How to Not Go Back During the Holidays

People relapse and go back into relationships more from Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day than any other time of the year. Why? So many great holidays for faking it! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, V-Day… then PHOOEY! You’re out! Why not be out now and stay out and save face? You’re not fooling anyone … not yourself, them, or your family and friends.

Here’s a secret: Even if you go back, you’re still alone. You’ve been alone the entire time because, by nature of their disorder, they can’t be there for you. So you’re alone—now, during the holidays, or with them. WITH them, you have more drama, damage and danger—your choice.

The holiday season is an extremely stressful time. It’s a time when it is more likely for:

  • Domestic violence to occur or recur
  • Dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional
  • Pathologicals to be overt and blatant, and to target your joy and ruin your holidays
  • Former pathological partners to magically reappear and try to hook you back in
  • People to eat, drink, and spend too much
  • People to not get enough rest
  • People to feel pressured to “be in a relationship” and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons “just until the holidays are over”

It’s an idealistic time when people have more depression and anxiety than at any other time of the year because they think their lives should be like the picture postcards and old movies we see this time of year. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, and to cope, they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not. But you can’t make a “picture postcard memory” with a psychopath or a narcissist!

Those with the super trait of “sentimentality” will focus on the past — when they had that one perfect Christmas with the pathological.  The other drunken, absent, or abusive 14 Christmases are forgotten, forgiven or overlooked. But what IS focused on is that one year when it was nice and the pitbull stronghold on the hope it will be this way again.

But you and I both know that pathology is permanent. The bad 14 years are a much better and more realistic presentation of what pathology is like during the holidays than the one fluke of a year he held it together. Pathology is very stressful to experience under any circumstances. Add to it the expectations for a pathological to be different (i.e., act appropriately) this time of year, and the pathological’s and everyone else’s stress is then through the roof. Sometimes even our hope can be “pathological” when it is focused on something that cannot and will not change.

The glittering fantasy that resembles your Christmas tree lights places not only you in the path of misery, but all those you plan to spend Christmas with—your family, friends, kids and pets.  It is much kinder to unplug your glittering fantasy and tell yourself the truth of what will happen if you expect a serene and joyful time with a pathological than it is to drag others through your fantasy.

Here’s a mantra to say out loud to yourself: “I’m pretending that staying/going back with a psychopath/narcissist will make my holidays better.”  Pretty ridiculous thought, isn’t it? Something happens when you say the REAL thing out loud. It takes all the romanticizing and fantasy out of the thought and smacks a little reality in your face.

“I want to be with a psychopath/narcissist for the holiday.”  Say that three times to yourself out loud …  NO!! That’s not what you want. That’s what you got LAST YEAR. You want to be with a nice man/woman/person for the holidays. And, as you VERY well know, they’re not it.

“I want to share my special holidays with my special psychopath.”  ???  Nope. That’s not it either. But that’s what’s going to happen unless you buck up and start telling yourself the truth. It’s OKAY to be by yourself for the holidays. It sure beats pathology as a gift.

Peace, gratitude, and all the spiritual reflections that are supposed to happen during this time of year cannot be found in pathology. They were not created there, but they do end there. If your goal for the holidays is to find some peace, joy, hope, and love, don’t spend it where and with whom it cannot be found. After the holidays, you will be a lot happier for not having attempted, for the millionth time, to find happiness where it does not exist.

Here’s a real gift for you—some tips!

TIPS FOR A HAPPIER/HEALTHIER HOLIDAY

v Stop idealizing—you are who you are, it is what it is, pathology is pathology. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. Accept yourself and others for who they are. This includes accepting that pathology cannot, and will not, be different during the holidays simply because you want the Christmas fantasy.  “Emotional suffering is created in the moment when we don’t accept what ‘is’.” (~Eckart Tolle)

v Don’t feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself that you have choices and the word “No” is a complete sentence. Don’t be held hostage to exhausting holiday schedules.

 

v Take quiet time during the season or you’ll get run over by the sheer speed of the holidays. Pencil it in like you would any other appointment. Buy your own present now—some bubble bath—and spend quality time with some bubbles by yourself. Light a candle, find five things to be grateful for, repeat often.

v Take same-sex friends to parties and don’t feel OBLIGATED to go with someone you don’t want to go with. People end up in the worst binds going to parties with others, and get stuck in relationships they don’t want to be in, because they feel obligated. Find a few other friends who are willing to be “party partners” during the holidays.

v Give to others in need. The best way to get out of your own problems is to give to others whose problems exceed yours. Give to a charity, feed the homeless, buy toys for kids and those who are in need.

v Find time for spiritual reflection. It’s the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a church service, pray, meditate, reflect.

v Plant joy—in yourself, in your life and in others. What you invest in your own recovery is also reaped in the lives of those closest to you.

v Pick ONE growth-oriented issue you’d like to focus on next year for your own growth beginning on January 1. It creates hope when you know you have a plan to move forward and out of your current emotional condition. Invest in your opportunity to grow past the aftermath of this pathological love relationship.

Happy Holidays from The Institute!

(**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

Nothing Bothers Him—I Wish I Were MORE Like Him!

At the heart of pathology is a lack of remorse, empathy, and conscience. It sounds horrible on paper (and it is!) but it looks different in action. Sometimes women wish they were more like THAT—less empathic—as a way of getting less hurt.

They don’t really mean that (unless they too have a pathology bent). They are exhausted by their own mental activity of intrusive thoughts, heartbreak, hypervigilance and hurting. They just want the pain to go away, and if that means they become callous and don’t ‘give a rip’—then so be it—they’ll opt for his pathological character traits.

Cluster B Personality Disorders (Borderline, Narcissistic, Anti-Social, Sociopaths and Psychopaths) have, at the center of their disorder, a complete lack of, or at least a reduced capacity for, remorse, empathy, and conscience. (We will use the space-saving acronym, REC, for a lack of these traits—Remorse, Empathy, Conscience.) To a certain extent, only the degree of a lack of REC distinguishes one disorder from the other. Psychopaths and Sociopaths are at the high end of the spectrum with the most of these traits. But all four disorders have some of this in them because these disorders overlap each other.

So what does a lack of remorse, empathy, and conscience look like? On the surface, from your perspective, it looks like either he’s carefree, or he doesn’t care what others think of him or his behavior. It looks like confidence in his choices and his behavior. It looks like he enjoys his choices and behaviors even if they are negative. It looks like he has an unwavering commitment to his own thoughts (even when they hurt someone else). On the surface, it looks good to not be harmed by the thoughts of others. You get to do your own thing and then be unaffected by how it affects others. You coast along in a cloud of impenetrable numbness from any negative consequences—social, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual, or physical, from his behaviors.

However, a lack of REC is the only thing that differentiates us from some animal species. (Ever try to guilt a cat?) Our ability to feel appropriate guilt is a reflection of our humanity. That various levels of psychopathology LACK these elements points to the pathological’s own diminished ability to act humane in certain situations. Why are we surprised that people who have impaired REC go on to abduct children, hurt pets, steal, lie, cheat, and act unfaithful? Conscience is related to consequences and the emotional guilt that accompanies the act. Guilt is the RED LIGHT of our behavior—we don’t do something because we don’t want to feel guilt. In the end, guilt saves us from hurting others and ourselves, and living with that awful feeling of regret.

But a pathological, who doesn’t have that hardwiring to feel remorse or guilt, hurts others, hurts society—and himself—although he may not have the insight to recognize it as self-harm. He leaves a trail of wounded women and children behind him as he goes off golfing, picking up other women, or to the tanning bed—all the while humming a little song to himself.

His ability to hurt others and go on is NOT something you should admire in him. In a recent retreat, a woman kept bringing up that she thought this was GOOD—that a pathological remained unscathed by his own belief system and therefore, if we were more like him, we would be happier because we would react less to what we did.

That’s a sad thought. It’s the only line in the sand that separates us as caring human beings from a pathological. Our ability to have insight about our behavior is what makes us somewhat un-pathological. Even though you are hurt and would welcome a bit of numbing to get away from the pain, you will never be able to throw yourself into the pit of pathological REC to escape your pain, intrusive thoughts, and other symptoms you wish would go away.

For those women who are not mutually pathological, the only way to get OUT of pain is to go THROUGH the pain. Embracing that you can still tell the difference between right and wrong, and you don’t covet his pathology as something to be admired, means you are not pathological yourself! Others who have now embraced his worldview of hurting others, seeing it as good, and wanting to a live a life of power/dominance/status, need therapy surrounding their ‘consumption’ of his pathological worldview.

A healthy REC is one of the differentiating aspects that separate us as the fabric of humanity versus the pathological alien. Embrace that about yourself. Stay positive!

(**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

 

Grieving the Pathological Loss, Part 2: The Personal Side

In the last article, we began talking about the grief process as it pertains to ending the relationship with your dangerous (and often, pathological) person. Even though the relationship was damaging, and maybe you even initiated the breakup, you cannot sidestep the necessary grieving. Women are then shocked to find themselves grieving at all, given how abusive, damaging, or horrible the relationship was. They tell themselves they should be grateful to be out and this negates their own feelings of loss. The end of a relationship always constitutes a loss, whether he died or whether the relationship merely ended—the heart recognizes it as the same—a “loss.”

I mentioned in the last article that grief is natural. It’s an organic way the body and mind try to rid themselves of pain. That’s why it’s so necessary, because if you did not grieve you would have no way to eventually be out of pain. Grief is the way a person moves through the loss and to the other side of health and healing.

Without grief there wouldn’t even be a POTENTIAL for healing because grief must take place for healing to later occur. To stuff your grief, or try to avoid it, is to sabotage your own ability to heal. For every person trying to work through the ending of a relationship, grief is the healthiest response.

Some of the losses associated with the end of the relationship were discussed in the previous article. Many of you have written me to talk about the ‘personal side’ of grief—the other aspects that were lost because of the pathological relationship which must be grieved.

These include the loss of:

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

These significant personal losses may not always be recognized as ‘grief’ but more as all the deficits that have been left behind because of the pathological relationship. Although he is gone, this is his mark upon your life and your soul. These losses reflect the loss of your self and your own internal personal resources.

Stripped away is your ability to recognize your former self, the ability to tap into what was once the strength that helped you in life, and to respect your self and your life choices.

Of all the things that need grieving, women indicated these personal losses are the most devastating. Because, in the end, you are all that you have left—when he is gone, you must fall back on your self for your healing. But what is left has been described by survivors as ‘an empty shell of a former life’ … ‘a garden that is overgrown with weeds and in disrepair’ … ‘a once-stately estate that has been vandalized and abandoned’.

To begin the arduous task of healing and repair requires that you turn inward and draw on your resources. But what was there feels like it is gone You may want to begin the healing from the pathological relationship but you are stopped short in your tracks by the necessary grieving of all things internal that are now gone or damaged.

Clearly, the first step is to grieve. Let us know if we can help you take that first step.

(**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

Grieving the Pathological Loss, Part 1

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

One of the things we have discovered from our Women Who Love Psychopaths research project is that ‘loving’ a pathological (not just a psychopath, but any person with a pathological disorder) seems to involve having a very intense attachment to the relationship. Most women report that ‘loving’ them is like nothing else they ever experienced. They indicate that it’s more intense than other relationships, there are more mind-games that keep them very confused and unable to detach, and a kind of hypnotic mesmerizing that keeps them in the relationship LONG after they know they should have left.

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

Lots of women are confused as to ‘whom’ or ‘what’ it is they are actually grieving over. Grief can seem so ‘elusive’—a haunting feeling that is like a grey ghost but can’t be nailed down to actually ‘what’ the loss is.

 

The end of any relationship (even a pathological one) is a loss. Within the ending of the relationship is a loss of many elements. There is a loss of the ‘dream’ of partnership or togetherness, the loss of a shared future together, as well as the loss that maybe he would someday ‘get it together’ or actually ‘love you.’ When the relationship ends, so does the dream of being loved (even if he was technically not capable of truly loving anyone). There is the loss of your plans for the future—maybe that was buying a home, having children, or taking a big trip. There is the loss of shared parenting (if that occurred), loss of income, loss of being touched or held, the loss of sex, and numerous other losses.

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

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

No matter what it is you perceived you no longer have… it’s a loss—and when you have loss you have grief. People spend a lot of time trying to stay on the perimeter of grief—trying to avoid it and stay away from the pain. But grief is the natural way to resolve conflict and loss. It’s the body’s way of ridding the mind and soul of ongoing pain. It’s an attempt at rebalancing one’s mind and life. Grief is a natural process that is given to you as a pain management tool. Without grief there would never be a way of moving through pain. You would always just remain stuck in the feelings and you would always feel the same.

Don’t avoid grief. While no one LIKES grief, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the feelings and the pain because to suppress it, deny it, or avoid it means you will never work through it. I don’t know anyone who WANTS to live in this kind of pain.  There is only one way through the pain of grief and that’s through the middle of it. There are no shortcuts, quick routes or other ways ‘around’ the pain and grief. There is only through it—like a wilderness. But on the other side of it is the promise of healing, hope and a future.

Don’t judge your grief. What hurts, hurts. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you (he was horrible, why am I grieving HIM?)—it’s your body’s way of moving through it so let it. Get help if you need it—counseling, group, medication, a grief group—whatever it is you need.

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

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

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

(**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

Remembering Our Roots: Joyce Brown’s Influence on the Pathological Love Relationship Recovery Process

This weekend marked the anniversary of the death of an extraordinary visionary. Many of The Institute’s highly acclaimed purposes, products, and processes came from what Joyce lived through, talked about, and modeled for others.

Joyce, like other leaders, did not set out to do anything extraordinary. She simply set out to heal after two back-to-back pathological relationships. First a 25-year relationship with a narcissist, and then an upgrade to a sociopath for 10 years, left Joyce in the typical emotional fetal position that is common in the aftermath of pathological relationships.

She went through the normal stages of pathology recovery, asking:

“What just happened?”

“Did I do that?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

 “Why am I so obsessed with this?”

 “What’s wrong with me? Why am I attracted to men like that, and what does it say about my life that I would end up in a relationship like that?”

 Without the benefit of mental health therapy and with only the support of a few close friends (who were quickly becoming weary of the ongoing saga of ‘why her/why him, why he moved on quickly, and why he picked the new woman’), Joyce managed to piece together not only a recovery, but some profound insights that changed the quality of her life forever.

By then, at age 60, it would have been easy to say she would not likely find love or heal. It would have been even easier to turn bitter, get revenge, hyper focus on him and his latest antics, or just curl into a fetal position and stay there. But remarkably, Joyce rose from the dirt she had been ground down into. Like the symbol of the Rising Phoenix, she not only rose, she dug out every particle of dirt that could be transformed from crusted pain and milled it for life-changing insight.

She didn’t keep these golden gems to herself—she talked to women about relationships wherever she was. Some of her approaches have trickled down to help other therapists work with women leaving pathological relationships.

Joyce believed women tended to drift sideways into pathological relationships looking for fun and excitement, which actually pointed at what that woman needed in her life that would prevent her from taking just any old relationship.

“If you aren’t living a big enough life that is as big as your heart, or as big as your personality, or as big as your dreams, then any old psychopath will do.”

She poignantly asked herself, “What is or is not going on in my own life that I would end up with a sociopath? Sure, I didn’t know he was one—he said all the right things…but what could this possibly be pointing out to me about me, the condition of my own life, and what needs to happen so I don’t choose like this again?”

 16 years later she had answered her own questions.

In her 60’s she went to college for the first time and became a short-term missionary. She started her life in the arts of painting, sculpting, and pottery. She moved to a one room beach house so she could ‘make up for lost time and play hard’. She drove a convertible Miata to feel the rush of adrenaline she no longer had because the sociopath was gone.  In her 70’s she took up belly dancing to prove to herself she was still attractive, went to Paris to see handsome men so she knew she could still flirt, and got a motorcycle so she always had something hot to ride (!)—hey, I’m just quoting Joyce here. She became a hospital chaplain to comfort the sick and fed the poor every week to give some of that hyper-empathy away, lest it go to another psychopath. Then she sailed a catamaran to the Bahamas to challenge her fear because she could not swim.

“A relationship is the icing on the cake. It is NOT the cake. Don’t confuse the necessity of living life to be the icing. Living life IS the cake. Anything else, including relationships, is just the icing.

The Institute’s own Jennifer Young, who does phone coaching and our tele-support group, had this to say about Joyce’s impact on her and the women she helps, “Joyce Brown carries a big impact on my work with women.  On her own she developed the innate ability to care for herself.  That care translated into real solutions for disengagement from a pathological relationship. I believe the biggest, specific idea that has come from Joyce is the idea of ‘Not One More Minute’. I have shared this concept with many women who instantly feel the ability to disengage… ‘not one more minute’ means, ‘I will not allow you to take one more minute of my energy, my love, my care, my compassion.’ It provides an end point… a point to say I’m done. This change in thinking, that I stop it, is crucial. It means, ‘I have come to know and understand that he will not change, but I still can… and I will.’  So thank you, Joyce Brown, for showing us the way to the end!”

At age 76, as she lay in a hospice bed only hours from death, I told her I wanted to toast her life. She said “Crank this bed up!” She fluffed her hair and with a glass of Jack Daniels in her hand, said, “I have had a great life. I lived, I learned how to have a great life, and I was loved. Who could ask for more?

Her life lived well is what has impacted thousands of women worldwide and is the main thing women who attend our retreats come away with. Sadly, in this day and age, living a great life seems to be an extraordinary accomplishment.  Her lecture on ‘Get a Great Life’ is what has spurred women on to not merely limp into recovery dragging their souls behind them, but to burst into recovery and fill their lives to the rim with all the things that their big personalities need in order to live fully.

Lifeless living is what causes many women to seek a psychopath who’s so full of energy that it makes their own lives seem so exciting and vibrant. Joyce said, “The problem is pointing to the solution. I loved the energy of those men! But what was that energy, and why couldn’t I have it another way? Was a psychopath the only way for me to feel life?

Joyce learned that vibrancy comes from a life that is full of the things that interest, motivate, support, and challenge HER. If she wasn’t living a big enough, interesting enough, motivational enough, supported enough, and challenged enough life… she would drift again into the arms of pathology to fill that space.

One of our readers recently memorialized Joyce on our Facebook page:

Thank you, dear lady, for your continued inspiration—a legacy you’ve left to many. You never knew those who have come to love you [posthumously] for your feistiness, tenacity, grit, and that wonderful sense of humor!”

Feel how big YOU are and, as Joyce did, fill your own life with greatness. As she would say, “Get a great life” and stop the cycle of pathology!

(**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

Denial and Its Power

Acknowledging Domestic Violence/Pathology Awareness Month

With the POWER of Information!

 Every once in a while you need to be reminded that not everyone thinks you know diddly-squat. Sometimes it’s the people closest to you who think you really don’t have a clue. It’s not that it’s new to me. It reminds me that not everyone believes me when I tell them I think he’s pathological and it reminds me that denial is a mighty force—like a tidal wave.

My girlfriend’s daughter (I’ll call her ‘E’) could have been in my Women Who Love Psychopaths book—that is, her traits, her background, the men she chooses, the father of her child—are identical to the women in the book EXCEPT she hasn’t broken through her own denial yet. The women in the book broke through their’s long enough to at least answer the survey. E hasn’t come that far yet, no matter how many of my books I give her or how many times I have pounded this into her head when I see her.

E has a daughter with the pathological who is 9 years old. In E’s daughter’s short life, the pathological has been out of jail probably less than one year, in small increments of months at a time, until he does something else and goes back to jail. He has no empathy and no insight about his behavior. He lives a parasitic life off of others, he deals drugs for his full-time employment (when he’s out of prison), he never learns from his consequences, and he expects others to cater to his pitiful life. In short, he meets the criteria for a psychopath.

I have known E since she was about 7 or 8 years old and she grew up with my children. She’s now 31. E once told her mother, “Sandy doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She may write books, but she doesn’t really know what she thinks she knows. She assumes these people can’t change, but I am the hopeful type that believes anyone can change, especially if ‘they want to’, and with God’s help. You can’t be a Christian and believe that people don’t change.”

Did you sigh a big sigh reading that? That’s how I feel day in and day out as I see the mixed effects on women from both a lack of public psychopathy education in this country and a whopping dose of denial. Denial is often an underrated defense belief system in terms of the devastation it can cause people. Over and over I watch just one defense mechanism—DENIAL—kill women, harm their children, lose their career over, go into financial bankruptcy because of it, become spiritually bankrupt as well, and emotionally harmed and scarred. All because of one simple highly defensive belief system: Denial.

Denial is a defense mechanism, postulated by Freud, that when a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept, one will reject it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. In E’s case that would be: he doesn’t work, he lives 10 months out of every year in jail, he doesn’t pay child support, he lives with his parents or other women, he lies/steals/cheats/deals and has never done anything different. This is the ‘overwhelming evidence’ of psychopathy upon which her denial is based. And I’m sure, in E’s defense, it’s uncomfortable to accept that he’s never going to help her and her child’s dad will live most of his life in jail or in prison.

Denial is different than ignorance. Ignorance doesn’t have the information to make an informed choice. E has the information in the form of previous experience with him, his consistent behavior that never changes, and a lot of information she’s gotten from me, and she refuses to use it to develop honest insight about his traits, behaviors, outcomes, and, ultimately, his mental health. She needs the illusion that he isn’t pathological, that one day he will somehow ‘just be different’. It’s magical thinking at best, and sad, sad, sad denial at worst.

It will cost her everything to stubbornly cling to the belief that he won’t live the rest of his life in jail, live off of others, and do nothing for his child. It may cost her a child abduction when he doesn’t bring her back when he’s supposed to (oh yeah, she already went through that). It may cause her serious financial struggles when he doesn’t pay child support and she must do it all. (Oh yeah, she’s already living that—she has to live with her mother because he doesn’t pay support.)

It may cost her child constant attachment/detachment problems when she goes for long periods of time and doesn’t see him and is told, “Daddy is in time-out.” (What a way to put it!) Oh yeah, the 9-year-old is already in mental-health counseling, according to her mother, because, “It’s important she has a relationship with her dad.” No child deserves to have exposure to a psychopathic parent.

With denial, E doesn’t see that her daughter doesn’t have a relationship with her dad! And since he is incapable of true attachment, empathy, love, consistency, or insight, what in the world can he give to her? He deals drugs with her in the car and she stays 90 percent of the time with his parents. But denial lets E believe that ‘something’ other than drug dealing is happening in those times her child has with her dad in those scarce moments in-between jail/prison time.

The theory of denial was first researched seriously by Freud’s daughter, Anna. She classified denial as a mechanism of the immature mind because it conflicts with the “ability to learn from and cope with reality”. Learning from reality is what the path of recovery is all about—accepting WHAT IS—his diagnosis, his incurable disorder, his pathology. You can’t learn from something that you don’t accept and you will never cope with something you don’t believe.

There are so many forms of denial, no wonder it is so prevalent—denial of facts, denial of responsibility, denial of impact, denial of awareness, denial of cycles, even denial of denial! With so many forms to get entangled with, is it any wonder it can take a woman years to ‘come to believe’ that her life with a pathological is unmanageable, dangerous, and deadening?

The last time I looked in the face of this kind of scary denial—where I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about in explaining possible lethality to a mom, she was shot in the head by him and died in front of her young children. Now parentless AND traumatized, the children are the by-product of his deadly pathology and her deadly denial.

I hate denial because I saw someone die because of it—and all to protect and defend an illusionary concept of a relationship that DIDN’T EVEN EXIST the way she believed it did simply because she didn’t want to face reality.

Reality is a gift. It’s the only truth. Truth is bigger and even safer than hope. Hope in him gets plenty of women and their children hurt when denial eclipses ‘overwhelming evidence’. Why women who love pathologicals hang onto denial like a shark has been the focus of our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.

(**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

Circling ‘The Promised Land’

I don’t know if YOU see your life as real as I sometimes see it. Do you see what I see when I read your letters, hear your stories, and imagine your relationships and pain?

Many women want ‘The Promised Land.’ To them that could be healing or maybe that’s being with him…but so many are always looking for happiness and thinking ‘The Promised Land’ is just around the corner.

~ “The Promised Land always lies on the other side of the wilderness.”~ (Havelock Ellis)

Oh…the wilderness…the path of pain – that road that requires that you leave him – that you face your own fear or loneliness – the street that makes you wonder if you’ll ever find another one to love, have sex again, or with whom to feel real joy in your heart.

The wilderness that meanders through all the places you have been…the valley of truth, the river of denial, the desert of lies…Don’t spend time regretting whatever your time with him was for you – if you couldn’t leave him yet, if you picked yet another pathological, or if you’re still not over him yet. Regret is so wasteful of human energy.

A wise man said “Humans grow thru the metabolism of their own experience.” What you lived through was not wasted. It’s part of how you will grow and how your future will be healthier and more healing for you.

Women ask me all the time, “What can I do to help other women in the area of pathological love relationships?” Your own self growth and healing is the greatest service you can give the world and other women. What you invest in yourself is never wasted or lost. God is the God of Economy. He recycles everything, even your pain. Your pain heals the next woman.

I believe that, which is why we created the Coaching program, the retreats, our web and facebook pages, blogs, radio shows, and weekly articles – so you can recycle your own pain and help the next woman. Many therapists are also survivors too and have made entire practices into outreaches from their own pain. They stopped circling ‘The Promised Land’ and moved through it to a place of helping other heal.

To stop the circling of ‘The Promised Land’ and to help you actually get there is why we developed our programs and products – so that your pain recycled becomes hope to the next woman. Nothing is lost. Pain that is not actualized – that isn’t converted into wisdom – is just pain. It was useless suffering that did not manifest itself into something larger than itself.

I believe many of you will stop circling ‘The Promised Land’ and will come out of the wilderness you’ve been in. And when you do…we’re right there celebrating with you – your rite of passage into a new life.

“I believe that what it is I have been called to do will make itself known when I have made myself ready.” (J. Phillips)

(**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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 7: Healing Sexually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 © www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

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

“Ah, just get a life!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much healing to you!

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Living the Gentle Life—Part 3: The Emotional Effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are in need of the following:

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

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

Living the Gentle Life—Part 2: The Physical Effects

In the previous newsletter, I began talking about the normal aftermath of pathological love relationships—Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, what is often not recognized is the ‘continual’ life that must be lived when living with the aftermath of PTSD. Because the cracked vessel can crack again, a gentle and balanced life will relieve a lot of the PTSD symptoms that can linger. I have often seen people who have put a lot of effort into their recovery and NOT put a lot of effort into the quality of a gentle life following treatment. This is a mistake, because going back into a busy and crazy life, or picking another pathological, could reactivate PTSD. As much as people want to ‘get back out there,’ and think they can return to the life they used to live, often that’s not true. Wanting to live like you did in the past or do what you did before does not mean that you will be able to. I know, I know… it ticks you off that the damage is interfering with the person you used to be… before pathology exposure (BPE). But wanting it to be different doesn’t make it different. If you have PTSD, you need to know what to realistically expect in your prognosis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because of this overwhelming need, The Institute offers retreats several times a year that focus on understanding your PTSD. Watch for announcements in future newsletters.

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

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

Ladies, ladies ladies…by now you have been reading enough of these newsletters to be able to chant the ABCs of Pathology I have been teaching you—

Pathology is the inability to:

  • consistently sustain positive change
  • grow to any emotional/spiritual depth
  • develop meaningful insight about how his behavior negatively affects others

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t it make you want to call her up, text her, email her, message her on social media, and tell her what’s just around the corner in the relationship?

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

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

Repeat after me… “Pathology is the inability to sustain positive change” … “the best predictor of HIS future behavior is his past behavior”—so just what does that mean?

There are honeymoon phases of every relationship. Lovers live on the high of the ‘falling in love stage.’ We already know that pathologicals don’t ‘technically’ fall in love, but they do hang around and experience some level of attachment. But YOU experienced the whole endorphin falling in love sensation. Well, now SHE is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gift of Fear, Part 2: Is It Fear or Is It Anxiety?

Last week we began talking about the difference between fear and anxiety. Real fear draws on your animalistic instincts and causes a sincere fight-or-flight reaction. Anxiety causes you to worry about the situation, but you aren’t likely to bolt.

Anxiety can develop as a counterfeit trait to the true fear you never reacted to.

Gavin de Becker is a Danger Analyst and, in his classic book The Gift of Fear, has much to say about the preventability of most bad outcomes. He says there is, “Always, always, always a pre-incident indicator (a PIN) that women ignore.”

In my books, I call them red flags—the wisdom of your body that recognizes primitive fear and sends a signal to your body to react.  In that split second, you can run or you can rename it. Renaming it causes your body to react less and less to the messages it does send. Not one woman in the 25+ years I’ve been doing this has said there wasn’t an initial red flag that she CONSCIOUSLY ignored. Almost 100% of the time, the early red flags end up being exactly why the relationship ended. You could have saved yourself 3, 5, 15, 20 or more years of a dangerous relationship by listening to your body instead of your head!

Let’s go back to more stories by Gavin…

Dorothy says her ex-boyfriend, Kevan, was a fun guy with a master’s degree and a CPA. “He was charming, and it never let up,” Dorothy says. “He was willing to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Eventually, Dorothy began to feel that something wasn’t right. “He would buy me a present or buy me a beautiful bouquet of roses and have it sitting on the table and that was very nice, but that night or the next day he wanted me to be with him all the time.”

As Dorothy shares her story, Gavin points out some of the warning signs, starting with Kevan’s charm. “A great thing is to think of charm as a verb. It’s something you do. ‘I will charm [Dorothy] now.’ It’s not a feature of [one’s] personality,” Gavin says.

What happened next stunned Dorothy. “I was out visiting my sister in California, and he was calling me, calling me, and he asked me to marry him over the cell phone,” she says.  “I thought, you’re kidding. I’ve always said I would never get married again. And I said, ‘That’s the last time I’m going to talk about it.’”

After rejecting Kevan and coming home, Dorothy says he remained persistent. He showed Dorothy the picture of a diamond ring he wanted to buy, and told her he wanted to buy a house. “And he had it all mapped out, how it was going to work for us,” she says.

When Kevan refused to listen when Dorothy repeatedly told him no, Gavin says it should have raised serious red flags. “Anytime someone doesn’t hear no, it means they’re trying to control you,” Gavin says. “When a man says no in this culture, it’s the end of the discussion. When a woman says no, it’s the beginning of a negotiation.”

After four and a half years and many red flags, Dorothy finally broke off her relationship with Kevan. But that wasn’t the end. “He kept calling me, calling me with repeated questions. ‘What are you doing now?’ ‘What are you going to do tonight?’” Dorothy says. “And that’s when I realized I am in trouble here.”

On the urging of her son, Dorothy got a restraining order against Kevan, which she says gave her peace of mind. “And that was a huge mistake,” she says.

One night, Dorothy was asleep in her bed when she awoke to the sound of her name being shouted. “I turned to my left shoulder, and I saw a knife [about 10 inches long]. I could see the reflection of my TV in the blade. Then I saw that he had cutoff surgical gloves, and that was scary,” Dorothy says. “I put the covers right over my head and curled into a fetal position and started praying. He said to me, ‘Are you scared?’”

Rather than panic, Dorothy says she got out of bed, stood up and told Kevan he was leaving. As she walked calmly out the door, he followed her to the parking lot. “So I said, ‘You’re leaving now,’” she says. “He turned, went down the street, and I didn’t see him again.” Dorothy immediately called 9-1-1, and police later arrested Kevan. He was convicted and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

Gavin says when Dorothy stood up, spoke firmly to Kevan and walked out, she was accepting a gift of power by acting on her instincts. “The fetal position is not a position of power, but you came out of it with a great position of power. And the pure power to say to him, ‘You’re leaving now,’ is fantastic,” he says. “Of all the details in that story, the one that stayed with me the most is that you saw the reflection on your little television set on the bedside table in the knife. And what that told me was you are on, you are in the on position. You were seeing every single detail and acting on it.”

Just like ignoring your intuition, Gavin says the way women are conditioned to be nice all the time can lead them into dangerous situations. “The fact is that men, at core, are afraid that women will laugh at them. And women, at core, are afraid that men will kill them.”

This conditioning and fear, Gavin says, leads many women to try to be nice to people whose very presence makes them fearful and uncomfortable. They often believe that being mean increases risk, he says, when, in fact, the opposite is true.

“It’s when you’re nice that you open up and give information, that you engage with
someone you don’t want to talk to,” he says. “I have not heard of one case in my entire career where someone was raped or murdered because they weren’t nice. In other words, that’s not the thing that motivates rape and murder. But I’ve heard of many, many cases where someone was victimized because they were open to the continued conversation with someone they didn’t feel good about talking to.”

In my own book, How to Spot a Dangerous Man, I talk about cultural conditioning and how women feel they should be polite and at least go out with a man once. If you’re saying yes to a psychopath, once is all he needs.

Women also have HORRID and NONEXISTENT breakup skills. What in the world is more important than having good breakup skills? You are likely to date a dozen men in your lifetime and not likely to marry but one of them. What are you gonna do with the rest of them?

In this culture, with all the books on how to attract men, very little is written about how to break up. Women spend more time on a Glamour Shots picture of themselves for a dating site than learning how strong boundaries can protect them. A woman who is attracted to the bad boys doesn’t need the book, “How to Attract a Man”—she’s already doing it. But how can she get rid of the predator she DID attract? (See my book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Women who buy our books, do phone counseling, come to 1:1’s and retreats, all have a primary motive: “Help me to never do this again.” While you definitely need insight about your own Super Traits that have positioned you in the line of fire with a psychopath, you also need most the ability to reconnect with your internal safety signal. Everything in the world we can teach you will not keep you safe if you ignore your body. Our cognitive information cannot save you the way your body can. That’s the bottom line. This is something you have to do for yourself.

This issue, of real fear vs. mere anxiety, is of utmost importance. It has really struck me that we may have missed something in our discussion about PTSD and its relationship to fight or flight reactions. Gavin helps us to see that fear happens in the moment—it’s an entire body sensation—the flash of fear followed by the intense adrenaline and fight or flight. The intensity of the body’s reactions usually COMPELS people into fight or flight.

With PTSD, I see how we have lumped more minor reactive reactions, like PTSD-induced fight or flight, with the real in-the-moment reactions of fear. I see them as different now. If the woman is THAT afraid of him and compelled by real fear as opposed to worry, (“He might harm me in the future, but he isn’t mad right now and not going to hurt me this second.”), she wouldn’t be with him because her animalistic reaction would be to flee.

Real fear IN THE MOMENT demands action. Our own ability to tolerate what he is doing suggests it’s not TRUE survival fear. This is the difference between animalistic/survival fear and our common-day PTSD reactionary fear.

Sometimes our body has reactions to evil or pathology. Normal psychology should ALWAYS have a negative reaction to abnormal psychology. So your first meeting with him should have produced SOMETHING in you. It may not have been the true fear reaction that COMPELLED you to run away, but you may have gotten other kinds of thoughts or bodily reactions to be in the presence of significant abnormality and sometimes, pure evil.

Listen to your body. It is smarter than your brain.