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.

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

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.