Tips for a Healthier, Happier Holiday

  • Stop idealizing–you are who you are, it is what it is. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. In fact, everyone acts WORSE during the holidays. It is the peak of dysfunction. Accept yourself and others for who they are.
  • Don’t feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself you have choices and that the word ‘No’ is a complete sentence.
  • 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 5 things to be grateful for. Repeat often.
  • 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 worse binds of going to parties with others and get stuck in relationships they don’t want to be in because of it. Find a few other friends who are willing to be ‘party partners’ during the holidays.
  • 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.
  • Find time for spiritual reflection. It’s the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a service, pray, meditate, reflect.
  • Pick ONE growth oriented issue you’d like to focus on for 2009 and begin cultivating it in your mind–look for resources you can use to kick start your own growth on January 1.
  • Plant joy–in your self, in your life and in others.

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 6

Part 6

Right at the end of our court hearing, the Psychopath did one of his infamous maneuvers. He slipped one by an entire group of us. He asked the Judge to order his child visitation be held at a center where free monitors are provided for low income families. (Part of his tactical plan to avoid paying child support is to pretend he is poor—so much for a ‘doctor’s lifestyle!’)

“I just want to see my daughter. I miss her…,” said the talking head. As it continued, I watched people in the court room begin to float around in a puddle of sympathy as it accumulated deep on the floor. It was so pathetic because I knew if the people saw this devil in action, the pool of sympathy would turn hot molten lava and converge into his empty soul.

The paper he waved in front of the judge to secure the order had several addresses that listed all the centers in our county. We live in a large metropolitan area, so the addresses really meant nothing. Filled with confident conviction, he pointed to and named a particular center of interest that was listed on the sheet.

When the judge asked why he wanted that particular center, he confidently asserted himself, as if this selection was for the good of mankind and fairness to all: “It is convenient for everyone because it is the closest distance. It is only 12 miles away.”

It sounded reasonable, so no one objected. But no one thought to ask 12 miles in which direction? Distracted by the relief I felt about the visits being monitored, I wasn’t alert enough to question his motive. It all happened very fast.

One would think that after four years of the same deceitful and manipulative behavior I would be critical about every request. Every time. Hyper-vigilance (high harm avoidance) has an upside when dealing with a psychopath. But then again, you get diagnosed of being paranoid or delusional.

When I got home I saw that I got hood winked again. I felt shock when I looked on-line and discovered where the Psychopath just got the court (and us) to agree to have his visits.

I saw there was a quarter mile difference in distance to the next center on that list. It was in a much safer area that is famously known for its elegance and beauty. Instead, he picked one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city; probably one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.

I printed a crime map for a half mile radius around the center for a one week period and saw there were 38 major crimes that occurred and were plotted out. This included homicide. Felony assault, armed robbery, grand theft auto, etc, etc., etc.

Making matters worse, I had to drag our little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl on two buses and a train to get into that neighborhood and then two hours later make the trip in reverse to get home.

Once I dropped her off at the center, routinely I walked three blocks to sit in a restaurant to wait out the visit. It is always an interesting trip through the bar-protected, graffiti-decorated buildings that lined the streets.

Often in the background, I could hear and feel a loud throbbing base noise. It would pulsate my lungs right into the wall of my rib cage as I walked. As the cars got closer, the metal grating sounds of vibrating trunk lids become part of the migrainish rhythm.

People on the streets looked me up and down and smiled as if they knew a secret that I didn’t. Tension still blanketed the streets from the devastating race riots of years past. It was obvious—I stood out.

When it was time to go get my little girl, I would trek back to the center. One day, as I headed over a cross walk to get to the center, I noticed a car coming toward me. I kept walking figuring it would stop as cars do, yet I locked it into my peripheral vision.

I walked. It came closer. Next it zipped right into the cross walk in front of me, missing me by about a foot. The teen driver looked into my eyes with an expressionless, stone cold face. When she punched down the accelerator, I felt a rush of adrenaline turn my legs into jelly just as the car swerved out of my path.

As much as I wanted to scream in anger, the tears welled up in my eyes AGAIN.

I flashed back to the talking head in the court room and how he man managed to pull this one off. The man who tells the world he is worried about the “well being” of his child, just locked us into a weekly court order that places her and I smack in the middle of a war zone.

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* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 5

Part 5

Why in God’s name would you want to date so soon after being with a dangerous man???

That was the thought crossing my mind as I listened to the women in our recovery-based conference call. They were interested in learning how to date again.

I wouldn’t do that, I thought. Not again. Not so soon.

I described to the women how my weight has been a safety blanket, protecting me from wanting to be with a man. Being with a man, for me, is like seeing a big plate of food, but having my mouth wired shut. I just don’t get to eat the food. My weight is the wire. It prevents me from indulging.

Until an ordinary trip to the grocery store tilted my illusion of control upside down.

This afternoon a friend drove me to the grocery store (I lost my car in the aftermath of the breakup). Tucked in my purse were my government-issued checks for milk, eggs, cheese and other items.

It has gotten so bad, from a material standpoint, that the last time I heard someone mention identity theft, I started hoping someone would actually steal mine! I thought I could tape my social security number on the outside of the trash can—it would save the thieves the hassle of picking through the stinky garbage looking for one.

I was cruising through the aisle, happy as a lark filing up my cart, knowing I did not have to walk home with the groceries. I looked up and there HE was. The guy from the Laundromat was standing in front of me.

I met him at the laudromat a couple weeks ago. He was very handsome. Oh so handsome! Embarrassed at my jammy pants and a sweat shirt and pushing my granny cart full of laundy, I made a dash for the door. I smiled and waved “Nice to meet you” as I fled by.

Flash forward to the grocery store. I smiled at him and said “Hello, how are you?”

He recognized me and we started talking. I told him my name.

He said “Oh, I will remember that, that’s my sister’s name.”

Then he told me his name.

I said, “Oh, that’s my brother’s name.”

We both started laughing.

As I felt that spark of connection, in the back of my mind, I heard, “DANGER Will Robinson, DANGER!” In my mind’s eye, I could see a robot standing behind him wilding swinging his arms!

We stood grocery cart to grocery cart talking about cream of broccoli soup and clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl. Suddenly things felt very awkward and silly. The brief spark of connection had been driven away by fear.

He said, “I go to the laundromat on Saturdays, when do you go?”

I replied “When I run out of clothes.” I cast my eyes downward as the line fell flat.

Half comment and half question he blurted out: “You live close by?”

I shot back “Oh yeah,” then randomly threw in “I even use a granny cart to bring my clothes.”

(For a minute I realized I learned a trick from the psychopath, by playing with the meaning of words, because I use the granny cart for the exact opposite reason.) Without a car, the laundromat is too far for me to carry my clothes!!!

Saying goodbye was a funny, uncomfortable moment. I felt like we were in high school. I really thought he was going to ask me for my phone number. Instead, he described his vehicle, and said if you see it in the parking lot, you’ll know I’m there.

When I got to the line with my WIC checks for the milk and eggs, I thought oh crap. I went in a tail spin, praying my girlfriend would come up behind me in the line and not him. “God, do not let him come!” I thought. My face flushed like a hot red desert sun.

My friend did walk up behind me to join me in line. I sighed with relief.

While waiting for the cashier, I scanned the tabloids for quick fix dieting solutions. How fast could I take off 60 pounds?

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 4

Part 4

It was a rainbow day perfect day. I squinted at the sun as it peaked through the dark feathered clouds. I hoped the rain would take a nap for a while because it was time for my most favored activity— a trip to the Laundromat, yeah, yeah, yeah.

A mound of dirty clothes piled high above my granny cart—my newest set of wheels, gave away my agenda for the day.

Realizing it was laundry day, my ninety-year-old landlord volunteered her car. I gratefully accepted; the alternative was than hoofing it down the street like a homeless woman carrying all of her belongings in the rain.

Just then a magnificent cloak of vibrant colors magically spread across the sky. I thanked her for her offer and started our on foot with the cart. As the distance grew between us, I heard my landlord yell, “if it starts to rain and you need a ride call me!”

Judgment used to float around my head when I saw others walking around with one of these carts. It seemed they were either very old or homeless. Yet they were comfortable with their cart. They did not care about image. Man, how perception shifts when you get a chance to walk in another’s shoes, or push another’s cart…

I am now grateful to own this unassuming set of wheels. When I purchased it five years ago, my belly was big and round as it nurtured a very precious, beautiful little girl growing inside me.

I will never forget the blistery hot day. I was walking the one of the largest swap meets in the country. I purchased that blue granny cart to carry all the items I had bought for the “Good Doctor’s” office. I was going to be the doctor’s wife. Alas I thought!


I remember how that cart came in handy that day. As I pushed it around, I never guessed that one day it would become my only set of wheels. And that the “Good Doctor” wasn’t so good.

I admit, I still worry a tad about “image” as I walk down the street with the cart. However, I have come to appreciate an item I wouldn’t be caught dead with a few years ago.

It has become abundantly clear that I have something to give. Actually, it is that knowledge that keeps me going through the murky waters of this battle. I try to find humor. With laughter, the soul cleanses itself.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 3

Part 3

Hello dear friends, I was thinking about the early days and how things began with me and the psychopath. I love those who look at me with crunched foreheads and say, “so why did you get involved with someone like this?”

Well, back then I did not know what I know now. If I had, I would have never been with such a sick person. The issue was that he presented himself drastically different to me.

I remember our early days like it was yesterday-it felt so wonderful. He was so warm, affectionate and loving. I felt like the center of his universe.

There was one night in particular that is so opposite to what I am dealing with today. It was a beautiful moonlit fall evening on a chilly California Beach. Harmoniously, we swayed side-by-side at the shoreline in a mutual state of awe at one of God’s greatest creations: the ocean. I shivered from the cool sensation of the water rolling over my toes so he gallantly draped his leather bomber jacket around my shoulders. Oh, he was charming, gentle and self sacrificing.

His stunning powder blue eyes were hypnotic to me. Later that night, like a child I skipped down my driveway reliving the tingling sensation that came to me during our first kiss. It felt like a stream of butterflies flowed out of my soul into my belly. It was so dreamy. He was older, mature, attractive, a “doctor.” WOOHOO!

Between my moments of elation, I felt sorrow for him. He shared his story with me. He told me he was renting a room from a lady because he just moved back to the area. Some time ago, he said he married and moved away to another state. He wanted a family, but his wife had a miscarriage and refused to try again. He said he would have adopted a child, but she would not even do that. After 10 years of promises with him, she refused to fulfill his dream of being a father. How terrible I thought she must be while I consoled and honored his noble mission.

I thought what more could someone want? Here I am, so over the corporate rat race and completely missing having a family. I believed my chances to meet Mr. Right were slim to none. Just hitting my forties, the best thing to do I felt was to cover up my desire to have a loving man. The white picket fence, the babies, stay at home mom, etc. etc. So because I was making a lot of money and just bought a home, I assured myself things could be a lot worse.

My attitude changed when “he” seemed to have the same dreams as I did. It was a perfect overlap. He wanted a child. He wanted to be the pappa bear supporting his family and felt that moms were meant to stay home with the kids. By the time we made it through our wonderfully romantic holidays, I was just so taken in by him. I still feel him cupping my face with his hands telling me how much he loved me.

The family portrait he visually painted of us and our two children was hanging over the fireplace. He used to drive me around the beautiful tree-lined streets in an exclusive beach town to point out what houses we should consider to live in one day. Of course once he got his practice set up again.

Within five months of that blissful beach evening, he had proposed by sliding a very large diamond ring on my finger. In a few short weeks I found out I was having his baby which was only a few short days after I got a real glimpse into the man I promised to marry. A little too late, but what the heck, love could conquer anything, right?

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 2

Part 2

My friends so many things have happened since my first column.  The wreckage of the aftermath has gained some height and momentum.  I had a “my life flashed in front of my eyes” kind of experience that I will share with you.

It was around 3AM and I was in a very light sleep semi-aware of my surroundings.  It was because I felt somewhat paranoid when I went to bed because I had spent part of my day educating a new professional about our family law/ custody case.

Perhaps it is his anti-government extremist group affiliations that make me a little restless at night.  Or it could be something about my ex’s involvement with people who have two names.

Or, maybe it is the token diploma I found in the bedroom drawer that honored his completion of an extensive paramilitary training program.  Or it could just be that he must win at any cost.

So as I lay there, I saw an indication there was a flashlight in the back yard.  Its reflection flirted with my bedroom curtains.  He finally went over the edge I thought.  Then there was a loud banging on my glass door. A surge of fear went though my chest and limbs.

With the toughest, grumpiest, voice I could muster, I yelled “Who is it?” into the darkness.   A man’s voice responded in kind:  “it is ABC Finance Company.  We have come to take your car.”

At first I felt relief that it was not “him.”   But, the feeling of relief quickly melted away when I went outside to remove my personal items from my car.

This turned into a very sobering experience. Again I was forced to feel the impact of my daughter’s father coming into my life.

As I emptied out the car, it was like my life started flashing before my eyes, I started reliving the experience of signing the documentation when I lost my home.

I relived all of garage sales getting rid of my belongings. I cringed again about how those people scavenged through my stuff reminding me how little worth I had. They seemed compelled to beat up my perception of value on every single item.

I then flashed to an evening when I woke up in the middle of the night realizing the excellent credit I worked so hard for was going away– that began its spiral downward with a judgment for thousands of dollars placed on my report because “he” sued me for the diamond ring in small claims court.

Then I remembered the dream that night after that trial, his face was in my face laughing and laughing.  I woke up just as frightened that night.

It seemed with every item I pulled out of the car, a new painful memory surrounded my consciousness.

When I drifted back in to the present moment, with the “repo” man it felt like I was back in line at the supermarket with those government checks to get free milk and eggs.

The cashier made an assumption that I was trying to get more than what was on the check, in an instant his voice bellowed over the store’s intercom summoning a manager there to further pick apart the transaction.

The line was building behind me and heavy sighs were coming out of the customers while my child, with an urgent and untamed desire to leave, sat on the floor screaming in protest.

That chilly early morning, as I turned away from the car to leave I realized I forgot something.  I reached in and pulled my CD out of the car stereo. The irony is that it was Sandra L. Brown, M.A.’s Dangerous Man CD.

How fitting it was in that instant to have the Sandra’s CD in my hand while my car was chained to a tow truck.

As I walked away with the CD in hand, fighting back the tears, I looked at the man and said, you know, a few short years ago I had a 150,000 thousand dollar job, a nice home, great credit and money in the bank.  He just looked at me.

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* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 1

Part 1

It’s 2:30AM on a Thursday night as I sit here developing my first message to you, dear reader. I am not accustomed to pounding my laptop keyboard in the middle of the night, but tonight I am making good use of the side effects from dealing with the aftermath of having a child with a psychopath. One of those side effects is the inability to sleep after a Strategic Traumatic Event (STE). An STE occurs when the psychopath in a custody battle performs a maneuver to knock the other parent emotionally off balance. It is designed to torment and to wear the other parent down.

As I am typing, in the background I hear CNN spilling sounds of the political battlefield of Obama vs. McCain into my living room. The battle for the White House is not even close to the war raging in some of our lives. The war we engage is with a pathological who has dropped his/her mask and unveiled the evil beneath.

Unfortunately for us, the mask is on a stick and the pathological is effective at sliding it back in place as needed. It is only when he/she realizes you are of no further value that the mask slips down and you get to see the real personality. In my experience, the pathological is a professional at “impression management,” a fancy term that means the psychopath will look and sound like Jesus Christ to others and even to you (until you believe it is Jesus Christ), while underneath it is really the devil manipulating your thoughts and perceptions.

During this journey, I have watched his face change from a loving, innocent, child-like portrait into a cold piece of stone. I have felt safe, secure and loved like never before. Unfortunately, they were these feelings of safety and love that blocked out the red flags – the times of confusion I should have paid attention to — the times I was uncertain of his acts or behaviors which were his real nature breaking through.

Now three years after the breakup, I am wondering if I might even die from the wrath of his hatred for me. I have felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up because of the piercing posture of his fiery eyes. Often his presence feels like that of an angry ghost attempting to carve a way into the depth of my soul.

The war I will present to you is about trying to protect the psyche of our innocent child who is at-risk. She too is a survivor of a psychopath and is being torn to pieces because she is caught in the path of his insatiable urge to “win” a custody battle, avoid child support, and destroy me. It seems his mission is to win at any cost.

He has no conscience and, worse yet, knows that I DO have one. He has no boundaries and, worse yet, neither do I when it comes to allowing him to trample on me. He has no reservation about pressing into me by hurting her physically and emotionally. He not only has no fear of getting caught, he gets excited about getting away with it.

The ordinary feelings that stop people from harming another human are devoid in him.

If you exist on this painful path, my heart goes out to you. I have been on this road for five years, lost almost everything, been to family court including dependency court nearly 40 times, been through two full ‘730 Custody Evaluations’, been investigated by Child Protective Services, been accused of a mental illness by a naive Ph.D. who fell for the ‘Jesus Christ image’ and read my reaction to the pathological’s abuse as a potential personality disorder in me, and I have been enduring and undoing my child’s behavior in reaction to his abuse. Last, but not least, I have gone through a raft of health issues, including multiple surgeries, brought on by the stress. All of these, though horrendous, are not unusual for a partner to experience in his/her relationship with a psychopath.

The column I write to you is one of reality. It is a real-time trip through the journey of a relationship with a pathological and the aftermath my child and I are navigating. I commit to give you the experience just as it is–not for me or my personal case–but for you.

I have searched and researched the country on the topic, taken classes about pathology, and established relationships with the best known minds in the field because I will do what it takes to be a survivor. I am a survivor and I am working through the stress of the most recent Strategic Traumatic Event (STE) which was a surprise visit by Child Protective Services triggered by his false allegation that I am abusing our child.

By pounding this keyboard for you tonight, I know I have become an expert. I am an expert in what the experience of a psychopath feels like, and what the damages can be. Discovery, awareness, and support by professionals is only in its infancy stages. I hope I can transfer what I have learned from this experience and research to you and save you some pain. Most of all, I hope to give you the tools that I am using to be a survivor and to protect my child. When one heals and shares that healing, we all heal.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

Writing for Happiness and Healing


Part II

By Lynn Ellyn Robinson

Ira Progoff, the original journal guru from the 1960s, recommended journaling on notebook paper. His method recommends that you insert your writing into a 3-ring binder behind one of a couple dozen of pre-made category tabs. That’s great for some kinds of journaling, especially if you’re working your way through historical events or figure out complex relationships. It also allows for cross-referencing (useful if you plan to write a memoir). For theme-based journaling (gratitude, prayer/meditation, health, travel, pets, food, etc.), I usually prefer a real book of some sort, with nice, heavy paper.

  • Check out the bound journals at a book store, which can run from $2 to $150. The look and feel of each volume is different. Handle them.
  • A writer pal uses bright 79¢ spiral notebooks from the drugstore; they fold back and lie flat. She uses them as a “parking lot” for random thoughts that crowd her mind when she is starting her day and needs to clear the decks so she can focus.
  • Consider the composition books so many of us used in school. Their pages are still stitched in place, but the price has gone up to about $2.00. They are a nice size and easy to carry.
  • I prefer the “college rule” line width, but most of the journalers I know like wider lines. I also do a lot of creative and developmental writing on graph paper. The grid lines help me segment different ideas and sort out materials, lists and sequencing.
  • If you are creative and artsy or just hate being limited by margins, check out the art supplies. Nicely bound sketchbooks with unlined pages are available in a wide range of sizes and are often made with acid-free paper that lasts for a long, long time.
  • Use some leftover wallpaper, wrapping paper or fabric to make a cover for your journal. Customize it to suit yourself.

Grab a pen and start your own, personal, custom-made, one-of-a-kind journal. Use the power of ink to unearth old longings and make new discoveries. Writing offers a way out of the darkness and into the sunshine. Ink is your voice. When writing to meet your own needs, something wonderful happens: YOU emerge.

It’s never too late to live a life you love.
Part I

In this new column, Journal to Joy, we will be talking about the many aspects of using pen and ink to write your way toward glowing good health. Using your pen to ink thoughts and feelings on the pages of a private journal can promote healing from past hurts and write yourself into a brighter future – no matter where you start. Over the coming months this column will address ways to use writing to deal with topics such as depression, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts.  Journal to Joy will offer tips and techniques for handling tough issues as well as the fun of delving into your own Internal Archaeology and designing a Dream Life for yourself.

Journal to Joy is the preamble to an Online Therapeutic Journaling Group. The kick-off will be a tele-seminar followed by an intensive Journaling Retreat later on, so be sure to check here for the details. You won’t want to miss the interactive sessions or the opportunity to take a break from your everyday life and do some focused, internal work.

Many who have come through a long, dark tunnel have often asked for instruction and support in telling their own, unique stories. In response, Journal to Joy will address ways to get started on your Personal Life History or Memoir. There are many different approaches, so we will look at several of the main formats and offer suggestions about tailoring the approach to suit your needs and ideas.

Journal to Joy will investigate different types of writing and journals. Many years ago a friend proudly showed me the “diary” his pioneer great-great-grandmother had kept while homesteading out west in the 1800s. Her daily entries faithfully recorded weather conditions and who was born, died, or married, but very little else. By contrast, structured journaling is a powerful tool that is much more than just a list or diary of activities. Disciplined writing is highly effective when sifting through a barrage of thoughts which threaten to overwhelm.

Many people have never thought of themselves as writers. Far too many among us endured humiliating experiences in school or had our early efforts critiqued by well-meaning family members. Even more of us agonized silently over spelling, grammar and punctuation. My own grandmother, a teacher, sent my childhood letters back to me all marked up with blue pencil corrections. Believe me; I know whereof I speak. Despite all that unpleasantness, there is good news. Fast forward to this very day – right where you are at this very moment.

Here’s the good news: Your journal does not care how you write.

It makes no difference to the page whether you know the rules. Handwriting and spelling are never graded. You can doodle if it suits your mood; use colored markers or crayons. Draw pictures and glue in cut-outs from magazines. Pen words around the pictures and ink in pretty loops and spiky angles. Scribe your feelings in words using colors and shapes. Decorate your pages. Your journal is yours and yours alone. In it, like nowhere else in your life, you can express yourself ANY WAY YOU WANT! Say anything you like – laugh, cry, scream, swear, or whisper. It is YOUR voice – the voice always inside of you, but maybe rarely used. Now is the time for YOUR voice to be heard and your journal is the place for it to speak.

It’s never too late to live a life you love.

Male Survivors

by: Michaela St. James

The Institute is frequently asked ‘What about the men? What about male survivors? Are females pathological too?’ Pathology is not gender-specific. It’s a mental health issue which means it effects men and women. There are some personality disorders that are more frequent in women and some that are more frequent in men. However, all personality disorders effect both men and women.

The disorders that occur more in women are Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), Borderline Personality
Disorder (BPD), Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD). In men, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) and Socio/psychopathy are more frequent. Yet, in both sexes any personality disorder (or mental illness for that fact), is possible.

In personality disorders, 60% of people who have one personality disorder have more than one which is why they refer to these disorders as ‘clusters.’ Clusters have overlapping symptoms in which the person is likely to have traits from other disorders within that cluster. For instance in women, many women who have Borderline Personality Disorder also have Narcissistic Personality Disorder or at least, traits of that disorder. Likewise, Histrionics can have BPD or BPD traits. The rule of thumb is the more personality disorders or disorder traits, the more difficult the relational problems and tension can be.

Women can have Anti-Social Personality Disorder or be socio/psychopaths. Ironically, studies show that women who truly are ASPD or socio/psychopaths are often under-diagnosed or mis-diagnosed as BPD only. I don’t know if it is a gender bias that doesn’t want to think about women in those levels of disorders or if the female presentation of those disorders are different and consequently not as recognized. The Institute has noticed that there are deviations in presentation of symptoms in women that are often unrecognized by their male partner.

Some of the most frequent problems with women who have personality disorders are:
* Constant Drama/Chaos

* Addiction

* Sexual Addiction/Acting Out

* Self Injury

* Eating Disorders

* Spending Problems

* Alleging violence when it has not occurred

* Parental Alienation against the male parent

* Mood instability

* Self Absorption

(It needs to be said that all women who have these symptoms are not necessarily personality disordered. For instance, not all women who have eating disorders have a personality disorder. However, many of these symptoms are seen more readily in women who do have personality disorders.)

How these symptoms are interactive in an intimate relationship is where the relational harm happens. While
personality disorders are challenging, if not out right damaging to others inter-personally, men can have specific problems in dealing with women who have personality disorders. Abuse by her, whether physical, emotional, verbal or sexual, is hard for men to come forward and admit or reach out for therapy about. It is likely that men will tolerate and experience it for long periods of time before recognizing it as abuse or doing anything about it. They are even more unlikely to discuss it with male friends or family and are often less believed by others.

Confusion over what is a personality disorder in a woman and what is hormonal changes is also an issue that men confess. They can’t tell the difference between mood fluctuations in a personality disorder and hormonal cycles. They often can’t tell the difference between ‘female emotions’ and excessive emotionality often seen in BPD and HPD. These inabilities to differentiate also contribute to their delay in getting the support they need.

These are by far, not the only symptoms or issues men face in relationships with personality disordered women. The emotional ups and downs, ‘walking on egg shells,’ and extremes in behavior are the tip of the iceberg when looking comprehensively at the big picture.

‘Why did I pick her?’ is often asked. Men, much like the women we researched in ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ tend to be highly compassionate, empathetic, tolerant, loyal, and helpers. Seeing the chaos in her life is often a hook to men they can’t refuse and she’s willing to allow him to rescue, bail her out, or finance her lifestyle. His ability to understand his patterns of selection and the concrete facts about pathology are just as crucial for him as they are for women.

The Institute offers specialized Pathological Love Relationship coaching for men. Most of our coaches all have had male clients in these same relationships. In the near future, we hope to add male coaches who men as well. We welcome the opportunity to offer support, and coaching to those who need extra insight about their current situations.

Sandra L. Brown, M.A. who is the author of ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man,’ ‘Counseling Victims of Violence,’ and ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ has written a book specifically for men called ‘How to Avoid Dating Damaged and Destructive Women‘ which is about personality disorders, addictions, and other mental health issues in women that are likely to produce relational harm.

You can purchase this e-book on our site at:

Or sign up for phone coaching at:

Red Flag Warnings

by Grace Belafonte, Life Coach

RED FLAG WARNINGS are clues that emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, and/or sexual danger may be on the horizon. Consider that not every red flag listed below means you are dealing with a pathological. It means you better look deeper. The more red flags an individual displays, the stronger the indication is of a potential pathology.

Emotional Feelings
  • You get overcome by an anxious feeling when you are around that person
  • You get a feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you cannot figure it out.
  • You feel uneasy allowing him or her to be alone in your house, but you’re uncertain why
  • You get a creepy feeling when he or she stares into your eyes
  • You feel drained after spending time with this person
  • You feel anger or hostile when he or she speaks
  • You feel very self-conscious or inadequate around him or her
Physical Feelings
  • Your teeth clench and jaws get sore
  • You get nauseated when dealing with that person
  • You get headaches around that person
  • Your heart rate elevates in his or her presence (mistaken for attraction, rather than fear)
  • You get twitches or sweaty palms when in close proximity
From Others
  • A friend makes a negative comment about that person’s character or behavior
  • Your family members say they are not sure if they like him, or admit actual dislike
  • Someone asks you what happened to his wife when you did not know he was married
  • Your friends begin to disappear from your life when he/she is around
  • People do not seem to warm up to him/her easily
  • S/He is living with parents or renting a room from someone
  • S/He does not have a car
  • S/He does not have a job
  • S/He has been in several short-lived relationships
  • S/He has just come out of a relationship
  • S/He has no furniture
  • S/He is incredibly tight with money and wants you to pay often or all of the time
  • S/He does not have many friends
  • S/He is abrasive, controlling, and inflexible
  • S/He seems to be insincere in compliments given to others
  • S/He seems to have no concern for others
  • S/He is secretive or mysterious and has unusual beliefs or habits
  • S/He asks you early in the relationship to loan money
  • S/He is drinking or drugging excessively or new to a 12-step program
  • S/He has come from an abusive home
  • S/He enjoys others shortcomings and acts superior to others
  • S/He is very charming at times, but can be very harsh with a short fuse
  • S/He seems unable to empathize with others
  • S/He is a victim of something with an awful hard luck story
  • S/He never takes blame for anything; it is always someone else’s fault
  • S/He twists and turns events into something favorable to him or her
  • S/He can change moods on a dime or is combative towards others
  • S/He has lied about the past, hiding children or ex-spouses

This list is not exhaustive. You may come up with your own red flags. The key is to pay attention to them. They are your best protection as they help you to get out early or at least to know what you’re dealing with. ( (All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

Survival Tips

by Grace Belafonte, Life Coach

Living in the aftermath phase of a pathological relationship can be a grueling experience. These tips are a vital way to cope.


You will not find any peace until you accept what is happening in your life. Try the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to Accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

(Hear the meaning of the words as you say this.)

Disengage with the Pathological

Create distance between you and the pathological. Do not communicate directly with the pathological unless you are forced to by the court. Then, set up a voicemail system that can transcribe and forward messages to you via e-mail.

Establish a Reliable Support System

Sounds like an overused recommendation, but as a survivor, a strong support system is a life-saving grace. It is important that those you lean on are completely trustworthy and “get” what is happening.

Spiritual Nourishment

If you believe in God, use God to get through this. If you don’t believe in God, rely on something else; 12-steppers believe in a higher power. If you have to, trust someone else’s belief that things are going to be ok.

Physical Nourishment

Eat healthily. Cut out simple carbohydrates (refined sugar in candy, cakes, cookies, etc.) And add daily exercise (walking is good) between 20 to 40 minutes a day. Take Vitamin B12 which reduces the effects of stress on the body and helps calm the nerves naturally.

Intellectual Nourishment

Validation offered in books by credible sources can be amazing; but, if you find that the books are making you feel more powerless because of the seriousness of your situation, then put them down and read positive books.


In the aftermath, you may feel overwhelmed with issues. Try to visualize little compartments in which each issue can be stored. Work on one issue at a time. While working on one issue, detach emotionally from the others so you can focus.

Next Indicated Step

Think in terms of your next indicated step when you are overwhelmed. If you are open to solutions in your life, they will show up. When you wake up in the morning, ask “what can I do next in such and such area.” And just do it. Stay out of the future.

Quiet the Ache

First, acknowledge that how you feel is normal. Even though this person is bad for you, the pathological is usually quite conning and extremely charismatic. Have someone available who “understands” the situation and who can talk you down from the “compulsion” of wanting to talk to or be with the pathological. You do not, however, need someone in your life who will tell you shouldn’t feel that way. You just do. What you need is someone to help you act appropriately despite your feelings.

Create a Positive Outlook

Know that one day this will be over. At some point, you will feel certain doubt that you will not get through this. Every day that passes is one day closer to the whole situation being a thing of the past. Look for any good things that could arise in your life because of this.


Sit down daily, close your eyes, and find one thing to be grateful for. It could be as simple as being able to breathe, or walk, or that you have a great friend who loves you and believes in you. It could be the joy you get from a child, a pet, etc.

Forget about Revenge

Revenge does not serve anyone. It may be a nice thought to have a predator get his karma… you cannot be the one to do it. Thinking and planning revenge only feeds the resentment you have inside. Let it go. Live emotionally free.

Right size the Predator

It helps to look at the person who has harmed you in ways that reduce his/her power over you. For instance, nick names that are funny or lessen his or her power are great.

Don’t Hammer Yourself

If you are dealing with a pathological, please don’t take it personal. There is probably a long list of others hurt too by this person. This happened because you were vulnerable, not bad. Evil people target loving, caring people. This does not mean you should stop being loving and caring. Please continue to be the beautiful person you are. You are armed, now, with information. Use that information so that you are no longer vulnerable and easy prey. Yes, it IS possible.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

Relapse Prevention Tips

by Grace Belafonte, Life Coach

The only thing worse than being in the aftermath of a pathological relationship is getting involved in a new pathological relationship!


Before you get involved in another relationship, give yourself time to heal and reveal why you were in a pathological relationship in the first place. Before you are a psychopath’s PICK, learn what makes you TICK! Do not get into another relationship for at least one year. If that sounds impossible, you might already have a hint to the WHY behind your unfortunate journey. Keep in mind, it takes most people four to five pathological relationships before they STOP!


Do a complete relationship inventory. In the workbook for ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man before You Get Involved’, you will get an opportunity to survey your relationships. If you are willing to look, you will see life-changing information in your history. If you are honest with yourself, you will probably see your part in the ordeal. You cannot move out of being a victim unless you see why you were vulnerable.


You must heed red flag warnings, but, before you can do that, you need to see them! Most victims will tell you that they did NOT experience the same creepy feeling about the psychopath that their friends and family did. And, they will tell you that they DID ignore what they later learned were flaming hot red flags waving wildly right before their very eyes. Additionally, they would not even listen to the warnings of others when they were told of the red flags they should be heeding.


Read, study, and go to therapy. Understand pathology and how it impacts your life. Learn what healthy love is and what it is not. If you have been in multiple pathological relationships you will need to unlearn your beliefs about relationships and take on new healthy beliefs. Learn how to set FIRM boundaries. Boundaries will save your life. With weak boundaries and a caring heart you are putty in the hands of a pathological.


Live a rich, full life. Create the life you desire or at least set goals and get on the path. Find your passion again. What makes you feel good? If you are a LONELY VICTIM, you send out radar signals to pathologicals. Loneliness smells like a filet mignon to a hungry psychopath.


Go where the love is, you deserve to be loved and to love freely. Connect or reconnect with people who are solid for you. Put yourself in the center of loving, accepting people who add to your life. Ask someone to help you stick with reality when Prince Charming knocks at your door. People who love you unconditionally will most likely serve as a mirror for you. Be open to their input.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)