Portrait of Sandra Sandra L. Brown, MA

Sandra L. Brown, M.A., is CEO of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education. She holds a Masters degree in Counseling and is a program development specialist, lecturer and community educator on pathological love relationships and domestic violence, and is an award-winning author. Her books include the award winning Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists as well as How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved, and Counseling Victims of Violence: A Handbook for Helping Professionals.

Sandra is recognized for her pioneering work on women’s issues related to relational harm with Cluster B/Axis II/Sociopathy/Pyschopathy disordered partners. She specializes in the development of Pathological Love Relationship training for professionals and survivor support services based on her books. Her books, CD’s, DVD’s, and other training materials have been used as curriculum in drug rehabs, women’s organizations and shelters, women’s jail and prison programs, school and college-based programs, inner city projects, and various psychology and sociology programs and distributed in almost every country of the world.

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Reality and Suffering


by Sandra L. Brown, MA

Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm

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

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.

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