audience of sexual offender therapists if any of the pedophiles aren’t within Cluster B, no one disagrees.
  • When asking batterer intervention programs if the chronic repeaters aren’t Cluster B, no one balks.
  • When asking forensic computer professionals if trolls, cyberstalkers, defamers and bullies are Cluster B, they readily affirm it.
  • Sexual assault counselors don’t argue that rapists are largely Cluster B.
  • Judges don’t rush to defend that high-conflict cases (those people who file case after case, as many as 60 times to court) aren’t Cluster B.
  • Mediators don’t disagree that those most likely to fail mediation are Cluster B.
  • Custody evaluators affirm that those most likely to tamper with evidence, perpetrate parental alienation, and require supervised visitation, are Cluster Bs.
  • Programs that deal with stalking can easily see that stalking is primarily a Cluster B occurrence.
  • Repeat criminals clogging up jail, probation, parole, and prison programs are often diagnosed within jail as having a Cluster B disorder.
  • Terrorists, school shooters, and bombers are easily identified as Cluster B.
  • Those who stay for years and years in counseling, using up mental health resources without ever being able to sustain positive change, are Cluster Bs (excluding here those with the chronic mental illness of schizophrenia or developmental disabilities).
  • Those prematurely discharged from military service are often Cluster B.
  • The overuse and misuse of most major societal services and systems are related to Cluster B.
  • Some of the most brilliantly contrived insider trading crimes of the century have been planned and executed by Cluster Bs.
  • Are there many murderers who aren’t Cluster B?

Who does that? If we take all the behaviors listed above (and often crimes from those behaviors), put them in an analyzer funnel and watch the behaviors clink and clunk down the spiral DSM Identifier, it would spit them out in an Axis II file with Cluster B printed on the front.

The Cluster B’s behaviors are generated out of a complex interweaving of emotional, developmental, neurological, biochemical, and even genetic, abnormalities. Obviously, this is not a simple disorder, or there would be less ‘inevitable harm’ associated with everyone and everything they touch, and they would be cured or even managed consistently and well.

This complicated group of disorders single-handedly sets society on edge. It keeps us in court, in therapy, in prayer, in the lawyer’s office, in depression, in anxiety, on edge, on the offense, ready to off ourselves to simply be away from such menacing (yet often normal appearing) deviancy.

Who wreaks more emotional havoc than Cluster Bs? Sixty million people in the U.S. alone are negatively impacted by someone else’s pathology. It drives people to therapy, to commit their own petty acts of revenge to avenge their own powerlessness. It drives people to drink, to run away, to take their children and run and, sadly, leads to uncountable numbers of suicides every year.

They single-handedly cause financial disruptions to the working class, who are demoted, or go on disability because of the ‘scrambled eggs’ for brains they now have due to too much Cluster B exposure.

It drives the legal market by keeping attorneys in business through never-ending court cases, child custody, and restraining orders.

It employs judges and prison systems. And keeps forensic computer analysts and forensic accountants frantically busy.

It funds domestic violence shelters, rape centers, and children’s therapy programs.

Pathology is big business. It is what our large service systems in almost every field are driven by… the need to protect, defend, prosecute, or treat the effects of Cluster Bs.

It employs threat assessment professionals to ward off stalkers and reputation defenders’ online programs to repair cyber attacks on people that Cluster Bs rarely even know.

It employs social workers and halfway houses trying to get Cluster Bs “the help they need to turn their lives around.”

It drives the media of TV, radio, and talk shows. Who do we think are often the people on daytime TV and reality shows? Cluster Bs. Who do the media often want to talk about in the celebrity world? The Cluster Bs. What kinds of crimes do the media flock to? The crimes often perpetrated by Cluster Bs.

It drives the medical field due to stress-related disorders and diseases normal people develop as a reaction to the abnormal pathology of Cluster B.

Surely pharmacology is partially driven by medications for depression and anxiety perpetrated by the no-conscience disorders of Cluster B.

It generates new products every year to track, expose and identify Cluster Bs who are hacking computers, sending viruses, or putting chips on phones and cars to invade others lives.

While, clearly, pathology generates jobs for many, it is still the single most destructive group of disorders that exists. And until all the major systems—judicial, legal, and mental health—get on the same page about who does that, we will be stuck in this maze of pathologicals flying under the radar, undiagnosed, unrealized, and wreaking havoc in millions of people’s lives.

Wake up Law Enforcement, Positive Psychology Therapists, Judges, Custody Evaluators, Mediators, DV Batterer Intervention, and Lawyers! Who Does That?

 

(**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

Who Does That? Part 1

Part of our goal at The Institute is not only to help survivors heal from the aftermath of a PLR (Pathological Love Relationship), but also to help prevent future relationships with pathologicals. In prevention, The Institute helps survivors to spot overt, glaring pathology. The overt pathology is easy to identify:

 

  • Few would argue that mothers who drown their children, like Susan Smith or Andrea Yates, aren’t terribly disordered.
  • Those who shoot people they don’t know, or commit a drive-by shooting clearly have pathological motives.
  • Those who sexually abuse children and then hide the sexual offenders, like the Catholic Church has done, are the face of evil.
  • Horrendous hate crimes that torture hundreds, thousands, or millions of people— like war crimes or the Holocaust—illustrate that severe pathology is behind the motivation of that type of hate.
  • The deranged that break into homes to beat the elderly for money, like Phillip Garrett who terrorized those in assisted living facilities, have a notable bent of sheer brutality.
  • Terrorists who commit the taking of hostages and inflict psychological torture, like the infamous Stockholm Bank Robbery (which resulted in the term Stockholm Syndrome), are identifiable as probable psychopaths.
  • The rapist who preys on the vulnerable, or the rapist who rapes a woman in front of her own husband, is overtly vile.
  • The violent anti-socials that are frequent gang members or thugs, like James Manley, who murdered my father.
  • Serial killers, like Ted Bundy, who raped and killed at least 36 women, leave no doubt that he was the worst of the worst psychopaths.
  • The ordering of killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child, like schizophrenic psychopath Charlie Manson did, makes our blood run cold.
  • Cult leaders who usher hundreds to death, like Jim Jones, remind us of the power and persuasion of pathology.
  • Chronic re-offending domestic violence abusers, like O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson, convince us that all DV is not treatable, and some abuser brutality increases with each crime, and are obviously disordered.
  • The babbling grandiosity of narcissism, as seen in Charlie Sheen, reminds us that even the rich and famous carry and display their pack of pathology for all to see.
  • White-collar scam artists, like Bernie Madoff, who rob millions of dollars from thousands of people, remind us that not all pathology is physically violent—some do it with panache and a tie on.

These forms of pathology are recognizable by most of society. Many would agree that these people are horribly disordered and probably dangerous for life.

But being able to spot pathology in less overt and even frequently hidden acts, yet equally as damaging, is where most of us fall short—including professionals in the criminal justice and mental health systems. It’s also where survivors of PLRs are likely to trip up yet again, since the types of behaviors pathologicals perpetrate can vary, causing confusion to the unsuspecting, highly tolerant, and emotionally understanding survivor.

Low empathy is at the core of a cluster of pathological disorders that correlates to inevitable harm when it crosses the paths of others. Low empathy has its roots in reduced conscience, remorse, and guilt. Without empathy, pathologicals find pleasure in harming others. While they might not cackle aloud in public when a dog is hit by a car, they nonetheless live in the shadows of enjoying the physical or emotional destruction of others.

Sadistic? Absolutely! But often it’s sadistic behind closed doors, or as sheltered reputations behind fictitious names, or online identities.

Why aren’t these pathological disorders better identified? That is the million-dollar question, since the main judicial, social, and mental systems of our society deal with this particular cluster of pathological disorders day in and day out. Why are they actively dealing with Cluster Bs?  Because these disorders represent the majority of white- and blue-collar crimes that cataclysmically smash into our lives, even if they are never identified as crimes. The reason society has not cohesively named this cluster of disorders as the center of their focus is because each system has its own view of the behaviors associated with the pathological’s disorders:

  • Law enforcement calls them the bad guys (if they are even caught).
  • Mental health systems call them patients.
  • Domestic violence organizations call them abusers.
  • Batterer intervention programs call them perpetrators.
  • Criminal defense attorneys call them clients.
  • Sexual assault centers call them rapists or sexual offenders.
  • Financial institutions call them swindlers.
  • The online world calls them trolls.
  • Victims call them predators.
  • Children and adolescents call them cyberbullies.
  • The swindled call them con artists.
  • The judicial system calls them criminals (or not, if they are never identified).
  • Churches call them evil or unredeemed.
  • Website owners call them hackers.
  • The defamed call them cyberstalkers.
  • Parents call them pedophiles.
  • Jails call them inmates.
  • Prisons call them high-security risks.
  • The FBI calls them targets and terrorists.

As each system deals with its own view of a specific act the person has done, we miss the wider category that these people fall under. We miss the bigger implication of what goes with that category. We miss the fact that those with these pathological disorders have largely low, or no, positive treatment outcomes. Each system dealing with a behavior only sees the person through their own behavioral specialty. Yet we are all talking about the same disorders in action.

When we ask “Who does that?” we immediately become brothers and sisters in the same battle against pathology. We begin to see the who within the act, the disorder that perpetrates these same acts, behaviors, or crimes. It’s the same subset of disorders that have different focuses, but the same outcome: inevitable harm.

(**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

Let Go or Be Dragged

“Let Go or Be Dragged”—I don’t know who wrote that slogan, but I loved it so much I bought it on a magnet. My first thought was, “Oh, I LOVE that saying for the women!”  But in a flash, I realized it’s a slogan for everyone. A friend of mine in recovery said she loved it for her AA recovery slogan.  Another person told me she loved it as a spiritual theme—to hold with an open hand or face the consequences. But, I do love it for all of you. Here’s why…

Pathological attachments are ‘gorilla glue.’ The pathological partners have a vibe—a come-hither, bonding vortex that sucks you in and holds you there in a hypnotic-like trance. It’s a powerful, seductive, subconscious attachment that mirrors the worst addictive feeling you could ever have. It vibrates throughout your body with a message and sensation that you will literally die if you are disconnected from the source. Letting go never feels like an option. It feels like sure death — death by disconnection, death by umbilical severing, death by life-force loss.

Its trance-like hold of your mind, body, and spirit leaves you stupefied with an inability to enact your own will or your ability to choose sanely the option of getting away from this catatonia. The same trance-like hold that held you in rapture, reverie, and ecstasy, now holds you in a cataleptic coma. Alive, with your eyes open, but your mind dead and unable to move. You look mildly functional to the world but the world doesn’t see the transfixion that is keeping you paralyzed beneath your eyes.

You hold on because you are glued. You hold on because there was rapture, reverie, and ecstasy. You hold on because to NOT hold on is to release your grip on the emotional life support system you think he has been. You hold on because you believe if you hold on long enough, the dazed and glazed existence you have been living will revert to rapture.  The nightmare will then become the dream. The stupor will become the high of the intensity. You hold on because you believe you can’t let go.

WAIT! HOLD UP! Let us ask, “Where are you? How did your clothes get torn? Where is the life you used to have? Where are the relationships with others that you once held dear? Why are your knees skinned? Why do you have those dark circles under your eyes? Why are you on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication? Where is the career you built? Why are your nails digging into your hands? Why is your stomach in your throat? Why are you now somewhere you never wanted to go? How did you get here? Why are you bleeding from your soul?” It’s because your belief about letting go has kept you being dragged.

Drag: verb. Related to: haul, lug, move, pull, schlep, tug, yank, crawl, creep, shuffle.  Your soul is bleeding—it’s your courtesy warning system from your spirit that is telling you to let go.

Even being dragged can be a gift. It can be the first scraped knee that crosses you over to recovery. You’ve held on for lots of reasons including your own version of ‘pathological hope’ that he will change and it will be different. History has taught you otherwise. It’s time to accept the wisdom that ‘no change’ brings to us. Your skinned knee is a metaphor for the beginning of your recovery because the word dragged means “to haul something to a new place.”

                                           Let go or be dragged.

 

Is This the New Normal?

The ‘new’ normal (whatever that is) is code jargon for ‘something in your life that changed and for which you just have to suck it up and get used to’. This cliché kind of phrase has crept into the world of pathology too, and even the recovery movement. So let’s answer some of those questions about ‘the NEW normal.’

“Is ‘How Crappy I Feel’ my new normal?”

In other words, “Will I ever feel like my old self again?”

Let’s say your girlfriend was driving home late one night, off in thought, and after a glass or two of wine. She was blasting her favorite song on her ear buds. This condition left her not in her most focused self—tired, distracted, a little buzzed, and drifting off to the groove of a good song, when she didn’t even realize the slight bump her car made as she drove over the railroad tracks. Since she had no reason to believe something that could really hurt her was barreling down the tracks toward her, she didn’t even glance to see the oncoming train. Once she realized too late that she was going to be harmed—wide-eyed and gasping—she wondered what she could do to save herself. The answer by then was, ‘nothing.’ In a nanosecond she went from being her old self to being someone entirely new—she became a seriously injured person.

You too were run over by an oncoming train – one with a big ‘P’ on its front. You too may have been tired, distracted, or out having a good time when you encountered the train that was going to run over you, destroy the framework of your life, and nearly fatally wound your soul.

The oncoming psychopath does not apply the brakes for anything on the tracks of his life. Your mangled psyche, broken heart, and your sideswiped joy are the natural conditions of having been run over by a runaway psychopath.

As your girlfriend lay at home recovering from having been in a ‘train wreck’—her broken bones held together with casts, her head bandaged from a whiplash concussion, and being relegated to resting for the unforeseeable future, she does not yet realize she is lucky to have escaped with the gift to heal. Her family and friends, recognizing her extensive injuries, are not likely to say to her, “Very shortly, this will be like it never happened. You’ll be back to your old self in no time at all.” It’s easy to see the girl was seriously injured and it was a gift from God she’s alive.

While psychological injuries are not as evident to the bystander’s eye, they are notably experienced by the victim. You were hit by a train! You were injured—emotionally, psychologically, mentally, spiritually, financially, and maybe even physically.

If someone has erroneously said to you, “Very shortly, this will be like it never happened. You’ll be back to your old self in no time at all”… remember—other survivors who have been hit by the same-train-different-tracks will tell you: “No, it will not be like it never happened. No, you will not be back to your old self in no time at all.”

I don’t know if you want the truth or you want that girl’s story whose name is Pollyanna. It is not that you will never heal. It’s that your injuries were serious. You are in the critical care unit of the recovery center. You WILL heal. But it will not be in ‘no time at all.’ If your girlfriend didn’t rise up off the bed in a few days like Lazarus being raised from the dead, you too should not expect that type of ‘miraculous’ healing. Train wrecks mangle bodies, minds, and spirits. Give yourself the gift of recognition that what you have been through is traumatic and life changing. And that you need the time anyone who has been run over by a train would need in order to heal.

The impatient family member who thinks you should be ‘over it’ by now, was not run over by the train. The girlfriends that want you to go on a cruise and meet someone new were not run over by the train. The psychopath train that hit you that thinks you should be through the body-repair shop of what he did to you—was not run over by a train his size.

The problem that exists is that your level of expectation is not equal to your level of harm.

You are expecting to walk away limping but not seriously injured from a psychopath. That doesn’t happen often—so infrequently, in fact, that I don’t even know if I can give one example of that happening with the women I have worked with for 25+ years.

Learning to live with the ‘new normal’ of aftermath symptoms is really a self-nurturing act. It means you have taken the time to really assess your damage and give yourself the things you need in order to heal—time, space, therapy—whatever it takes. The ‘new normal’ following pathological love relationships is called ‘aftermath damage.’ There is a cure for it. But the first step in curing it is to say out loud, “I was run over by an oncoming train. I was critically wounded.” Now, healing can begin.

(**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

 

About Face: Changing the Direction From Which You Seek Happiness

“Internal reflecting” guides us to dig in, evaluate, and give thanks. We need to take the time to ponder ideas, gather insights that might have eluded us during the busyness of our lives and slow down to look inward and receive the Light. I hope this week’s newsletter is a little piece of Light that you are open to receive.

Awhile back I got a book written by one of my favorite spiritual writers, Thomas Keating. It’s called The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation. Profoundly, he reminds us that we spend much of our lives looking for happiness through avenues that can never produce it. We create our misery by “looking for love in all the wrong places,” as the song goes.  Nothing can be truer when it comes to pathology. Pathology is wired to produce misery, not happiness. Everyone has the same response to pathology—they are harmed, miserable, and eventually try to flee. It’s a true indicator of seeking happiness from a source unable to deliver it.

Your idea of happiness was probably initially developed around the relationship or the fantasy that was painted for you about him, the relationship, or your future. Instead of understanding that happiness had been sought from someone who, by the nature of their disorder, could never deliver happiness, you were held captive in the compulsion of repeating the same scenario with him. You tried to find happiness in the very person who is hard-wired to NOT produce happiness!

Not all of this seeking happiness in the wrong place is the result of his pathology. Some of it is the result of our own unknowing about where happiness is found. It is not found in someone else. Instead, happiness is found inside our self, rooted in our own spirituality through God. It isn’t about them. It is about us.

Keating says, “What we experience is our desperate search for happiness where it cannot possibly be found.” The key to our happiness is not lost outside of our self. It was lost inside our self when we began looking for it in someone else. We need to look for it were it can actually BE found.

The chief characteristic of the human condition is that everyone is looking for this key but nobody knows where to find it. The human condition is thus poignant in the extreme. If you want help as you look for the key in the wrong place, you can get plenty because everybody else is looking for it in the wrong place too! They are looking for it where there is more pleasure, security, power, and acceptance by others. We have a sense of solidarity in the search, yet without any possibility of finding what we are looking for.

The religions of the world have discovered the insight that (non-pathological) human beings are designed for unlimited happiness, the enjoyment of truth, and love without end. This spiritual hunger is part of our nature as beings with a spiritual dimension. Here we are, with an unbounded desire for happiness and not the slightest idea of where to look for it.

While we may certainly recognize that looking for happiness in alcohol or drugs is looking in the wrong place, do we recognize that looking for happiness even in relationships can be the wrong place? Certainly looking for love in pathology would never produce the key you were seeking, because it cannot be found there. But sometimes people even look for happiness in what appears to be the RIGHT places—marriage, children, higher education, careers, and service to others, only again to find that they are still seeking happiness in the wrong direction.

In religious language, the word, repent means to “turn away from.” I like that concept even from a psychological growth standpoint. As you find your own path of recovery from the aftermath of the pathological love relationship, your recovery calls you to turn away from the very thing that has produced so much pain for you—the relationship, the choices, the person. In essence, in order for you to find happiness in yourself, in God, and in your own (often single) life, you must “change the direction from which you are seeking happiness”.

This is especially true when everything in you wants to turn back to him, to the routine, to the perceived comfort—just to get through the tough times. Changing the direction from which you seek happiness is embracing the truth that happiness cannot be found in pathology. God did not create you for pathology. He created you for Himself—for peace, love, and joy.  It’s not, and never will be, there in pathology.

Over the years, I have become pretty good at picking up on those who will “get it” and move on and never repeat the pathological love relationship dynamic again, and those who WILL, unfortunately, not change the direction from which they are seeking happiness. They might change the FACE from whom they seek happiness, but they are still facing the same direction seeking it.

Although there is much turmoil in the world right now, be reminded again that we can always change the direction from which we have been seeking happiness and focus on a brighter future for our self and with our self.

 

(**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

HEALTHY LOVE – WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT?

Since Valentine’s Day is upon us, I thought it would be a great discussion about what happens in Pathological Love Relationships— that attraction is on over­drive while love (from a pathological) is lingo­bling.

But what about real love – healthy love? People ask all the time ‘When are you going to write How to Spot a Healthy Partner because with as many bad relationships as I’ve been in, I can hardly tell the difference between what should be obviously toxic and what should be obviously healthy.’

The opposite of healthy love is what we often call ‘toxic’ love. Sometimes understanding what toxic ‘looks like’ helps us to see what real ‘love’ should look like too.

Here is a short list of the characteristics of Love vs. Toxic Love (compiled with the help of the work of Melody Beattie & Terence Gorski).

 

Love

Toxic Love

Development of self is first priority

Obsession with relationship

Room to grow, expand, desire for other to grow

Security and comfort in sameness?

insensitivity of need seen as proof of love

(may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)

Separate interests? other friends? maintain other

meaningful relationships

Total involvement? limited social life? neglect old friends, interests

Encouragement of each other’s expanding? secure in own worth

Preoccupation with other’s behavior? fear of other changing

Appropriate trust (i.e. trusting partner to behave according to fundamental nature)

Jealousy? possessiveness? fear of competition?

protects “supply”

Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading.

Problem solving together

Power plays for control? blaming? passive or

aggressive manipulation

Embracing of each other’s individuality

Trying to change other to own image

Relationship deals with all aspects of reality

Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant

Self­care by both partners? emotional state not

dependent on other’s mood

Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue

the other

Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go)

Fusion (being obsessed with each other’s

problems and feelings)

Sex is free choice growing out of caring &

friendship

Pressure around sex due to insecurity, fear &

need for immediate gratification

Ability to enjoy being alone

Unable to endure separation? clinging

Cycle of comfort and contentment

Cycle of pain and despair

 

Love is not supposed to be painful. There is pain involved in any relationship, but, if it is painful most of the time, then you are probably in a Pathological Love Relationship. The end result of these relationships is ‘Inevitable Harm.’ Let’s be clear – there is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship – it is natural and healthy.

If we can start seeing relationships not as the goal but as opportunities for growth then we can start having more functional relationships. A relationship that ends is not a failure or a punishment – it is a lesson. And these lessons are mostly about pathology, its permanence, and the lives it affects without discrimination.

(**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

Five Ways to Find Safe Love

The month of ‘lluuuvvvv’—Valentine’s Day–the time where everyone thinks about their relationships. But at this time of year, we are thinking of it mostly in romantic terms. In our surveys, we have found that women spend far more time on learning how to ‘attract’ or ‘keep’ a relationship, then looking at the health of it, or leaving it.

If you look at most of the relationship books, it’s all about how to find him, attract him, keep him, and get back together with him. But what if what you always seem to attract is unhealthy men? Then your Guy Magnet is not a good thing. Women who have been in dangerous relationships are often more ‘attracted to’ the bad boys then healthy men. In fact, most women say that if given the choice between the ‘nice guy’ and the ‘edgy bad boy’ they would pick the guy with ‘the edge.’ Women say they often don’t even know what ‘healthy’ is in a relationship. Even knowing that they don’t know what ‘healthy’ is does not slow them or stop them from dating until they figure out what healthy looks like. They keep doing the same thing and getting the same thing–dangerous relationships.

TIME OUT: GAME OFF! If your last 3 or 4 relationships have been unhealthy or even downright dangerous, STOP. Put yourself on a ‘Do Not Date Program’ until you get some help to find out ‘how to spot’ unhealthy and dangerous relationships. YOU CAN’T CHANGE WHAT YOU DON’T SEE.

What are some ways to find ‘Safe’ love?

1. Stop dating until you can learn to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy. If you can’t name the 14 signs of a bad dating choice, you shouldn’t be dating! If you want to know what those are–get the book How to Spot a Dangerous Man.

2. How are your break up skills? Women worry more about their dating skills then their break up skills. But if you keep picking the dangerous guys, you better know how to quickly and safely end it! These guys do not break up like normal men do. Additionally, women who have been in more than one dangerous relationship tend to be women who wait to be ‘released from the relationship’. That means they wait for him to end it and stay far longer than they feel safe doing. However, since they don’t know ‘how’ to end it, they don’t. To find ‘safe’ love, learn how to break up.

3. You steer the ship. Women often let the man decide the pace of the relationship–how often they see each other and how fast they get serious. Guess what? Predators have agendas. They want to see you 24/7, they want you to ‘think’ you have this fast and deep relationship when you’ve only been dating a few weeks or months. You are their ‘soul mate’ and it’s ‘never been like this with anyone else.’ 24/7 does NOT mean he’s ‘that into you.’ It is often a red flag for predatory agendas. Women should be in charge of the pacing. If you have been doing the 24/7 Tango, pull the plug. Tell him you need a breather for a few days and would like to get to a normal dating schedule (a few times a week). Normal men will accept that. Pathological and dangerous men will guilt you, rage, blame you, accuse you of seeing other people, threaten to break up, call you/text you 40 times a day. That’s NOT normal. But it’s best you see that now rather than when he has moved in. Women should always PLAY with the pacing and see what kind of reaction he displays.

4. Learn his history. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. What is his past? If you feel like you can’t take his word for it, then for $29.95 you can find out ALOT about what he has been up to in the past. Things I always look for as a therapist are his criminal history, his relationship history, his mental health history.

And contrary to what he might be saying, all the other women weren’t ‘witches, psycho, or ignorant.’ His relationship history is his alone and points to how successful he is at handling the challenges and hurdles of relationship life.

5. Listen to others. STOP dissing your girlfriends when they tell you the TRUTH about him. The people around you are your best opportunity to hear about him, to tell you if they are concerned about something, to tell you if you have changed for the worse during this relationship, or to point out patterns they notice in the men you choose. Take your fingers out of your ears and hear it.

Women who want healthier and safer relationships have to begin by acknowledging what they have been in up until now and take the steps to learn and change.

(**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

Default Settings in Patterns of Partner Selection

If you use a computer you are probably aware of the ‘default settings’ that come on your computer or in various software programs on your machine. A default setting is “The controls of a computer hardware, software, device, equipment or machine which was preset by its manufacturer.”

Items on your computer that are preset are often the country you are in, the time zone, etc. There are also types of ‘presets’ you can choose yourself such as what company ISP is your home page, which printer you assign to your computer, and so on. These selections become ‘default’ settings once you have selected them. Your machine is now set to automatically defer to those choices every time the machine needs to.

But our computers are not the only things that are set on default. Just like computer ‘hardware’ or ‘software’ can come ‘preset’ by its manufacturer, so can our own internal computer—our body and psyche. Our hardware is our genetics that come hardwired into the development of our brain (and body, for that matter). This can include propensities and proclivities to certain traits such as high or low serotonin in our brains, high or low empathy, and other genetic DNA that ‘presets’ our internalized computer.

Just as we have seen the impact of the pathologicals own hardwired symptoms, we too come hardwired with our defaults that want to ‘lean’ us to these preset settings. Our default settings could be set to attraction to stocky dark haired men, or blonde and blue eyed, or black men or maybe your physical default is not all that particular about the physicality of your partners. Maybe your default is set to other parameters such as humor, charisma, or spirituality.

While we don’t ask why we have blue eyes or why we are attracted to tall dark and handsome, we often ask ‘why’ we have too much empathy or too much relationship investment, not understanding that these settings come hardwired within us when we are born. A fact not often understood is that some emotional traits are as hardwired as other genetic DNA.

Our software is the programs that have been added into and onto our machine that tell the machine what to do. These software programs also impact our default settings but in a different way. Software are the messages you learned growing up as a child. These messages about relationships, men and women’s roles in relationships, what power you do or do not have, the impact of choices, violence in the home, addictions in parents are all data and information that is stored on your computer in the software ‘programs’ that run your computer. From your software, the machine (your body, your external life) is run from the programs of that software. So messages about how ‘all relationships are’ or about what you ‘can and cannot succeed in’, tell your machine what choices to make from the software you have.

Software programs other than childhood messages can also come from religious impact, education, and your own experience within relationships—each compounding the existing software message or conflicting with existing software messages. These messages are also loaded onto your software as programs that affect choices which impact your life.

Hardware (hardwiring) preset defaults such as hyper empathy combined with software loaded defaults such as super trust or high tolerance messages (‘don’t get divorced no matter what’) combine in unique yet entrapping ways that cause some people to be more ‘at risk’ of Pathological Love Relationships than others.

We have had heard the arguments of ‘nature versus nurture’ especially regarding pathology. We know some of the Cluster Bs are born that way, some are made that way from their social environments and some are both—born that way and then bent that way further. The same is true for you, the Super-Traited partner of Cluster Bs.

You come into the world with a proclivity towards certain hardwired traits within your temperament that are so strong as to make your ‘bent’ towards attraction to, and tolerance of, pathology extremely high. Into your world with your ‘bent’ you are exposed to lifelong messages that either encourage your bent or try to bend you away from your existing proclivities.

Families with healthy boundaries and healthy relationships model the exact programming that sets a child’s default on a different setting for partner selection. But families who themselves have selected pathological partners, who have the same hardwiring propensity for tolerating pathology, flip the child’s software default switch to tolerance, minimizing, renaming, and accepting pathological behavior. This is largely done through role modeling these behaviors or what we call learned conditioning.

A genetic hard-wired proclivity with a software default program that supports pathological partner selection starts the process of the continued pattern of having pathological partners well into adulthood.

In computers, default settings serve the purpose of ‘minimal user interaction required’ which puts the setting defaults to the most commonly selected options. This is exactly what it does for you as well. “Why do I keep picking these kinds of guys over and over again?” Your default was set early in life and has not been changed. When left to your own programming, your default will automatically select the most pathological partner. Your hard-wiring is already ‘bent’ in that direction and is supported by your software programs to do so. It is so automatic, so autonomic, that just like a computer, ‘minimal user interaction is required.’

By the time women contact The Institute, they are so exhausted by the lifetime of the pathological energy-sucking relationships that they are ready to do what it takes to stop this. Simply stating “I am NEVER going to do this again. I am going to pick differently in the future” doesn’t register with your software program. It’s still set on the default pattern of selection it has been set on for years. If you could look at the software settings internally it would look like this:

  • Narcissistic
  • Cheater
  • Pathological Lying
  • Charming and deceitful
  • Helps me ignore my red flags
  • Induces fantasy thinking of how my future MIGHT be
  • Honeymoon cycle followed by D&D (Devalue & Discard)
  • Intense, intensely pursued
  • Hypnotic, I can’t think or choose differently while with them

These might be some of the traits you are repeatedly selecting through your software default program.

In software programs, it’s noted that ‘Using defaults will tend to increase errors, as users may leave incorrect default settings selected.’ Hmmmmm… yeah. Can we agree that’s true?

The difficulty in Pathological Love Relationship recovery is that women read a book or go to a counselor and talk about the pain of the relationship but never get down to the reprogramming of the software. Hardware comes as it is and will always be there and you will always be ‘bent’ in a direction or proclivity for these relationships. BUT you can put in different software programming that will let you pick from a NEW SET of default choices and not automatically ‘defaulting back’ to what you have always chosen. You have to choose differently in order to get a different outcome.

Controls of a computer hardware or software (or of a device, equipment, or machine) are preset by its manufacturer. Some types of default settings may be altered or customized by the user. A few times per year, we offer ‘software reprogramming’ events – we call them retreats. Please avail yourself to this opportunity if at all possible.  Information about retreats is on the website and in our weekly newsletter.

 

(**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

 

The Fast Track in Dating

We live in an instant society: instant messaging, twitter, drive through food, microwaves, text messaging, ipods/ipads and smart phones–just about anything we want NOW we can have in an instant. No wonder we have confused the speed of technology with relational speed. After all, isn’t this the decade of speed dating and fast relationships?

The problem is that there is no way to rush REAL intimacy. Speed dating does not = relationship security and knowledge about the other person. There is only one way to know someone and that is through adequate time. There are no short cuts.

Many people think that if you substitute the time you would spend with someone over a year in a relationship of knowing them and squeeze that time into a 24/7 relationship, then you will get the same results. Very often there is an inappropriate pacing in relationships in which people early on begin to spend 24/7 with a new person. They give up their outside hobbies, friends, families, other relationships, and lifestyles. They think that if someone WANTS to spend 24/7 with them, they must be ‘really into them.’

Over the years as a mental health counselor, I have found there are a number of reasons why people want to rush relationships. Sometimes it’s because they want to usher you into the center of their lives before you find out their history. They want you really tied-in to the relationship before you find out why no one else has wanted a relationship with them. Other times it is because the person has a hard time being alone. That is never a good sign.

The inability to be alone is often related to other mental health issues. Fast paced relationships can be a distraction away from their own feelings and issues.

I always suggest that the woman be in charge of the pacing of the relationship. If she has been 24/7 with someone, stop! Not only because it’s unhealthy but also to see what he will do with the change of pace in the relationship. Make other plans, see friends, don’t be so available. Healthy persons will accept the pacing change. They may not like it, but they will honor it. Unhealthy and even dangerous persons will blame, shame, and guilt you. This should be a red flag as to whether this person is someone safe to date.

Rushing a relationship–whether it’s dating 24/7, moving in early together, or marrying within the first year is a mistake that renders not enough time to truly know a person. This includes the persons ‘true’ (as opposed to ‘stated’) background, their character, and maybe their own dangerousness. It takes time to build a healthy relationship. It takes no time at all to imitate one.

(**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

Are You Really as Far Along as You Think You Are?

Recovery and finding your path to emotional wellness from pathological love relationships isn’t a quick and easy ‘done deal’. When women get mild relief from the unrelenting symptoms of the aftermath with a pathological, it can be very palatable to them.  The relief from the intrusive thoughts, obsessions, PTSD, poor sleep, hyper-vigilance, or any other problematic symptom can feel “healing” to them.  But it doesn’t always mean they ARE healed.

Over and over again, I have learned how damaging, how unrelenting, the aftermath is from pathological relationships.  For some women, it reaches all the way back to childhood with pathological parents.  For others, it has only been in their intimate relationships during adulthood, yet it has left its distinguished mark.

Mild relief can often be mistaken for recovery.  Recovery is a lifelong journey of self-care.  Recovery can begin at the moment you recognize the damage done to you by pathological individuals, but it doesn’t end with a counselor or a group.  For many women, the symptoms have crept into their worldview—how they see others, their environment, and themselves.  I learn again and again, as I meet with women, that the damage is widespread.  This isn’t a quick fix or often, a quick treatment.  While your mild relief of symptoms instills relief or hope, it isn’t the end of your recovery journey.  It’s the beginning.

Like peeling an onion, each layer shows a level of damage that needs care.  All the way down to the core are layers of unperceived and unrecognized aftermath symptoms.  At the core are boundary issues—those necessary limits that show that someone understands what is your’s, someone else’s, or God’s.  From the center of boundaries are gates that must be developed to serve as limits saying what one will and will not tolerate.

Boundaries are the bedrock of all recovery.  Anything that is built will be built from the issue of healthy or unhealthy boundaries.  Many women don’t realize that pathological people target women with poor boundaries.  The pathological tests this out early in the relationship, and when small boundary violations are not managed, they proceed with bigger violations. Every violation is a green light to the pathological. Learning how to establish healathy boundaries is the first step in recovery.

In another layer of the onion lays hyper-vigilance issues. High harm avoidance from PTSD weaves a level of distrust in new environments, people, and situations.  It affects fear of the future and even fear of the present.

Yet another layer of the onion is communication—the ability to listen in the midst of upset. Since pathological individuals have skewed communication, this area is often seriously affected. Long-term exposure to pathological people produces the same type of skewed communication patterns and linguistics in women who have normalized the abnormal behavior of pathologicals.

A layer of emotional regulation is most assuredly part of the aftermath— many women experience anxiety, depression, irritability, the overflow of pent-up emotions, and the inability to control their emotions.

In layer after layer are aftermath symptoms that must be peeled away and treated in recovery.  Everyone knows there are many layers in an onion.  While it may be disconcerting to see all those layers, the layers are translucent and show the wounding in each level that recovery must touch.

Women who have begun recovery may be surprised at what feels like the unending layers of an onion, and wonder when they will reach the core.  Mild relief from anxiety or sleeplessness is welcomed, but should not be viewed as more than it is.  Reaching to the core is deep work and should be respected for the lengthy process it is likely to be.  What other choice is there?

Whether you begin at the core with boundaries, or start at the outer edge with symptom management and work into the core, allow the process because there is no healing without it.  We must never underestimate the damage done by pathological individuals at a deep emotional, and, even spiritual, level.

(**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

Feathers for my Future – Simply Focusing on Gratitude

On New Year’s Eve, I had a silent burning bowl ceremony. I burned everything that hurt me–just burnt that crap into ashes. Every cyberstalker, every hateful word, every hurtful feathersperson, everything that kept me looking over my shoulder, every lack.

I thought, “What would Joyce say?” She’d say, ‘Screw fear.’

So I got a beautiful crystal bowl to say good bye to every horrible yet familiar thing from my life. And I sat on my porch laying to rest everything broken in me and in my life. I set the crap on fire. I said a prayer and wrote all the pain on a piece of paper and watched it burn into crinkled ribbons of memory that only God should have.

It wasn’t a resolution. It was as Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” It was feathers for my future. And with feathers and hope I wrote a list, which was a prayer with tears, to God for 2014. Asking for things that are so simple, especially for a God so big….simply heal my body, simply heal my heart, simply heal my life, simply heal my mind, simply heal my needs–all the ones I don’t even know I need. Open your feathers and let me snuggle under your wing–hide me in the Shadow like the scripture says—the favorite one that I run to when I am scared, which is all the time.

On January 1st I took a tiny table to the corner of my room and turned a chair towards it. Facing a corner that, in school, would have been punishment, but for me, now, was really the edge of the Wing I asked for. I put a candle in a glass that was Joyce’s so that I was not alone when I prayed “Where two are more gathered….” and I set an alarm on my phone, the sound of a harp, to remind me every day that the angels call me to the feathers and the wing to pray.

I sit there every day under the Shadow and I simply breathe in gratitude and breathe out whatever that crap was that burned up in the bowl that night. I suck in, deep into my lungs, every provision for friendships, for community. I thank in advance for every restorative touch to what cyberstalkers took from me. For every love that will pour into my life that has been gone. For every book that will be sold, for every cell in my body to be blessed with holiness that can cure anything….

The Shadow, the feathers, the edge of the wing changed my life that January. Each day I laugh out loud as grace and mercy drops fall like rain into a parched dry life. Feathers everywhere…feathers in my email, feathers in my mail, feathers in my phone, feathers in my heart. When the harp calls, I run to the corner with Joyce and fall under the wing in gratitude and drink….That’s all I have to do — breathe and drink.

 

(**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

“Stop Dragging My Heart Around”

“Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (Song by Tom Petty)

Women spend years and thousands of dollars trying to heal from dangerous men. If they are lucky, they only encounter one in their lifetimes. If they aren’t, there are many more. That’s because women haven’t really verbalized what they think constitutes a dangerous man. When I interviewed women, most of them thought the ONLY thing that made men dangerous was violence. If there was no violence, well then… he was probably ‘fixable’ in the long run.

For over 20 years I have been the not-so-silent witness to women’s choices. As a therapist, I counseled women whose childhoods included abuse and who grew up to be  adults who were abused. I watched adult women choose over and over again one version or another of a dangerous man. Often only the faces changed, but since there are many types of dangerous men, often women would move all over the continuum dating men from all categories.

The result was always the same:

  • They were miserable
  • “They were in pain”
  • They took a long time to heal, if ever
  • They often went on to do it all over again

Before we go any further, answer these questions:

1.  Do you believe a dangerous man will eventually be violent?

2.  Do you believe that, if you were hurt by a dangerous man in the past, you would be able to spot the next one and avoid him?

3.  Do you believe that dangerous men are notably gregarious, aggressive, narcissistic and abusive?

4.  Do you believe that something in your past has predisposed you to dating dangerous men?

If you answered ‘YES’ to any of the above, you are indeed at risk of dating one or more dangerous men.

The lack of a solid definition of what constitutes ‘dangerous’ for women is probably at the heart of what keeps us in these dangerous relationships. So let’s nail down what is dangerous.

The word danger means, “the state of being exposed to injury, pain, or loss.” Synonyms for the word include:

  • Hazard
  • Jeopardy
  • Peril
  • Risk
  • Menace
  • Threat
  • Emergency

Notice the word danger doesn’t merely mean, “when someone is violent toward you,” nor do the synonyms indicate this is strictly limited to violent behavior. Yet women let lots of men and their behavior off the hook simply because, “well, he never hit me so I didn’t feel like I could say he was abusive.”

Year after year my practice filled up with women who would never label or define the men in their lives. When asked if their men were dangerous, they would hem and haw around, looking for loopholes to say they weren’t dangerous, but not really knowing what dangerous was or how dangerous men behaved. Women are most at-risk for picking, marrying, and staying with dangerous men when they don’t have a concrete idea of what dangerous is like. The words listed above give good clues to what dangerous is like—injury, pain, loss, hazard, jeopardy, risk.

So let’s define that for you: A dangerous man is any man who harms a woman…

  • Emotionally
  • Physically
  • Sexually
  • Financially
  • Spiritually

This definition immediately broadens the field experience of dangerousness. It adds emotionally, financially and spiritually—three areas where women often let men off the hook from being labeled as ‘dangerous’ to a woman’s well-being.

We already determined that the word danger means ‘the state of being exposed to injury, pain, or loss.’ Simply being ‘exposed’ to the possibility of being injured, experiencing pain or going through loss IS dangerous to a woman’s mental health. Women often discount that merely the exposure to the possibility really constitutes ‘danger.’

Any exposure to dangerousness negatively affects a woman’s:

  • Self-esteem
  • Future relationships
  • Trust in others
  • Ability to disconnect and move on

…and inevitably leads to…

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intimacy issues

Some of the women who came into counseling had only one exposure to a dangerous man, and yet the after-effects warranted psychological counseling in order to heal. Other women had experienced multiple exposures to dangerous men, choosing one after another, because they did not spot the signs. They spent years in therapy.

Dangerous men are not just the psychopaths you see on the nightly news. A dangerous man is just as likely to be ‘the nice man at church,’ ‘the smooth boss at work,’ or ‘the girlfriend’s athletic trophy-winning brother’. He is just as likely to be a social worker, cop, doctor, or mechanic. The fact is—he could be ANYBODY.

The only defense is self-defense. And the only self-defense is knowledge. The articles in our newsletters and on our website will help you realize your potential need for future insight into the area of dangerousness. Perhaps they will illuminate areas that you need more knowledge about, more insight, or just information.

If, after reading this article, you recognize your own patterns, please avail yourself to more information through our products and services, or through your local women’s organizations and counseling programs.

Our hope is that this information is used for a woman’s relational harm reduction and education for healthier relationships. Please pass this on to other women who need this life-saving information. Be the beacon to other women.