This weekend marked the anniversary of the death of an extraordinary visionary. Many of The Institute’s highly acclaimed purposes, products, and processes came from what Joyce lived through, talked about, and modeled for others.
Joyce, like other leaders, did not set out to do anything extraordinary. She simply set out to heal after two back-to-back pathological relationships. First a 25-year relationship with a narcissist, and then an upgrade to a sociopath for 10 years, left Joyce in the typical emotional fetal position that is common in the aftermath of pathological relationships.
She went through the normal stages of pathology recovery, asking:
“What just happened?”
“Did I do that?”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Why am I so obsessed with this?”
“What’s wrong with me? Why am I attracted to men like that, and what does it say about my life that I would end up in a relationship like that?”
Without the benefit of mental health therapy and with only the support of a few close friends (who were quickly becoming weary of the ongoing saga of ‘why her/why him, why he moved on quickly, and why he picked the new woman’), Joyce managed to piece together not only a recovery, but some profound insights that changed the quality of her life forever.
By then, at age 60, it would have been easy to say she would not likely find love or heal. It would have been even easier to turn bitter, get revenge, hyper focus on him and his latest antics, or just curl into a fetal position and stay there. But remarkably, Joyce rose from the dirt she had been ground down into. Like the symbol of the Rising Phoenix, she not only rose, she dug out every particle of dirt that could be transformed from crusted pain and milled it for life-changing insight.
She didn’t keep these golden gems to herself—she talked to women about relationships wherever she was. Some of her approaches have trickled down to help other therapists work with women leaving pathological relationships.
Joyce believed women tended to drift sideways into pathological relationships looking for fun and excitement, which actually pointed at what that woman needed in her life that would prevent her from taking just any old relationship.
“If you aren’t living a big enough life that is as big as your heart, or as big as your personality, or as big as your dreams, then any old psychopath will do.”
She poignantly asked herself, “What is or is not going on in my own life that I would end up with a sociopath? Sure, I didn’t know he was one—he said all the right things…but what could this possibly be pointing out to me about me, the condition of my own life, and what needs to happen so I don’t choose like this again?”
16 years later she had answered her own questions.
In her 60’s she went to college for the first time and became a short-term missionary. She started her life in the arts of painting, sculpting, and pottery. She moved to a one room beach house so she could ‘make up for lost time and play hard’. She drove a convertible Miata to feel the rush of adrenaline she no longer had because the sociopath was gone. In her 70’s she took up belly dancing to prove to herself she was still attractive, went to Paris to see handsome men so she knew she could still flirt, and got a motorcycle so she always had something hot to ride (!)—hey, I’m just quoting Joyce here. She became a hospital chaplain to comfort the sick and fed the poor every week to give some of that hyper-empathy away, lest it go to another psychopath. Then she sailed a catamaran to the Bahamas to challenge her fear because she could not swim.
“A relationship is the icing on the cake. It is NOT the cake. Don’t confuse the necessity of living life to be the icing. Living life IS the cake. Anything else, including relationships, is just the icing.”
The Institute’s own Jennifer Young, who does phone coaching and our tele-support group, had this to say about Joyce’s impact on her and the women she helps, “Joyce Brown carries a big impact on my work with women. On her own she developed the innate ability to care for herself. That care translated into real solutions for disengagement from a pathological relationship. I believe the biggest, specific idea that has come from Joyce is the idea of ‘Not One More Minute’. I have shared this concept with many women who instantly feel the ability to disengage… ‘not one more minute’ means, ‘I will not allow you to take one more minute of my energy, my love, my care, my compassion.’ It provides an end point… a point to say I’m done. This change in thinking, that I stop it, is crucial. It means, ‘I have come to know and understand that he will not change, but I still can… and I will.’ So thank you, Joyce Brown, for showing us the way to the end!”
At age 76, as she lay in a hospice bed only hours from death, I told her I wanted to toast her life. She said “Crank this bed up!” She fluffed her hair and with a glass of Jack Daniels in her hand, said, “I have had a great life. I lived, I learned how to have a great life, and I was loved. Who could ask for more?”
Her life lived well is what has impacted thousands of women worldwide and is the main thing women who attend our retreats come away with. Sadly, in this day and age, living a great life seems to be an extraordinary accomplishment. Her lecture on ‘Get a Great Life’ is what has spurred women on to not merely limp into recovery dragging their souls behind them, but to burst into recovery and fill their lives to the rim with all the things that their big personalities need in order to live fully.
Lifeless living is what causes many women to seek a psychopath who’s so full of energy that it makes their own lives seem so exciting and vibrant. Joyce said, “The problem is pointing to the solution. I loved the energy of those men! But what was that energy, and why couldn’t I have it another way? Was a psychopath the only way for me to feel life?”
Joyce learned that vibrancy comes from a life that is full of the things that interest, motivate, support, and challenge HER. If she wasn’t living a big enough, interesting enough, motivational enough, supported enough, and challenged enough life… she would drift again into the arms of pathology to fill that space.
One of our readers recently memorialized Joyce on our Facebook page:
“Thank you, dear lady, for your continued inspiration—a legacy you’ve left to many. You never knew those who have come to love you [posthumously] for your feistiness, tenacity, grit, and that wonderful sense of humor!”
Feel how big YOU are and, as Joyce did, fill your own life with greatness. As she would say, “Get a great life” and stop the cycle of pathology!
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)