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.

Are Feelings Facts?

Women don’t know whether to trust what they feel or not. Are you confused over whether feelings are factual or if they are fictional? You’re not alone. Women struggle where to draw the line between believing what they think and questioning it.

On one hand, feelings can be red flags in the beginning or in the midst of the relationship. Red flags can be emotional, physical, or spiritual warnings of what is happening or what is yet to be.

Emotional red flags are feelings you get while in the relationship—constant worry, dread, wondering, suspicion, anxiety, depression, or obsession. Often other people in your life quickly notice the emotional red flags and they point out that you have changed since the relationship began—and not for the good. Lots of times women don’t want to hear about their emotional changes since being in the relationship. Other times, women already KNOW they are having emotional red flags about him or aspects of the relationship. In either case, it’s important to know that emotional red flags can be GOOD PREDICTORS OF THE POTENTIAL LONGEVITY OF THE RELATIONSHIP. Many women notice that the red flags they had at the beginning of the relationship ARE the reasons the relationship eventually ended. So, emotional red flags can be great tools and are often accurate.

Waiting for feelings to “become facts” before you act on them can be very dangerous. In the case of emotional red flags (and your intuition), responding NOW instead of later can help you exit the relationship quickly. By the time a feeling IS A FACT, many things could have happened. (For more information on red flags, see the first few chapters of How to Spot a Dangerous Man.)

ON THE OTHER HAND (there’s always an “other hand” isn’t there?)—women wonder if the intense feelings they are having are an indicator of “true love”. Why else would they be having them? A woman often experiences confusing emotions when trouble starts in the relationship. She either becomes confused when the relationship turns bad or she becomes confused when she has ended the relationship. This confusion takes the form of “if he was so mean to me, why do I still have feelings for him? I must still love him if I can’t stop thinking about him, even if he did bad things. Do my feelings mean I should get back together with him?”

In these cases, feelings are not facts. It is human nature to seek attachment and bonding. When that is ripped away there is an emptiness that happens. Women often think that means that they were in love if they experience the aftermath of loss when it just really means you are feeling the loss.

Women often think that since they “miss the good times of the relationship,” they must miss him. Most often, what women are actually missing are the feelings that were generated in the relationship when it was good. Women miss that feeling of being “in love” or “attached” or “wanted and desired” or “safe and secure.” When women can sort out what they really miss, they often can see that HE represented those feelings she was having. She misses the feelings of the illusion of being in a good relationship.  Missing “him” might not really be “missing him.” Who is “him”—the dangerous man/cheater/liar/pathological?  You miss that “him”? No. You miss the feelings of being in love.

Tell yourself: “What I am missing are the feelings of being in a good relationship.” Remind yourself of that when you misinterpret those feelings as meaning you “want him back.” Often that isn’t the case. Recognize that this very “feeling” thing is what propels women right back out there seeking to feel loved again, and attach to those feelings you are missing. It places women at high risk of repeating the same mistake.

Here—try this. Draw a line down the middle of a paper. On one side, list the feelings you miss having. On the other side, list the dangerous man traits/behaviors/incidents. Now take a look. Which do you really miss?

Feelings can be accurate when we are getting red flags in the relationship. Feelings can be inaccurate when we are gauging whether to return to the relationship because we think we “miss” him when in fact, what we miss are the feelings that were generated in the relationship. Feelings can be inaccurate when we are gauging the intensity and equate that with love or something healthy in the relationship. Understanding the importance of “feelings” in all stages of a relationship can help you recognize just what your feelings are telling you and when to heed them and when to be a little suspicious of their messages to you!

Why You Only Remember the Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship – Part 2

Last time I began to discuss the reasons why women have a difficult time remembering the bad aspects of the relationship. Women describe the sensation of only remembering the good times, the good feelings, and being ‘fuzzy’ or sort of forgetting all the bad things he has done when they think of him. This process seems to be triggered by an emotional feeling (such as longing or loneliness) AND/OR by a memory of hearing his voice, seeing an email, etc.

 

Last time we also discussed how good and bad memories are stored in the brain differently. Good memories are stored up front and are easily accessed. Bad memories are fragmented and compartmentalized in the mind, and are, therefore, harder to access as one complete memory. Think of, for instance, child abuse memories and how people so often repress or forget these memories.

 

In this article we are going to talk about ANOTHER reason why you only remember the good stuff of a bad relationship. (This is covered in detail in the book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

 

The second reason is based on our own biological hardwiring. We are wired with a pleasure base that is called our Reward System. We associate pleasure with being rewarded or something good. We are naturally attracted to pleasure. The pathological (at least in the beginning) stimulates the pleasure base and we associate that with a ‘reward’—that is, we enjoy his presence. Pathologicals are also often excessively dominant and strong in their presence, something we have gone on to call ‘Command Presence’.

 

What we enjoyed in him is all the good feelings + his strong dominant command presence. Being rewarded by his presence AND experiencing the strength of that presence registers as pleasure/reward.

 

Although he later goes on to inflict pain, pleasure or good memories, as we saw last time, are stored differently in the brain. Our brains tend to focus on one or the other and we have a natural internal ‘default’ to lean towards remembering and responding to our Reward System and pleasure.

 

On the other hand, memories associated with punishment or pain are short-lived and stored differently in the brain. They can be harder to access and ‘remember’. When you experience pleasure with him (whether it’s attention, sex, or a good feeling) it stimulates the reward pathway in the brain. This helps to facilitate ‘extinction’ of fear. Fear is extinguished when fear is hooked up with pleasant thoughts, feelings, and experiences (such as the early ‘honeymoon phase’ of the relationship). When fear + pleasant feelings are paired together, the negative emotion of the fear gives way to the pleasant feelings and the fear goes away.

 

Your Reward System then squelches your anxiety associated with repeating the same negative thing with the pathological. The memories associated with the fear/anxiety/punishment are quickly extinguished.

 

For most people, the unconscious pursuit of reward/pleasure is more important than the avoidance of punishment/pain. This is especially true if you were raised by pathological parents and you became hyper-focused on reward/pleasure because you were chronically in so much (emotional and/or physical) pain.

 

Given that our natural hardwired state of being is tilted towards pleasure and our Reward System, it makes sense why women have an easier time accessing the positive memories. Once these positive memories become ‘intrusive’ and the only thing you can think about now is the good feelings associated with the pathological, the positive memories have stepped up the game to obsession, and, oftentimes, a compulsion to be with him despite the punishment/pain associated with him.

 

These two reasons why bad memories are hard to access have helped us understand and develop intervention based on the memory storage of bad memories and the reward/punishment system of the brain.

 

If you struggle with the continued issue of intrusive thoughts and feel ‘compelled’ to be with him or pursue a destructive relationship, you are not alone. This is why understanding his pathology, your response to it, and how to combat these overwhelming sensations and thoughts are part of our retreat/psycho-educational program. Remembering only the good can be treated!

Why You Only Remember the Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship – Part 1

Over and over again, women are puzzled by their own process of trying to recover from a pathological relationship. What is puzzling is that despite the treatment she received from him, despite the absolute mind-screwing he did to her emotions, not only is the attraction still VERY INTENSE, but the POSITIVE memories still remain strong.

Women say the same thing—that when it comes to remaining strong in not contacting him (what we call ‘Starving the Vampire’) they struggle to pull up (and maintain the pulled up) negative memories of him and his behavior that could help them stay strong and detached.

But why? Why are the positive memories floating around in her head freely and strongly, and yet the bad memories are stuffed in a ‘mind closet’ full of fuzzy cobwebs that prevent her from actively reacting to those memories?

There are a couple of reasons and we’ll discuss the first one today.  Let’s think of your mind like a computer. Memories are stored much like they are stored on a computer. Pain and traumatic memories are stored differently than positive memories. Pulling up the negative memories from your hard drive is different than pulling up a positive memory that is like an icon on your desktop.

Traumatic memories get fragmented on their way to being stored on the hard drive. They get divided up into more than one file. In one file are the emotional feelings, in another file are the sights, in another file the sounds, and in another file the physical sensations.

But a WHOLE and complete memory is made up of ALL those files TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME such as what you emotionally felt, saw, heard, and physically

experienced.  Just one piece of it doesn’t make it a complete memory such as just a positive memory.

A complete memory = good + bad

 When things are traumatic or stressful, the mind separates the whole experience into smaller bits and pieces and then stores them separately in the mind because it’s less painful that way.

When women try to ‘remind themselves’ why they shouldn’t be with him, they might get flashes of the bad memory, but, strangely, the emotional feelings are NOT attached to it. They wonder ‘where did the feelings go?’ They can see the bad event but they don’t feel much about what they remember.

If you are playing a movie without the sound, how do you know what the actors are passionately feeling? It’s the same thing with this traumatic recall of memories. You might see the video but not hear the pain in the voices. The negative or traumatic memory is fragmented into several files and you are only accessing one of the files—a place where you have stored the positive aspects of the relationship.

To complicate things further, positive memories are not stored like negative memories. They are not divided up into other files. They don’t need to be—they aren’t traumatic.

So when you remember a time when the relationship was good or cuddly, or the early parts of the relationships which are notoriously ‘honeymoon-ish’, the whole memory comes up—the emotional feelings, the visual, the auditory, the sensations. You have a WHOLE and STRONG memory with that. Of course that is WAY MORE appealing to have—a memory that is not only GOOD, but one in which you feel all the powerful aspects of it as well.

Now, close your eyes and pull up a negative memory. Can you feel the difference? You might see it but not feel it. Or hear it and not see much of it. Or feel a physical sensation of it but not the emotional piece that SHOULD go with the physical sensation. No matter what your experience is of the negative emotion, it is probably fragmented in some way.

Negative and traumatic memories are often incomplete memories—they are memory fragments floating all over your computer/mind. They are small files holding tiny bits of info that have fragmented your sense of the whole complete memory. These distorted and broken memory fragments are easily lost in your mind.

If you have grown up in an abusive or alcoholic home, you were already subconsciously trained how to separate memories like this. If your abuse was severe enough early on,  your mind just automatically does this anyway—if you get scared, or someone raises their voice, or you feel fear in anyway—your brain starts breaking down the painful experience so it’s easier for you to cope with.

Next time we will talk about one other way your mind handles positive and negative memories, and why you are flooded with positive recall and blocked from remembering and feeling those negative things he’s done to you.

The Anniversary of My Plunge Into Pathology

The month of May marks my fairly “official” date (at least in my mind) in which I was thrust into the field of pathology—totally without consent, without warning, and without return to the normal life I knew before May 13, 1983.  That was the day my father bled out in a grungy gutter in Cincinnati just outside his jazz club after a psychopath plunged a knife into his aorta.  I was initiated into a victim-hood that would turn my life and career in a direction I hadn’t much interest in before that particular day.

Much like pathology in anyone else’s life, you don’t get to choose how it plays out in your life.  The best you can do is to learn how to ride the rollercoaster that goes along with the serious group of disorders in pathology—as I have done.  Thirty-plus years later, I still feel like I am just skimming the surface of what can, and should, be done in education, awareness, survivor services, and advocacy in dealing with pathology. Thousands of pages of writing books, newsletters, websites, workbooks, e-books, quizzes, hours and hours of lectures ad nauseum, over a thousand hours in broadcasts, both radio and television, stacks of CDs and DVDs created—and still we are in the infancy of a new understanding about pathology.  It is the virtual edge of just beginning what someday will be a momentous marker that shows when the world turned a corner for a better and very public understanding of pathology.

We’re not there yet but the day IS coming. Every new blog that goes up, every newsletter, every website, every talk, every social networking post, every private moment of knowledge shared with another victim, every coaching session, every class taught, every therapy hour, every group gathering, every prayer muttered, every radio show aired, every celebrity living it and bringing it to notice, every TV show featuring it, every newspaper or women’s magazine article taunting it is another message to another ear that has heard the message. You learned it because someone cared enough to make sure you learned it.

Every May 13th, for the past 30+ years, I have halted my existence to remember that life-altering second when my life went from being a normal everyday life to a life of being a family member of a homicide victim. This is when my reality was ripped through by pathology—a disorder so conscienceless that altering history is just another day in the lives of the pathological.  While my pathology story includes a brutal ending, yours, no less, includes something similar—all the things lost in a moment of deep betrayal—the kind of betrayal that only pathology can bring.

If I don’t brighten up this newsletter, I’ll get complaints about “too much reality” or “too much negativity” so, I will say this—while none of us choose to become survivors at the hands of very disordered pathological individuals, what we do with what we were dealt is up to us.  Every so often I like to send a message to you that encourages you to “pass it forward”.  Whatever you have learned from the magazine’s website, newsletters, radio shows, blogs, or the books, is probably more than the woman who is sitting next to you knows.  You don’t need to wait until you understand it more by taking a class, getting a degree, reading another one of our books, attending a retreat, or taking our coach training—that doesn’t help the women you sit next to at work. The knowledge in your head is life-saving to her. Next year, when you are better trained, isn’t the time to share what you know—today is!

If we want to move from living on the virtual edge of changing pathology education in the world, we have to open our mouths and tell what we know.  Every pathological hopes you DON’T do this! They hope you keep what you know to yourself. So many women that have shed so many tears have said, “If I had only known … I would have left earlier, I wouldn’t have left my children with him, I wouldn’t have _______.”

Every May is a time I renew my commitment to what changed me. Every May I bother people with my message and prod them and push them to make victims’ rights and survivor education important in the world.  If I don’t, the image of my dad laying in that gutter haunts me. His death should never have been for nothing—and as long as people have been helped, it hasn’t. Frankie Brown, by his death, has touched so many lives through the message of psychopathy. You’re one of them!  Help me celebrate my father’s death anniversary in a way that brings meaning and hope to many. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month—share what you know with just ONE person—someone that you have felt in your gut needs to know about the permanence and the pain of pathological relationships. Then email me and say “I passed it forward” so I can count up how many people have celebrated Frankie!

If this message has offended you, I’m sorry. Pathology has offended my entire life. Thank you for growing in the knowledge of pathology so you are prepared for the day when you can give someone the life-changing information that you’ve come to know!

When Friends Don’t ‘Get It’ About Him

Remember the line ‘You’re known by the company you keep’? Well, I don’t think that ONLY includes the pathological and dangerous man… it also includes your ‘friends’ and ‘family’ members who may be emotional accomplices of his.

Someone wrote me awhile back and said, “Please write about this — when your own friends don’t get how sick he is and think you should go back, or they think you’re over exaggerating his faults.”

There are a couple of things to consider here. First of all, your pattern of selection of dangerous, pathological, or not quite healthy people probably exceeds just your intimate relationship selections. It might also include your friends, cohorts, buddies, family members and even bosses. Women who enter recovery from pathological relationships and attend the retreats quickly figure out that their lives are LOADED with other pathological people! Not just him!

That’s because those temperament traits in you that I’ve talked about are just as active in ALL your relationships as they are in your intimate ones. Don’t be surprised to find these types of people hidden in all corners of your life. Many women realize they have some house cleaning to do in terms of clearing out all the unhealthy people from their lives once they recognize what pathology is and WHO it’s in.

Secondly, the dangerous and pathological people often attract people to them. If your friends and family members have your emotional characteristics, they are likely to STILL see him how you USED to see him. They haven’t been hurt up close and personal by him to ‘get it’ the way you do. Since these are Jekyll-and-Hyde guys, they have one face for you and another adorable and charming one for everyone else. Women get confused when they gauge whether they should be with him based on what OTHERS say about him.

Intimate relationships are just that – personal and PRIVATE! Others don’t see him behind closed doors the way you do/did. Their take on this charming charismatic guy doesn’t include everything your gut has told you about him or that you have come to recognize by experiencing his bad/dangerous behavior.

When you are ending the relationship, he’s likely to pour it on to all your family and friends — the tears, the confusion and shoulder shrugging (“What did I do?”) and pleading (“Help me get her back!”) Those family and friends who have the same HIGH traits of empathy, tolerance, and compassion as you do are likely to fall for it. Top it off with the fact that almost all pathologicals also proclaim to be ‘sick or dying’ when the relationship is ending. This makes for a cheering squad lined up to backup his sad and pleading stories.

Then there’s the ‘finding religion’ guy who blows the dust off his Bible and is sitting in the front row of church week after week telling your pastor/rabbi how ‘unforgiving’ you are of him.

Yup. Your friends are likely to point to all that pew-sitting and think there’s something to it. But YOU know better… you’ve seen it all before. Remember – the core of pathology is that they aren’t wired to sustain change so this too shall pass.

Getting confused about what other people think of him goes back to the central issue of you having ignored your red flags when you met him. Don’t ignore those red flags again when people who don’t have a clue about what true pathology is tell you that you should ‘give it one more shot’. You know what you know. Tell yourself the truth and let the cheerleading squad fall on deaf ears.

(**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).

 

Soul Slayer– Psychological ‘Evil’, Spiritual ‘Evil’, or Both?

The one adjective I hear repeatedly connected to pathology is the word ‘evil.’ Spiritual, unspiritual, heathens, pagans, Christians, Jews, Buddists – it doesn’t matter. The word ‘evil’ is the chosen adjective-of-choice to describe pathology. But what IS evil? Is it more psychological than it is spiritual? Or is it a spiritual issue that has been picked up and defined psychologically? Are they the same thing?

I am not going to translate the lists below for you. They are self explanatory. I have taken the list from Old Testament (of the Jewish faith) and New Testament (of the Christian faith) as examples of the definition of ‘evil.’ You could most likely find similar definitions of evil in other religious texts.

Draw your own conclusions

Description from the DSM About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
Grandiose, self important and pre occupied with self Wants people to worship him
Fantasizes about power, brilliance, success, and money Says to God “I WILL ascend, I Will Rise…” Showing power fantasies
Requires excessive admiration Says “You WILL bow down to me”
Is entitled Wants the same power as God, feels he’s as powerful as God
Exploits all relationships Tries to lure others to do his dirty work in the world
Lacks empathy Envious of others
Arrogant Fails to follow laws or rules/uses unethical, unlawful and immoral behavior
Deceitful, lies, cons for fun or profit Impulsive, wants it/takes it, sees it/does it
Aggression Disregard for the safety of others, puts others at risk
Irresponsible–bad with supporting others Lack of remorse, rationalizes stealing, lying, etc

Other Characteristics (also mentioned in the Women Who Love Psychopaths book)

Description from the DSM About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
 Pretends to be wonderful, helpful, supportive Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
 Powerful Often beautiful or handsome; Lucifer called ‘the most beautiful’, name means ‘the shining one’
 Superior attitude toward others  Is superior to other angels in power and authority
 Contempt for others, especially authority figures  Fights against God and wants His power
 Uses power and authority over others  Called the Prince of Power
 Prideful  Heart is filled with pride and contempt
 Splits people against each other Turned 1/3 of the angels against God and took them
Often rejected, expelled, dismissed, broken up with because of behavior God expelled him from Heaven
Places are created to contain them: jail, prison, mental institutions, probation God created a place to contain him in the future–Lake of Fire
Fights against any rules and others who try to make him conform Fights against God to ruin and hinder His plans
Destroy and deceive others (and enjoy doing it) Called ‘The Destroyer’ and “Deceiver”
Masquerades as anything you want him to be Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
Likes to scare others and show power so others fear him Prowls like a roaring lion
Looks for someone to overpower and control Prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour
Bold, cunning, self ambitious Boldness, subtlety in his cunning
Self willed and strong Prideful self will
Narcissistic – wanting to be better than everyone else Said “I will be like the Most High”
Fakes being wonderful, helpful, virtuous Many false prophets have gone in the world (like him), performs lying ‘signs and wonders’
Accuses others Called ‘The Accuser’
Adversary, enemy to any who turn against him Called the Serpent or ‘Adversary’
Liar, tempter, thief Referred to as a liar, thief and tempter
Motives are destructive to others Motives are to deceive and afflict

It is clear in some spiritual texts that spiritual evil has almost no separation from psychological evil, or vice versa. There are some things we don’t totally understand such as how the spirit realm can affect the psychological realm, or how one’s pathology may taint their spirit. But it has been clear to me, and hundreds of survivors, that ‘evil’ straddles the vocabularies of both psychological definitions and spiritual ones as well.

The spiritual union of souls when united to a psychopath, is like none other. Those who have united in the spiritual realm can attest to the evil witnessed in that sharing.

There is still much to learn about how psychology and theology meld. A large portion of one of the chapters in Women Who Love Psychopaths as been devoted to this issue. Please check the chart in the book for a better grasp of this concept.

Reality and Suffering

Much of your intrusive thoughts, your obsession with him/relationship, your cognitive conflict known as dissonance, and many other symptoms as well are stemming from one major issue:

The inability to accept what he is, how he is, and what this means about your relationship.

This level of resistance isn’t always conscious. Some of it may seep out and drift up into your awareness where you notice yourself fluctuating between “He is pathological, I don’t want him to be pathological, he isn’t pathological.”

This cognitive conflict between your three different beliefs about whether he is pathological takes the form of:
•    How you think you SHOULD feel about him/this situation, and
•    How you react/behave with this situation.

Each one of these beliefs:
•    He is Pathological
•    I don’t want him to be Pathological
•    He isn’t Pathological
have their own individual lives in your brain. We sometimes call this ‘Monkey Mind’- each belief jumping around and back and forth and swinging from the branches of your brain until you can no longer concentrate.

You are not entertaining just one thought/conflict – you are entertaining at least three! And each of these have subpoints below each one producing MANY thoughts.

These three conflicting beliefs, thoughts, and wishes fill up probably 95% of your thinking patterns which leaves almost no time to:
•    Resolve it
•    Work on it
•    Rest
•    Work, or
•    Find peace

In the past, I had the great privilege of working with a woman who came here from the Netherlands. Her intrusive thoughts had disabled her ability to work and enjoy her child. Within the four days she was here, we were able to harness her mind and free her from much of the distress of this invasive life-stealing mechanism.

At the heart of almost all major religions is the teaching (in different terms and lingo) about suffering. Intrusive thoughts and cognitive dissonance are the # 1 and # 2 distressing symptoms you complain about most. This level of ‘suffering’, as are many other types and reasons for suffering, stems from the inability to let our defense systems down (this is why they are called defense) and accept life as life is and stop defending against it.

Our defense mechanisms are designed to shield us from pain. But at some point, defense mechanisms can be over used and end up harming us by keeping too much of the pain (which could teach us) away from us. Pain 101 is often a good, and sometimes the only, motivator for change.

When our defense systems have become so elaborate, the pain that could help us face reality can’t even get to us to teach us and show us the way. Suffering then continues because we have not found a way to help ourselves embrace reality so that the reality can bring acceptance and the acceptance can stop the intrusive thoughts.

Our elaborate defense mechanism is very invested in proving he is not pathological and keeping the relationship going. That way, you are not alone, you get what you want, you prove others wrong, and you can fulfill the fantasy in your head about how the relationship ‘should’ or ‘could’ be.

To end suffering, we must accept what we are keeping away from our heart –the Truth and Reality – or whatever you want to call it. All major religions have a cure for suffering – but it’s all the same – accepting the who, what, where, when, and why. Some religions call it Light, Truth, Enlightenment…the words that are all related to accepting reality.

That would mean our first belief system listed above:
He is Pathological
might have to be accepted and the other two belief systems after that, would have to be dropped. Everything in your being would have to embrace the pain and the reality that he is, in fact, now and forever, pathological.

Acceptance is so critical to accepting reality, truth, and what is… And the opposite ‘non-acceptance’ is so dangerous that every 12 Step group ends their meeting with a prayer about acceptance knowing its importance in the ability to recover and heal. The 12 Steps remind us that in order to heal we must ‘Take life on life’s terms.’ That means, we must accept what is really happening in our lives, to our lives, and through our lives. In your case, that means accepting what his pathology is doing to you.

I have penned our own 12 Step Prayer to remind us about accepting who and what he is, and stopping the intrusive thought that is nothing but trying to bury the truth under some new image we come up with.

Serenity Prayer for Pathological Relationships
•    Lord, help me to accept the pathology and the things in him and this relationship that I cannot change;
•    To change the things I can in my own life that will help me leave, heal, and recover since he cannot change;
•    And the wisdom to know the difference between who can change and who can never change, and what I can do now for myself.
AMEN

The Pathological, Part 2: The Child-Prodigy Savant—All Grown Up

Last week I wrote about this natural ability that pathologicals have when it comes to reading human behavior and about how the child’s emotional developmental deficits actually spur him toward compensation in these areas by trying to hide his lack of a full emotional spectrum, lack of insight, and lack of ability to sustain emotional and behavioral changes. He learns to compensate by studying human behavior and ‘mimicking and parroting’ when he wants to fit in. But what about when he DOESN’T want to fit in, or when he becomes an adult?

Erik Erikson studied human development and his theory is that there are ‘emotional tasks’ that must occur before the next leap of growth can occur. These are building blocks of the emotional structure of development.

The first task as a baby is to bond. After that come the tasks, in this order, that must occur to be a healthy and normal person:

  • Trust builds on bonding
  • Autonomy (or independence) builds on trust
  • Initiative (or leadership) builds on autonomy
    Industry (or pride in one’s accomplishments) builds on initiative
  • Identity builds on industry, etc.

There are more developmental aspects all the way through old age. But these give us something to look at—all the aspects of emotional development that must occur (and did not occur somewhere along the way) for the pathological—Bonding, Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Industry, Identity. When these building blocks of character were being laid (and mislaid), holes in the soul developed around those building blocks that were not laid.

Instead of learning trust, they learn to con other people’s trust and yet mistrust everyone. Instead of learning independence they are either horribly dependent and parasitic, or aloof and not the least bit interdependent within relationships. Instead of initiative (or leadership), they feel either inadequate or superior and con others, and the only place they lead others is astray. Instead of industry and finding meaning and pride in their accomplishments, they see their accomplishments as being highly connected to the ability to superbly manipulate and con others. Their pride about their abilities is more related to the ability to manipulate than it is to any other abilities they may have.

Instead of a healthy self-identity, their identity is highly connected now to their choices. Since many of them are delinquent and deviant, their identity is not connected with something positive but, rather, with their darkest character flaws.

All of these developmental tasks that should be completed—bonding, trust, independence, initiative, industry, and identity—are the building blocks established by the teen years. We can easily see how and why their adult years are filled with problems and anguishing relationships. If you don’t bond, trust, have interdependent relationships, your idea of accomplishment is conning, and your identity is linked to your bad character—THERE ISN’T MUCH TO WORK WITH!

Pathologicals have difficult adulthoods AND they make everyone else’s adulthoods difficult too. The child prodigy studying what works with humans is largely squeezed down to ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me). Studying others to fit in gets replaced by the adult skills of conning, manipulation, lying, embezzlement, and other ‘honed arts’. By the time the emotional development of the teen years have hit, the bonding, trust, interdependence, accomplishments and identity are long tweaked into pathological dynamics. Oddly, the personality ‘age’ stops growing. Rarely do pathologicals emotionally grow to be older than 14 but the behaviors get tweaked up a notch to adult skills of adept conning.

What was once a science project of “Why am I different” as a child becomes “Cool, I’ll use it against them” as an adult. The child prodigy who studied human behavior so well is the relationship idiot-savant. It just takes women a while to figure out that what he espouses in the beginning isn’t really what he’s all about. What didn’t happen in his emotional development will ruin their relationship and her, personally.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Pathological, Part 1: A Child Prodigy-Savant of Human Behavior

People often want to know why people with personality disorders (pathology) often have the worst and most inappropriate behavior, indicating they are clueless about others’ feelings, AND YET they are often enabled with the uncanny ability to so know human behavior they con even the most knowledgeable of people.

This ‘savant-like’ experience with human behavior reminds me of the Scripture that says, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Cluster B Personality Disorders no doubt rack up their miles in huge emotional and behavioral deficits. (The Lord taketh away.) I’ve discussed this in length in the newsletter and books—that what causes a personality disorder has to do with what DOESN’T happen when the personality is forming from birth through 8 years of age.

Deficits = Disorders

Not getting what a child needs WHEN they need it can be the beginning of a personality disorder. Normal childhood development does not include severe neglect, being raised by a pathological and learning to see the world through the eyes of a narcissist or sociopath, or being abused.

Whatever the cause of the personality disorder (exposed to pathological parents or being born with neurological abnormalities), let’s consider the ‘budding pathological child’ for a moment. Let’s put out of our mind just for now the disordered adult he grows into. Here we have, let’s say, a 9- or 10-year-old child who, through no fault of his own, has a personality disorder.  That means that the child does not have the full spectrum of human emotion, has blunted feelings of love/compassion/guilt/remorse, has impulse control problems, has difficulty knowing right from wrong, is not motivated by punishment when he does wrong, and is tantalized by risk and reward.

His friend across the street is the same age and not personality disordered. His friend has a full spectrum of emotions, feels bonded, love, compassion, is motivated by punishment (and so feels guilt and remorse), has impulse control over many of his actions, and understands the basic concepts of right and wrong. Although he likes risk and reward, he has enough impulse control not to be led consistently by pleasure.

One day Pathology Pete is over at Normal Ned’s. While playing in the house the boys knock over a vase and break it. Ned knows the story behind the vase: It’s the only
thing his mother has left from her mother. His mother got it as a gift on the deathbed of her mother. She always prized it and felt her mother’s presence when she looked at it.  Ned’s mother begins to cry and Ned has empathetic feelings that his mother is sad and experiencing loss because of the broken vase. Ned goes to her and tries to comfort her while Pete looks on.

Pete has NO idea (a) why Ned feels bad that the vase was broken (so what, go get another one), (b) why Ned would go to his mother and hug her and pat her (why does she need that?), (c) why Ned offers to replace the vase, and (d) why it was even wrong to be playing with a ball by the vase in the first place.

Pete stands off to the side watching this ‘unusual’ reaction and interaction between Ned and his mother.  In comes Ned’s brother, Normal Nathan. He sees his mother crying and also goes to her to comfort her. Pete wonders, “Why? He didn’t even break the vase.”

Pete stands awkwardly off to the side watching what is like a sci-fi movie to him—all these feelings, actions, behaviors, and motivations he doesn’t understand. Over and over throughout his childhood and into his adolescence this incident is repeated again and again.

Pete witnesses people having feelings he doesn’t experience. They have emotional reactions that he doesn’t understand. They have reactions, behaviors, and motivations that are foreign to him. Pete’s bright—he is a smart child and can’t figure out why he doesn’t ‘know’ what other kids know—how to act, how not to act, how to feel certain emotions and when and why. A pathological child figures out early that they are ‘different’—they just don’t know why.

Having a need to appear normal and fitting in like everyone else does—he watches. When someone cries, this is what other people do in response to the crying ___________ (behavior). The person who made the other one cry has a facial expression like this ___________ (“I’m sorry” look). People appear to cry for these reasons: _____________________ (motivations/consequences).

Children who grow to be pathological are little psychologists by the time they are teens. They have so watched other people that they understand (on a manipulative level) what makes people hurt and how to get out of consequences for having hurt others. These little child prodigies who have studied human behavior since they were 5 or 6 years old, are emotional savants.

On one hand, they do NOT have the full spectrum of emotions and so are sort of emotionally retarded towards the experience of others. On the other hand, they are so bright and have honed in on studying others so well that they have learned how to develop a mask for any occasion. This is the Lord giveth part—they have such a knack for paying attention to others’ reactions that they learn to mimic other people’s facial gestures and behaviors and parrot the language and lingo of what others say.

This is why they are a mirror image of you in a relationship. They watch and listen and mimic and parrot back all you say and do. This is why they feel like a soul mate—because you are essentially looking at a mask of yourself.

These skills are then polished over years of use¬—using them on his mother, sister, Sunday school teacher, girls at school, bosses… anywhere he can tweak the manipulation and look normal enough to fit in.

What began as a simple adaptation in childhood—learning to understand how normal people relate and behave—turns into manipulation later. At some point, the child/teen must come to the conclusion that he DOESN’T have these feelings, limits, boundaries, and experiences. “What the hell… just gotta go with it” is his normal reaction.

The adaptation is no longer simply to understand normal people and compare and contrast them to his own experiences. It is now a survival behavior that helps him to get what he wants since his deficits will now give him the skills that others have to get the same thing legitimately.

Pathology Pete simply produces more masks—one for every emotion he doesn’t sincerely have.

(**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

Adult Children of Abusive Parents—When Parents are Pathological

Why women end up in pathological love relationships is a widely debated topic. After more than 25 years in the field, my view is that the reasons are often a mixture of several issues. We find most of the simplistic ideas about ‘why’ are not based on the dynamics of the women’s lives or relationships.

This is a complex issue and we have been looking at various reasons why. Any one explanation is probably not the total explanation. I think for many women, their patterns of selection have to do with a number of complex interweavings, not to mention, the ‘mask’ of pathology itself and how it hides, lures, and cons.

We have looked at the possible influence of pathological parenting. This may not apply to all who have ended up in pathological love relationships, but for those who have had pathological parents, this, too, may have been a factor. Just like in the 12 Steps, “take what works, and leave the rest.” If this is not applicable to your past, it’s probably not applicable to your pathological relationships. For those to whom it is applicable, here is another consideration.

Sometimes our dangerous male choices, bad boy selections, and addictive relationships are really just manifestations of the parenting we endured when young. If we were unfortunate enough to live in homes in which one or both of our parents were abusive, addicted, or pathological, our choices could be reflecting what did or did not happen in our own emotional development because of our pathological parenting. Pathological parenting, often referred to as self-absorbed parenting, can have significant and deep-seated effects on children, and these effects often persist into adulthood.

Sometimes our choosing of dangerous men comes from replicating our own childhoods. Some women pick men that subconsciously ‘feel’ like those early childhood dynamics. This is not a conscious decision, but is driven by primitive and familial feelings and unmet needs. The dynamic is further re-enacted by women being victimized again in similar ways as they were in the home where a parent was abusive or pathological. Pathological parenting involves:

  • Being unresponsive to others’ needs
  • Being self-absorbed, self-focused, and self-referencing
  • Being indifferent about other people
  • Being grandiose and arrogant
  • Lacking empathy for others
  • Lacking a core self (they are as deep as Formica)
  • Having shallow and quickly fleeting emotions
  • Wanting constant admiration and attention
  • Feeling special and unique
  • Not relating well to others

This results in pathological parents typically displaying the following kinds of parenting types and behaviors:

  • Blaming the child
  • Criticizing the child
  • Demeaning, devaluing, and demoralizing the child

Since the child has only known this kind of parenting, it is often difficult for the child to know there is something wrong with their parents. The child grows into adulthood still not knowing their parent is pathological. The result is the child/adult now has learned how to ‘normalize’ abnormal behavior because healthy behavior was never modeled.

Typical of abusive and pathological parents is when the parents make the child ‘take care of them emotionally’. This is often referred to as ‘emotional incest’ or ‘parent-ifying the child’. In a healthy home, the parent emotionally meets the needs of a child and supports the child through the developmental process of becoming a separate individual and teen and ‘individuating’ or ‘separating enough to be your own self’. In addictive, abusive, and pathological families, children are not supported through these developmental periods. Instead, the parent expects the child to meet THEIR needs.

Were you a parent-ified child?

  • Were you made to feel responsible for your parent’s feelings, well-being and/or general welfare?
  • Did your parent(s) seem to be indifferent or ignore your feelings much of the time?
  • Were you frequently blamed, criticized, devalued or demeaned?
  • When your parent(s) was/were upset or displeased, were you the target of his/her/their negative feelings?
  • Did you feel that you were constantly trying to please your parent(s) only to fall short?

Do you ever remember hearing your parent(s) say:

  • Don’t you want me to feel good?
  • You make me feel like a failure when you (do) ________.
  • You ought to care about me.
  • I feel like a good parent when someone praises you.
  • If you cared about me, you would do what I want you to do.

Children who were parent-ified or were victims of emotional incest or were raised by abusive/ addictive/pathological parents often have one of two reactions to their parenting. One is compliance, the other is rebellion.

Do you have any of the following symptoms of compliance?

  • Spend a great deal of time taking care of others.
  • Are constantly alert about acting in a way to please others or are very conforming.
  • Feel responsible for the feelings, needs, and welfare of others.
  • Tend to be self-deprecating.
  • Rush to maintain harmony and to soothe the feelings of others.
  • Don’t get your needs met.

With rebellion, the adult child is often defiant, withdrawn and insensitive to the needs of others. They build a wall around themselves to avoid being manipulated by others. They avoid responsibility resembling the kind of responsibility they had as children.

Adult children of abusive/addictive/pathological parents normally have lives where:

  • They are dissatisfied with themselves and the course of their lives.
  • They are trying to be in emotional sync with others but find they are not successful at it.
  • They are constantly looking a their own flaws, incompetence, and other faults they perceive in themselves.
  • They do not have meaningful relationships in their lives.
  • They do not allow people to become emotionally close to them—they keep people at arm’s length.
  • They feel like they lack meaning and purpose in their lives.
  • They have continuing relationship problems with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • They feel isolated and disconnected from others.
  • They are often overwhelmed by others’ expectations of them.

People who were raised in these types of families often go on to develop relationships with people who resemble the dynamics with which they grew up. Unconsciously, women often pick men who demonstrate, on some level, the kinds of behaviors their abusive parent did.

Women who do not recognize that they have grown up to ‘normalize abnormal behavior’ perpetuate the pattern of choosing dangerous and pathological men over and over again. They are stuck in a terrible cycle of self-sabotage. (Read more about this in How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved or Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

(Thanks to the article, “Parental Destructive Narcissism,” by Nina W. Brown, for information on pathological parenting.)

(**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).

 

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It’s All About Him! Are You Dating a Narcissist?

Many women are now familiar with the word ‘narcissism,’ but not always totally aware of the specifics of the disorder. The word ‘narcissism’ is tossed around a lot as a catch-all phrase for people who are conceited or aloof. But narcissism is more than a case of conceit. It is a pathological and incurable disorder. Narcissism is a brutal way for women to learn about dangerous and destructive men. By the time a woman realizes a man is narcissistic, she has been pounded into the emotional dirt.

Many women find fascination with men who seem self-assured, but this is merely the mask of narcissism, which hides an emotionally undeveloped little boy seeking the attention NOW that he didn’t get as a child.

But all the attention he has sucked out of women never fills the broken vessel of his soul. All the attention never stays in him. It spills out only for him to seek MORE and MORE from anyone that he can get it from. Dr. Sam Vaknin refers to this as the ‘narcissistic supply’—the need for a constant stream of affirmations, attention, and admiration from a constant supply of givers. Narcissists are rarely happy with only one stream of attention. They seek it from friends, strangers, co-workers, family, and anyone else they can tap into, which is also why narcissists are rarely faithful—all this attention-seeking leads to more focused admiration via sexual contact.

The major description that women give of the relationship with a narcissist is he is ‘confusing and exhausting.’ Women come out of the relationship dragging the shell of their former selves. That’s all that’s left when he is done with her. A narcissist’s path is always littered with the emotional skeletons of a multitude of women and children.

So, ARE YOU with a narcissist? You might as well know now. Take the quiz below based on your knowledge of him. (Thanks to Nina Brown and “Is Your Partner a Narcissist?” from Loving The Self- Absorbed.)

Point scale for each statement
5-Always or almost always does this
4-Frequently does this
3-Sometimes does this
2-Seldom does this
1-Never or almost never does this

__ He constantly looks to you to meet his needs
__ He expects you to know what HE expects, desires and needs without having to ask
__ He gets upset when you are perceived to be critical or blaming
__ He expects you to put his needs before your own
__ He seeks attention in indirect ways
__ He expects you to openly admire him
__ He acts childish, sulks or pouts
__ He accuses you of being insensitive or uncaring without cause
__ He finds fault with your friends
__ He becomes angry when challenged or confronted
__ He does not seem to recognize your feelings
__ He uses your disclosures to criticize, blame, or discount you
__ He is controlling
__ He lies, distorts, and misleads
__ He is competitive and uses any means to get what is wanted
__ He has a superior attitude
__ He is contemptuous of you and others
__ He is arrogant
__ He is envious of others
__ He demeans and devalues you
__ He is self-centered and self-absorbed
__ He has to be the center of attention
__ He is impulsive and reckless
__ He boasts and brags
__ He is insensitive to your needs
__ He makes fun of others’ mistakes or faults
__ He engages in seductive behavior
__ He is vengeful
__ He expects favors but does not return them

If your answers are mostly 4s and 5s, you are involved with a narcissist.

People who have been raised with pathological parents go on to select pathological men for partners. Dating/marrying a narcissist falls into that category. Since narcissists do not change, because narcissism is a permanent embedded personality disorder, the question to you becomes, “How much longer will you stay with someone who can’t ever be healthy?”

Have you told yourself any of the following?
•    I am in a relationship and feel he is more important than I am.
•    I often feel like a failure in this relationship and blame myself for the condition of the relationship and how he treats me.
•    I tell myself, “If I just try harder things will be fine.”
•    I wonder what happened to the charming person I was involved with and why he is so different now.
•    I feel numb and exhausted by his constant demands and the strain in the relationship.
•    I keep hoping ‘someday’ things will get better.
•    I have an overwhelming sense of guilt much of the time.
•    I always tell myself I am responsible for things going wrong (and he agrees).
•    I have given up time, ambition, interests, family/friends and my life for him.

(Thanks to Mary Jo Fay from, When Your “Perfect Partner” Goes Perfectly Wrong: A Survivor’s Guide to Loving or Leaving the Narcissist in Your Life.)

These are examples of the effects of being with a narcissist. Over time, these effects increase until your self-esteem is so low you no longer even attempt an exit. Life with a narcissist costs you everything. It already has, and it will in your future as well.

In order for you to heal, both from abusive, addicted, and/or pathological parenting AND from your relationship with dangerous men, you must exit so you can work on yourself and your own recovery. No one heals or grows in a relationship with a narcissist. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave, because you have stopped growing and hoping for emotional well-being for yourself.

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

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com