By Sandra L. Brown, MA
In the past we have talked about how your defense mechanisms affect your emotional suffering. We’ve looked at denial and fantasy. Today we are going to look at how your own distortions in thinking can also cause emotional suffering.
I am frequently reminded that this statement: “Just because you believe it, that doesn’t make it true” is accurate when it comes to denial in Pathological Love Relationships. There’s just something about narcissists and psychopaths that can make you forget all about their pathology and return you to your previous ‘fog’ of beliefs:
F.O.G. = Fear, Obligation, Guilt
Entrenched in your desires is to have a normal partner. Couple that with the NPD’s (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and PP’s (Psychopath’s) ability to convince you of their—at least fleeting—normalcy, and you have a woman who has dug her fingernails into the nanosecond of his normal behavior. And she’s not gonna let it go!
An otherwise highly educated, bright, and successful woman can be reduced to a blankly staring hypnotized believer when it comes to believing her mate is normal and can be normal, or that it’s her that is really the messed up one.
Just when you feel you have made substantial headway in understanding the nature of the ‘unchangeability’ of his disorder—wham!—out of nowhere, you are staring blankly, hypnotized yet again.
While pathology never changes, what does change is your belief system. Obviously, narcissists and psychopaths are not capable of true sustainable change. He didn’t change. Your desire to believe he’s normal and to deny his pathology is the only thing that has changed. It’s not so much a ‘change’, per se, as it is a return to straddling the fence about your belief system.
Most partners live a life of cognitive dissonance—this conflict between ‘he’s good/he’s bad’ which is so distracting they never resolve the internal conflict of whether he is MORE good than bad, or MORE bad than good. They live in a fog of circulating memories that support both viewpoints—remembering the good, but still feeling the bad. These circulating memories keep them straddling the fence with the inability to resolve a consistent faulty belief system about him.
This inability to hold a consistent belief system is what causes cognitive dissonance. It’s also what increases the cog diss and also causes intrusive thoughts. Dissonance is caused by thought inconsistency which eventually leads to your behavioral inconsistency—constantly breaking up and making up.
Inconsistencies in thought and behavior increase dissonance which increases intrusive thoughts. No wonder you can’t get symptom relief!
Your desire to believe it doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t make him normal. It doesn’t cure his NPD or Psychopathy. It only keeps you stuck straddling a belief system that has caused you emotional paralysis.
Joyce Brown (the mentor in Pathological Love Relationships for The Institute) once said, “The only thing that happens when you’re straddling a fence is you get a fence post up your butt!” Try moving when you’re paralyzed by a fence post!
Just because you believe it, doesn’t mean he’s okay, that he’s going to stop doing the things he said he’d stop, that counseling is going to work, that there never was anything wrong with him, that it’s probably you—or any of the other things you tell yourself in order to stay in a relationship of pathological disaster.
Even Benjamin Franklin said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” For us in the field of psychopathology, these self-evident truths are that pathology is permanent, whether you believe it or not.
(**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.)