Saturday, March 25, 2017

Into the Forest: Managing Triggers in a Dangerous World

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” ~Galileo Galilei

Life after a pathological relationship and the resulting trauma is like walking through a forest.  It’s a whole new place.  In the forest, there are dangerous things and pretty things.  You cannot avoid the forest because of the dangerous things…because the pretty things make life worth living.  You have a go into the forest.  Living life now, with trauma, means that you have to be more aware of where and what the danger is.  That’s why the forest metaphor works.  You can look around - with open eyes – a see what is dangerous and what is not.  Time to open your eyes.

This is really a “how to”.  Living with trauma and walking through the forest requires some instruction.  You might never have had to walk through the forest before or maybe never realized that you have been in a forest your whole life.  You can no longer step outside into the world with your eyes closed or pretending that things do not scare you.  This strategy leads to hyper-vigilance…that place of unknowing.  Hyperviglience is a fear of the unknown – eyes closed – unable to see what is coming.  That doesn’t work to keep you safe.  But to live with trauma means that you become vigilant – eyes open – aware of danger and skills to manage what comes. 

Step one: Acknowledge you are in a forest and identify the danger. 
The single most important “danger” to recognize is the psychopath himself.  Let’s say he’s the wolf that lives in the forest.  You have to acknowledge that wolves live in the forest.  Don’t step outside onto the path without reminding yourself of that fact.  It is what it is.  Get your thoughts right about this fact…challenge your denial and the minimizing of that fact.  Allow the fear of the wolf to serve as a warning and reminder (because this is the purpose of all emotions).  As you correct your thoughts, let that lead to coping strategies that you verbalize to yourself.  Create a plan to deal with the wolf that lives in the forest when it shows up.  Visualize yourself saving yourself. 
Side note: the greatest weapon to save yourself from a wolf is your running shoes.  Be prepared to metaphorically and literally run from the wolf when you see it.  A wolf cannot harm you if you are running away or not in his presence at all.  You are not avoiding, you are not wimpy, you are saving your life. Buy good running shoes.

Step two: When you are in the forest, stay present in the forest – eyes open.
You have to stay present and take in each moment.  You cannot allow yourself to be distracted by the past or fearful of the future.  Safety and beauty are in the here and now.  Eyes open, head up, one breath at a time, one foot in front of the other.  Take in your surroundings with all of your senses.  This level of awareness will allow you to take in the beauty and sense the danger.  This level of awareness will allow you to feel the changes in your body, the signals of fear that will give you time to put on those running shoes.  Then, when the wolf shows up you will mindfully and with intention get those shoes on and save yourself. 

Step three: Seek safety and settle yourself
Run to a safe place…home, a friend, the police.  Once there, take off your shoes because you are no longer in danger.  Take a moment to intentionally tell yourself that you are safe and that you saved yourself.  Be proud that in the forest, when the wolf came, you lived.  You are alive and safe so let your breathing slow to a relaxed pace.  Use your senses to get present in the safe space you landed. 

Three steps to safety, every time.  Now, I am sure you are thinking that you cannot literally run away every time.  There are times when the wolf knocks at the door to get the kids, or sits across the courtroom or passes you in the hall at work.  These times, a metaphorical running away will work.  You are not engaging, you are moving in a different direction figuratively…as the wolf seeks to attack and move close you are seeking escape, to end the engagement as quickly as you can.  You may not get to run right away…but you are going to run.  Your running away comes in the form of not giving him words to manipulate (use as few words as possible when he is around) and not giving him facial expressions to read.   Most importantly, no emotional reaction to serve as a sign that his attack has hooked you. 
When you begin to see the wolf for what he is…a wolf…your walk through the forest will be different.  It will feel safer and you will have taken some of your power back.  Being vigilant – with your eyes open – is powerful.  When you see what is coming vs. denying or minimizing the danger you will create solutions to keep yourself safe that you never knew you had. 

Fear is a very powerful emotion that should never be quieted.  It should always be allowed to serve it’s purpose and keep us safe.  But staying afraid and living in fear literally creates the opposite effect, it kills us.  It wears your body down, drains you of energy and robs you of your ability to think clearly.  Do not stay in fear.  Let fear become awareness.  Eyes open – you are living in a forest with beautiful trees, plants, sweet smelling flowers and wolves.  Go buy some good running shoes and go for a walk.

Saturday, March 18, 2017 Shares an infographic on How to Stop Negative Thoughts

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Do You Know You Have Been Triggered

“The exquisite clarity of fear…” ~Gerald May

Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a life-long task.  At this moment, there is no cure for PTSD.  There are many treatments, but no cure.  So, it helps to understand clearly what you are facing in order to develop a strategy that works best for you.  One of the most challenging aspects of PTSD in general is the differences in our brains.  We know a lot about the brain as an organ and certainly have a deep understanding of the systems involved, but our weakness is in knowing how each person’s mind impacts the brains ability to heal.  Think about your mind as the individual thoughts and beliefs that you have based on your experiences and brain chemistry.  Because each person’s mind is different, the course of PTSD will be different.

To tackle what your mind is doing and how your PTSD is impacting you it will be very helpful to understand what a trigger is and how to know if you have been triggered. A trigger is something that sets off a negative psychological or physical reaction in you.  A trigger can be a place, a person, an experience, a thought or a feeling.  The trigger is the thing that reminds your mind and brain of the past trauma.  As a result, your mind thinks danger is happening and the sequence of the survival system is activated in the brain (the organ).

The general area of your brain responsible for activating the survival system is the amygdala.  The amygdala leads the charge when danger comes your way.  The amygdala sends signals to the rest of the body systems to prepare for battle…the amygdala is like the General.  The problem with the amygdala is that it does not have a sense of “date”.  It cannot tell if the danger is really happening.  It just knows that this thing has brought danger before.  Once “trauma” happens – you hit a tree while driving your car – your amygdala could associate trees with danger.  These traumatic associations are VERY specific to each person.  This is a big part of what makes treating and dealing with PTSD so challenging.  You can see how important it is to identify your specific triggers.  Without knowing what triggers you…it is nearly impossible to get better.

So, how do you know if something is triggering to you?  You can determine if something is a trigger by paying attention to how your body and mind react to it.  If it is a trigger to you, following exposure, you would experience:
  • An increase in negative emotions
  • Thoughts consist of associations between present situation and the past
  • Experience physical sensations related to anxiety

It is crucial that you begin to shift your awareness to these specific reactions throughout the day.  The key is noticing the shift from “feeling OK” to “feeling awful” – or scared, frustrated, sad or hopeless.  It is in the moment of the shift that you will be able to both identify the trigger and activate your coping skill to minimize the impact of the trauma.  That is your path to recovery.

A couple of tasks that you can use to begin the awareness process include keeping a list of triggers.  One list – with no details of why it’s a trigger – just the trigger.  You might notice some themes or start to realize that something is a trigger that seems innocuous.  By being more aware – you will begin to take control over your mind, allowing you to shift the meaning of triggers to something more accurate as well as allowing you to get present – resist going back.
Another option to begin the awareness process is to rate your emotions throughout the day.  Create a rating scale for yourself that documents your feelings.  Throughout the day check in with yourself.  If your number is high – stop and work to identify what might be triggering you.  Don’t dig too deep – it is likely on the surface and if not, move on. 

Your mind is the best weapon you have against what has been done to you.  It is yours and yours alone.  When the trauma is over, your mind wants your brain to settle down and work efficiently.  Even though it feels like it is working against you – it is not meant to.  The survival system kept you alive – essentially did it’s job.  But when you are safe, your survival system would much rather take a back seat to every day living.  It just doesn’t believe that it can.  With clarity about what is really happening for you – you can teach your brain that you are safe. 

Peace to you,


Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I’m not wise, but the beginning of wisdom is there; it’s like relaxing into —and an acceptance of—things.” ~Tina Turner  

Think about standing under a waterfall.  Feel the power of the water hitting your body.  Now picture yourself attempting to hold that water back.  Stop the water from flowing over the rocks.  You fiercely and intensely use all of your power and strength to prevent the water from touching the rock or yourself.   You engage yourself in a task that has no payoff.  You work to achieve a goal that is unachievable.  In that attempt, you create in yourself physical (pain of the attempt), psychological (belief about the attempt) and emotional (feelings of the attempt) exhaustion. 

Now picture yourself standing under the same waterfall and allowing the water to do what it does.  There is awareness that you are interrupting the flow of the water but not stopping it. You can sense the water, feel the water and know what the water’s intention is.  And because you accept it, you do not resist.  Ahhh … relief.

At any given moment you can accept what is.  It is a choice.  It becomes a choice the minute there is conflict and pain.  It is then that you have awareness—your mind, your body and/or your spirit is speaking to you.  It’s a choice to listen. 

So what is it that you need to accept?  It could be his pathology, or the pain that it has/is causing.  It could be accepting that because he is your child(ren)’s father, the contact will never end (so you’d better learn how to disengage), or accepting that each time you have to see him, or hear about him, it will be a challenge.  Maybe you need to accept that you have been negatively impacted by the relationship; that what is happening to you, your changes in behavior, or mood, or thinking, are PTSD and not you being crazy.  And it might just be that you accept who he is and accept the consequences of who he is but the gift of acceptance needs to be given to you.  Is it in accepting that you are a good, whole person filled with love, compassion and honesty who needs to accept that something bad happened to you and not because of you?

Whatever IT is or wherever the acceptance is needed, I beg you to release yourself from it.  In accepting there is freedom.  I offer this blessing for acceptance to you:

Turn your face to the sun and accept the warmth. 

Release your own resistance to what is.

You are worth the peace that comes.

There is value in you and all that you know.

Blessings to you for freedom through your acceptance.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

Your breath is your life. It is the power that moves you. It is the energy that drives you. It is the fire that keeps you alive. Your breath keeps you focused on the task at hand. Your breath helps you slow down and relax. Your breath moves through your body like a river, creating life along it’s banks.

In pathological relationship recovery, all of these things are needed. The things that your breath provides are the things that will help you get better. You need power, energy, fire, focus, relaxation and to create life again. So, it makes sense that a big part of recovery is that you learn to breathe again.

It seems odd that you might need to learn to breathe again, but you do. You lost control of your breath the moment you were first traumatized in the pathological relationship. That first red flag that rose took your breath away. The first time he called you a nasty name, or showed up unannounced when you had said you were going to be busy, or anytime his masked slipped enough for you to see his pathology. These are moments when your breath became off balance for the first time. Your breath took over in a sense. You may have not felt it; but you sensed it.

When you experience a trauma your body leaps into survival mode. In order for you to survive, certain primary functions must lead the way. Your breath first stops and slows which signals a release of adrenaline. This process then tells your body to be on alert. Other physiological symptoms occur like sweating, confusion, a fast heart beat. Through the event your breath is moving in a pressured way…often making your chest feel heavy. As the perception of the trauma resolves you come back to yourself. But what happens in a pathological relationship is that you never really leave the exposure to the trauma. So, you never really come back to yourself. Your body and breath is always on alert, off balance, unsure of when the next moment of fear will occur.

After an extended exposure to psychological trauma, your breath is not even on your radar. When you live “in trauma” you stop being able to sense your breath and often miss the other physiological symptoms too. You are so busy “thinking” in circles that your body’s warning signs and symptoms are “normalized”. This is the epitome of losing yourself. Without this awareness and mindfulness you are not present. Your mind is taking you on a journey outside of the present moment, "What do I do next?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “What can I do to make this stop?” With these thoughts come the behavioral options - fight, flight or freeze.

There is another way through trauma and trauma recovery…breathe. Being able to regain the mindfulness of breathing can change everything. Whether you are still in the midst of trauma or working hard to recover from it; the focus on breathing is crucial. It is really the foundation for recovery.

You can begin by learning how to take good, deep breaths. In through your nose…count to three slowly as you inhale…and out through your mouth…count to three as you exhale. As you breathe listen to the sound of the breath moving in through your nose, and hear the breath leaving your mouth. Feel the coolness and the relaxing sensation of each breath. Stay present and focused with each breath.

After you learn to breathe again, add daily scheduled time to practice. It is recommended that you spend 15-20 minutes each night before bed practicing relaxation and mindful breathing. You can start with a shorter time frame and build up to the full 20 minutes. After you believe you have mastered the breathing, you can begin to add in mindfulness skills like turning your mind to thoughts on your immediate sensations. Turn your mind to take in the sights around you, the sounds you hear, the sensations you feel or the scents you smell. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present and immediate moment. Focus on just what is within your own space.

So, now you can begin to catch your breath. You can begin the process of calming your body, your mind and your spirit. When you are breathing in a calm and measured way, you are at your best. With a steady breath, you will be able to think clearly, respond smartly and behave in a way that is safe.

It all begins with one slow, deep breath.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Feeling Sentimental?

Valentines Day, Easter, Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas;  Your birthday, your anniversary, the birth of a baby, a promotion, a graduation.  Feeling sentimental?  I bet you are!  You might be feeling a bit of tenderness, compassion, joy, sadness or anger.  It doesn’t take much.  Just the idea of these holidays or events can elicit a wave of emotion.  

Sentimentality is a feeling.  That’s it.  It is you, responding to a memory.  Feeling sentimental is not the memory but the feeling that it elicits.  That is important to understand.  Pathologicals want you to feel.  When you feel, they are in control. 

Herein lies the risk: He used your sentimentality against you.  Think about how many times you were in a disagreement and he brought you roses.  In that moment your emotion instantly shifted away from his offense and on to the first time he brought you roses.  He might have manipulated your sentimentality when he talked about your children-their birth, their accomplishments, their struggles.  In those moments your attention turned away from his betrayal or lack of parenting and towards the idea of “family” and the bond that was crafted.  He would send loving cards to you as he’s wooing someone else.  He used your sentimentality as a distraction.  When you were overwhelmed with the feeling of sentimentality, you certainly struggle with staying angry or confused or disgusted. 

Additionally, when the cognitive dissonance of “he’s good/he’s bad” is in full swing, this strategy of sentimentality manipulation is one of the things that pulls you back to his side.  It’s the part of the relationship that you buy into with so much intensity.  You have 5, 10, even 20 years of memories that he can draw on to pull you back to him.  Each one of those memories is a point of manipulation on their own…but then he uses them over and over again to reinforce his mask.  And you thought it was just another Christmas!!!

Herein lies the benefit: Let’s face it-it is healthy to feel sentimental.  Your sentimentality is a reminder that you can bond, in a healthy, emotional and equally connected way.  That’s good news.  You also have the ability to rationally reflect on the reality of those dates.  If you can step back and be an observer of those days you can see the pathology.  Being an observer means that you look past how you felt to see what you saw.  When you look back at the facts, the pieces come together.  You see the flowers he brought with the shifty smile as if he gotten one over on you.  You see the pretty birthday jewelry followed by the night he didn’t come home.  You see the holiday dinner that included insults, projection and persecution.  By the time the relationship ended, your sentimentality had been drained.  He kept you spinning with the emotions of sentimentality so much that now…when it’s over you probably want to run and hide as these dates approach.  It’s this disdain and disgust that contributed to you leaving.  Again, it’s a good thing-that is the benefit.  It was part of your awareness process that leads to a full awaking.  As hard as it is to look back at those dates, it is powerful to know that SEEING the pathology is what freed you from it.  And as usual, once you saw it you left.

Ultimately, if sentimentality is just a feeling then the dates are just the dates.  He doesn’t own them.  You do.  They are just days in the past, events in time in which you were manipulated into believing the picture he painted.  Once you begin to separate out those days from the new dates head, healing can be enhanced.  Easter of 2009 will look nothing like Easter 2013.  Your birthday in 2002 will look nothing like your birthday in 2013.  This year, this date, this event you will be in control.  You will be in the place you want to be, with the people you want to be around, accepting and giving gifts of your choosing in a fully present and genuine way.  No manipulation, no gaslighting, no devaluing, no cognitive dissonance.
Don’t ever run away from your emotions.  They are powerful tools-you need them and must treasure them.  They do help us give meaning to every moment, every event, every day.  They are a part of a very valuable human experience.  Together with rational thoughts, reflection and perspective, emotions can create strength in you like you have never known.  This year, be strong.  Take on each event with a new sense of vigor and excitement.  Take your days back-make new memories-feel new feelings.  The further you get from pathology, the more your mind will become filled with the genuine feeling of sentimentality.  Each year that passes you can look back at the events of 2013 with tenderness and joy-it was the year you ROCKED IT!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Touched by Tragedy

On Friday, December 14, 2012 America was touched by tragedy again.  In Newtown, Connecticut 27 adults and children lost their lives and all of their family and friends felt the ripple of fear, anger, loss, and grief.  This type of tragedy unfortunately is not unusual in our society.  Across the country there have been countless mass shootings in the last several decades from Seattle, to Aurora, to Jonesboro and Fort Hood.  These shootings don’t even begin to complete the list of national tragedies.  Each day in America we are touched by other tragedies- a catastrophic weather event like Sandy, forest fires like those in Colorado, California earthquakes, or the loss of military service personnel.

So what do all of these events have in common with a pathological love relationship?  They all elicit a potential trauma reaction in you.  Being touched by tragedy is more than just a little sadness or empathy if you are suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.  When you are exposed to national tragedies your brain registers the event as real, vivid, and live.  Your unconscious brain has a hard time distinguishing what is happening now and what has happened in the past.  When this happens, any event can seem like it is happening to you now.  You begin to sweat, your heart beats fast and your breathing pattern changes.  Your mind flies into survival mode and you may even feel the need to isolate as a measure of protection from harm. 

Beyond the physical symptoms are the thoughts that begin to swirl around.  When you are traumatized or triggered, your brain is flooded by emotions and so often these emotions cause confusion and cover up clear thinking.  Your brain links the trigger you are exposed to with the trauma you have actually experienced. So when you feel fear today, you are reminded of your fear from the past.  When you feel sadness today, you are reminded of sadness from the past.  When you feel confusion today, you are reminded of confusion from the past.  These links then drive the thoughts.  Your thinking turns from “that must have been so scary for them” to “I am so scared he will come back”.  Your brain is tricking you.  It might be one of the things about our brain that is “faulty”.  Our brain is an amazing organ and every day it does amazing things.  But when triggered as a result of trauma, it fails us.

Cluster b’s love to keep you out of the present moment.  In your relationship with the cluster b your mind spent many moments outside of the present.  When you were not present, he was in control.  It might have been after a gaslight when he touched you on the arm and your mind when back to the first time he touched you.  It could have been after discovering a text from another woman and he yelled at you for being jealous and not trusting him.  Your mind when back to the first time he ever yelled.  It may have been after he was late for the kids school performance and he brought flowers and a lie.  Your mind went back to the time before when he brought you flowers and a lie.  Each time he took you back, he re-hooked you.  That’s because your mind went back and before you could respond, your emotions had resolved back to peace or calm.  The event was over.  The fear, anger or confusion was over.  You stayed.

Your task is to stay present in recovery.  When you are touched by tragedy after a trauma your task is to stay present.  At any given point in time, you must remind yourself that you are safe and not at risk.  This is mindfulness.  Mindfulness is staying actively focused on the present moment.  It is a skill that is crucial to recovery from a pathological love relationship and it is especially important in getting through triggers related to national tragedies.  You cannot control the outside world but you can control your world.  Take some time for yourself.  Take some time to focus on your environment, whether it be turning off the TV, spending quiet time at home or getting outside to spend time in nature.  Recovery is a process and your healing depends on how well you move through it.  Each day, each week, each year is an opportunity for you to heal-to do better and be better. 

My hope for you is peace this year.  And I hope that when peace is disrupted you face it mindfully.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the radio...

Jennifer Young, MS-RMHCI speaks with Dr. Laurie Roth on The Roth Show 

How Do Psychopaths Get Into Positions of Power?

Power positions are all around us, from police officers like Drew Peterson, in the military, to elected government officials and white collar executives and those sitting in the board rooms of powerful corporations. Often these people are not quite what they seem, wearing a mask for the public to see, yet something totally different on the inside. They portray themselves to the public as having empathy, charm, and charisma, but their controlling ways and harmful thoughts are just below the surface.

Down through history we’ve seen many examples of the manifestation of their evils, some very blatant, but many continue to wield their power quietly under the radar. So, what makes them tick and how do they get into these positions of power? Why are we not seeing the red flags and warning signs before putting our trust in those who will ultimately destroy?

Back to Drew Peterson, recently convicted for the murder of third wife Kathleen Savio, and whose fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, has been missing for five years, they have no problem moving from one relationship to another, escalating their destructive ways and leaving chaos, and sometimes murder, in their paths. As a result of this case, Susan Murphy Milano developed the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, allowing victims of abuse to circumvent most hearsay laws and record a testimonial affidavit in the event something bad happens to them. While we will not see this happen on a widespread level, we can help those caught under the thumb of a power hungry and controlling partner to safely escape their pathological love relationships.

Jennifer Young, a therapist and client coach at The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction will discuss the enigma of white collar psychopathy and how so many reach powerful positions undetected.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Got This...

Pathological Love Relationship Series-Part 4
(This article is part of a series of articles I am writing for The Institute for Relationship Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education on the traits and characteristics that women posses who find themselves in relationships with pathological men. If you believe that you are in a dangerous relationship or would like to read more about the issue, please visit

Thomas Jefferson said, "Never trouble another for what you can do yourself." I think we can agree that these words are true for most of us, and a great way to live your life. But, they could not be more inaccurate when talking about a psychopath - in fact they probably see these words and think..."suckers." The truth is, psychopaths are amazingly resourceful, and their greatest tool for being resourceful is you.

Resourcefulness by definition means that you are able to meet the needs of a situation and can develop the necessary means to accomplish a task. Being resourceful is a highly valuable trait, so consequently those who are very high in the trait of resourcefulness (like women who have been in relationships with psychopaths) often have very successful lives...great careers, wonderful children, and a great circle of friends.

You are often the person that:
  • Others turn to in a time of need or struggle
  • Are able to find ways to get things done that others might have thought impossible
  • Find resources where there were none
  • Get help when others were turned down
  • Can rally any number of people to the cause

Most importantly, you have a great combination of inner and outer resources. Your inner resource examples are creativity, intelligence, confidence, courage, or passion. Your outer resources are people, money, or technology. When used together - you can accomplish anything.

It is important to realize there is a difference in the resourcefulness of you and the resourcefulness of a psychopath. The psychopath is resourceful off the backs of others. The word that comes to mind is "exploitive."

Thomas Jefferson's words would be twisted into something like this - "Never do for yourself what you can convince others to do for you." In this way of pathological thinking, the psychopath's view is a negative use of a positive trait. You can easily be fooled into believing that your psychopath is so "resourceful" because he always seems to get things done. If you stop and become an observer, you will see that there is a trail of destruction behind every step he takes. Resourcefulness is part of his mask, so even you (as one of his resources) will be used as the mask. As Sandra says, "He is sicker than you are smart." So, no matter how smart you are in using your resources, his resources of exploitation and diabolical behavior is stronger. This exploitive and diabolical use of resources wins every time.

Herein lies the risk: You will use all of your resources trying to "fix" or "help" him. You've got the resources to do it - the connections, the know-how - and in most cases, the means to fix things. Add to your resourcefulness a little bit of oxytocin, and you're toast. That's because we are compelled, as humans, to bond with those we love. Oxytocin does that for us because as humans we need to be bonded to others. Part of bonding and maintaining a lasting relationship is being resourceful together - "I'll help you, you help me." The problem is this is a perfect fit for a psychopath, because they view the world as "suckers." In most cases they are energy exploiters and look for others to do their work, or they exploit because it's fun to watch others do what they have directed them to do.

So now, you have created a cycle - he's broken, you fix, he says thank you, then he breaks again, you fix, he says thank you, and so on. This cycle is one of the reasons you stay so long, because you are always in between him "breaking" and you "fixing." He never fixes himself - but you are on a mission - "I love him, and this what you do for someone you love." So, years have passed, nothing has changed with him, but you are completely exhausted. Your resources are tapped out. You have no more creativity, you feel dumb (nothing has worked), have no confidence, and your courage has turned to fear. Those outer resources are probably gone too - the money, the friends - all of it.

But herein lies YOUR benefit: Your resourcefulness can become a real problem for a psychopath, and isn't that what you want about now? When you are ready you will, and can, outthink him. What I know is that "he is sicker than you are smart," BUT only until you get smart.

You have the ability to be confident enough to make real changes. Let's face it, you have been courageous for a big piece of your life - you've been with a pathological partner, and that takes a form of courage. So, those internal RESOURCES are exactly what is needed THAT CAN BE USED FOR GETTING AWAY.

How do those resources look in action?

  • You will call everyone you know to get the truth and get help.
  • You will call ex's, you will tap phones, and you will search computers.
  • You will put the pieces together, stop doing for him and begin to do for yourself.

Once that final pathological event happens that produces eyes-wide-open reality, it will be your resourcefulness that lifts you out and moves you on. Not sure your traits can hang on long enough to be a benefit for you? The good news is your traits are hard-wired in you. They are not going away. So even though at the end of the relationship it feels as if he has drained you and your resources are depleted...he has not. Your ability to be resourceful is still there because it has always been one of your strongest traits.

You can begin by accessing your internal resources. Strengthen them by exercising your creativity, by challenging yourself and taking those steps to live pathology-free, and by massaging your courageousness. While you're at it, you can also engage your external resources by reaching out to old friends and co-workers, re-engage at work (to build up your financial resources), or stepping out and doing something you've always dreamed about.

My favorite idea for the rebuilding of resourcefulness is reaching out to those friends and family who always told you he was the problem. You can bring them back to you as a supporter by telling them they were right. If an old friend or distant family member was once a valuable resource, then humble yourself, call them and tell them your story, and get your resource back. Step by step you will begin grabbing hold of one of your best traits - your own resourcefulness to rebuild your life.

For more information about pathology and your recovery pathological love relationships, visit

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What Will You Do?

In May, 2012, Vicki Bolling lay dying in her front yard, shot three times by her husband.  The local news reports say that the death of Ms. Bolling was no surprise to her sons.  According to news accounts, her sons report that she suffered years of physical and emotional abuse that included threats, manipulation and intimidation.  She was married for 30 years.  Her son, John Stevenson, is quoted as saying “She is the only one in the world who could love a monster.” (Tampa Bay Times, May 10, 2012)

We know that she is not the only one…we know that loving a “monster” is possible.  For women that love psychopaths, love and monster often exist in the same thought.  The problem is, someone who has never been in the midst of this level of psychological trauma may not understand…they don’t understand why women stay…why women don’t see how bad he is.  This lack of understanding of the power of pathology is killing women. 

Domestic homicide is preventable.  The mission of the Fatality Review Committee in Pinellas County, Florida is to convey that message.  It is the responsibility of the Pinellas County Fatality Review Committee to bring to the table members of the community who share a vested interest in uncovering patterns related to local domestic homicides.  In the last twelve years, the team has reviewed 103 cases.  Cases are reviewed only after those cases have been finalized in the criminal justice system.

Domestic homicide, both locally and nationally, does not occur in a vacuum…there are warning signs and in a community, there are trends.  Our report, published in May 2012, outlines the seven trends in our community for domestic homicides. 
1-In 89% of cases there had been no contact with the local domestic violence center.  Domestic homicide is preventable when victims reach out to domestic violence centers for safety and resources. 
2-In 89% of the cases there had been no referral to a batterer’s intervention program.  Domestic homicide is preventable when perpetrators connect with batterer’s intervention programs and their underlying behaviors and beliefs are addressed.
3-In 88% of cases there was a male perpetrator and female victim.  Domestic homicide is preventable when our society shifts to the belief that all people are of equal value and control over others is no longer the standard.
4-In 85% of cases there was no injunction for protection filed.  Domestic homicide is preventable when victims are encouraged to file injunctions for protection and have access to information and safety planning to assist in the process of leaving. 
5-In 76% of cases substance abuse was a contributing factor.  Domestic homicide is preventable when those who have a substance abuse problem are assessed for issues related to violence, both perpetrators and victims. 
6-In 68% of the cases the perpetrator had a prior criminal history.  Domestic homicide is preventable when criminal history is identified as a pattern of behavior and the information is made openly available to victims and during domestic violence court hearings. 
7-In 69% of the cases friends, family, coworkers and/or neighbors were aware of previous violence. Domestic homicide is preventable when everyone in the community takes a stand against violence; stop asking why she doesn’t leave and start asking what you can do to help her leave.

These trends mean something.  A “trend” refers to the idea or awareness of repeated, connected events.  It’s not a black and white predictor but rather a clue to a potential.  Trends are used in many areas of our lives.  Many follow financial trends or housing market trends; some look at trends related to medical issues and even trends in our environment.  Those that use trends take advantage of facts and information found in the reality of our lives…trends don’t rely on the maybe’s of the past but rather the truth that exists in the past. 

What is powerful about trends is their ability to provide safeguards as well as hope.  Trends help us connect missing pieces to prevent poor choices and they help us highlight information that will lead to improved choices.  If we are open to it, they translate into the framework for prevention.
Prevention in the area of domestic homicide is risky.  The risk comes because of the severity of getting it right or getting it wrong…human life is at stake.  But I believe we must move through the risk.  By “move through” I mean acknowledge it…learn from it and then see what follows.  So, beyond acknowledging the risk lies a focus on prevention.

The trends that have come from our local review of domestic homicide highlight many areas that need more focus.  The realities of these trends are not unlike acknowledging the realities of pathology.  Identifying patterns of behavior in one person and accepting the reality of who they are can help prevent continued pain.  We have to begin to call it as it is…we have to pay attention to the facts and the patterns of behavior. 

So, what will you do?  I invite you to be an observer-begin to pay attention to the people around you.  As you observe the behavior of others do so without judgment…without including your “opinion” about who they are…leave out the morals that might have been handed to you or the input of society that doesn’t fit for you.  Observe the behavior as it is…look for patterns… and when you uncover a pattern that violates who you are…or violates the boundaries of someone you love….do something.

As part of the mission of The Institute we ask you to spread the word about the power and impact of pathology. Share this report with those in your community that are invested in saving lives.  Talk to them about the trends and patterns and about pathology.  Domestic Homicide Fatality Review Teams are active in many states and communities…what can you contribute to the conversation?  If your community is not talking about dangerous relationships then you can be the start…do something.

Finally, if you are experiencing physical and psychological abuse, please consider creating an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.  To learn more, visit

To read the full report “Preventable: A Review of Domestic Fatalities in Pinellas County, Florida”, click here:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Enjoy some magic...

A new kind of magic...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy International Women's Day!

A day to celebrate the social, economic and political achievements of women!

Take some time today and celebrate all that has been accomplished by women...that includes YOU!  What have you contributed to the world...your world.  Tiny contributions add create a ripple in the world.
Be proud to shake things up, create change, make a difference!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lie Spotting

I stumbled upon this great talk last year by Pamela Meyer who wrote the book "Liespotting".  Being a lie spotter is a skill.  Many times I am asked about how to go on after a pathological love relationship.  There is not one short answer but having the skill of spotting a lie is a good place to start.  It is important to look for a pattern of behavior...that takes time.  So, while you may be engaging in a new relationship or evaluating the state of a current relationship take some time to develop the skill of lie spotting.  For more information about the book, check out Ms. Meyer's website:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not "Crazy" by Yashar Ali

"You're so sensitive. You're so emotional. You're defensive. You're overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You're crazy! I was just joking, don't you have a sense of humor? You're so dramatic. Just get over it already!
Sound familiar?
If you're a woman, it probably does.
Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said?
When someone says these things to you, it's not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling -- that's inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, "Calm down, you're overreacting," after you just addressed someone else's bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple."....Read the rest of the article by clicking here 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I’m Not What You Say I Am

Pathological Relationship Series-Part 5
(This article is part one of a series of articles I am writing for The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education on the traits and characteristics that women posses who find themselves in relationships with pathological men. If you believe that you are in a dangerous relationship or would like to read more about the issue, please visit

“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.”  ~François Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Life isn’t all about appearances.  Life is about movement, awareness, insight, change, compassion.  Life is about interactions with others.  As we move through the world we move through it together.  Whether we accept it or not we impact each other.  Conversely, we are impacted by others.  Our impact is often a concern…it is a part of our conscious awareness.  We decide (and sometimes obsess) about how others regard us.  Alfred Adler describes this trait of how people regard you in terms of “social interest”; our ability or potential for living “cooperatively and contributing to the good of others”.  We learn this lesson early, on the playground.  As children we were taught to be aware of others feelings and to be nice to others.  We learned that words do hurt (in spite of the childhood lesson regarding sticks and stones!)  We learned lessons like “make a good first impression” and “do unto others…”  All of these childhood (and adult) lessons teach us that what others think is important.  Now, this isn’t all bad.  Considering we are social creatures and knowing that we impact each other, it is pretty important to be concerned with how other people regard us.  Possessing this trait means that we have compassion and empathy…it means that we want to play well with others.  But this trait, like all the others, in excess can be dangerous.  It can be especially dangerous for someone who finds their way to a playground with a psychopath. 

Herein lies the risk:  Psychopaths lack concern for others...real, empathetic concern.  They can fake it all day, but deep down they move through the world not concerned about their impact, but more concerned about having control and power.  So, being concerned about how other people regard them is twisted.  It isn’t so much about positive regard as it is negative regard…they want people to believe they are in control, powerful, smart, likeable, etc.  They want to cover up who they really are…manipulative, dangerous, callous, superficial, glib and controlling.  (Writing those words reminds me why they HAVE to develop a mask…it would be hard to spend two minutes with someone if we saw those traits).  So, they move through the world, mask firmly in place…covering who they are with what they want you to believe.

For the woman in a relationship with a psychopath it’s the trait of how people regard you that keeps you stuck.  You are concerned with the feelings of others, you are concerned about your impact on other people (and a psychopath will remind you all day about your impact on him!)  As long as you believe you are having a negative impact…you will stay until your impact becomes positive. Sad part is…it never does.  He knows you need to be seen as kind, compassionate, loyal and honest and he also knows that you don’t give up.  So as long as he can make you believe your impact is negative…then give you a glimmer of hope that he can change…he’s got you.  You stay because you must be seen by him and others as having a positive impact…a high concern for how others regard you.  This concept works well in all other areas of your life, but with a psychopath it’s the thing that puts you at risk and the thing that keeps you there. 

Herein lies the benefit: When you realize that he cannot change…you’re out.  When you fully and completely come to believe that he is only motivated by power and control you know that it is no longer about what he thinks or how he sees you…in fact, this flips.  You begin to realize that he sees you as a sucker.  He has used everything good about you to fill up his empty cup.  He has taken what is good and right and manipulated it (and you) for his own.  You also realize that he is not only hurting you but he is having a negative impact on others…most likely people you care about.  Knowing this becomes your strength…it comes the fuel to the fire that burns the relationship to ruin…you will not play with others who have no regard.  Think about it…would you allow an employee, client, friend, your child to manipulate your good nature this way…not a chance.  You’re out.  No more playing with a psychopath; time to take your toys and go home.

So, when all is said and done you have way too much concern for how other people regard you and in the context of a pathological relationship that is really, really dangerous.  So, how do you put a lid on that trait?  First, only be concerned about this trait when it comes to your pathological.  Chances are this trait has served you well in other areas of your life…so don’t be overwhelmed with having to “change” everything about you.  This trait is appealing to psychopaths so just put a lid on it in the context of your relationship.  Next, be aware of your thoughts and actions when he persecutes you…when he calls you stupid or crazy, calls you irresponsible and uncaring, attacks your skills as a mother or tells you that you are being “mean”-when he does this he is seeking to control you through this trait.  HE IS CONTROLLING YOU THROUGH YOUR TRAIT.  Allow this thought to come into your awareness and then challenge it. Who does that???  A psychopath.  Allow the truth to come into your awareness and you will be compelled to accept it.  Additionally, with that knowledge you can counter any thought with a true thought.  You might begin to remind yourself that what he says about you is part of his mask…part of the fantasy that he is creating to keep you in the relationship…fantasy is not reality.  You know who you are…and you are not who he says you are! 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pretty Amazing...

Katie Makkai, a wonderful spoken word poet on being pretty...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Compassion is a Funny Thing

Pathological Relationship Series-Part 4
(This article is part one of a series of articles I am writing for The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education on the traits and characteristics that women posses who find themselves in relationships with pathological men. If you believe that you are in a dangerous relationship or would like to read more about the issue, please visit

Compassion is such an important trait to posses. It implies a caring for others that includes understanding, awareness, identifying with others. It is the acknowledgement that you "get" them. You clearly understand not only who they are but you understand their pain…their hurt. You are the person who feels what others feel. With your compassion you not only feel what others feel but are compelled to do something to help them. Your compassion is a word of action…because you are a person of action. But it is this action that puts your trait over the top…this is point in which your compassion spills over…out of your cup and into the cup of someone who’s cup may be empty. For someone who is pathological your compassion is what they need. They do not have compassion for others so they take yours…using it to manipulate and mask. They mask the horror of who they are with the fantasy of who you need them to be.

Herein lies the risk: He is just looking for someone to believe his story…and it is usually a really good one. He needs someone to believe that he is the victim…that he is worthy of "compassion" and "help" so that you will cooperate. Once you listen to his story your compassion kicks in and you will do everything you can to help him and join the team. Compassion is the feeling that drives your helpfulness and cooperation. Remember, for you, compassion is an action word.

Herein lies the benefit: Once you realize who and what he is, your compassion decreases. It is hard to have compassion for a thief and a liar. It is hard to have compassion for a con-artist and a manipulator. So, when the day finally comes when you see who he is…your compassion decreases. Again, your decreased compassion combined with knowledge and resourcefulness leads you to get out of the relationship. You are no longer willing to participate in his charade, no longer willing to feel his pain. But the most interesting part about real compassion is that it will evolve into compassion for his disorder. The truth is that he has a disorder that will never go away…he is missing something that others have and has lived his life compensating for that deficiency. The symptom of his disorder is inevitable harm for those who end up in intimate relationships with him…and it is still incurable. And so, after a while you will learn that the best way to leave and begin your healing journey is through compassionate disengagement. You will begin to understand that you would never ask a blind person to see anymore than you would ask a pathological to feel. You would accept the unchanging nature of the condition out of compassion…compassion that understands limitations. Compassionate disengagement means that you have chosen to see his disorder, understand his disorder and move towards healing the effects of his disorder by leaving. The action of your compassion has now turned towards your healing.

Take a minute and think about the "feelings" that you may still have for him. If compassion is still an overwhelming feeling then take a minute to focus on what you are resisting. Your continued compassion is a sign that you are not truly convinced as to who and what he is. Take a minute and list the reality of your relationship. You can list the experiences that have had that led you to believe he was pathological. List the undeniable behaviors or experiences that you have witnessed…and even the things he should have done that he does not. When you compare your list of reality to the behaviors that are typical in pathology the reality will be undeniable. With the facts comes compassion that his disorder is unchangeable and you can begin to disengage.

The trio of SuperTraits: Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion are traits that tell us what you have to offer others…and yourself. These traits represent your ability to give back, to care, to share and to understand. They are not the kind of traits that you would want to "go away". They are not the kind of traits that you would want to stifle. These are the traits that have allowed you to understand others and make things happen. They have allowed you and driven you to make things better. They have created in you a light that others feel and are drawn too. So, as with all the other traits that overflow in you the solution is not to put the light out but to turn it into something manageable…something not too risky and so bright that those who have NO light are filled with YOUR light.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?"



VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."


Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

Happy Holidays!
Just Believe!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Cup is Empty-Can You Help Me Out?

Pathological Relationship Series-Part 3
(This article is part one of a series of articles I am writing for The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education on the traits and characteristics that women posses who find themselves in relationships with pathological men. If you believe that you are in a dangerous relationship or would like to read more about the issue, please visit

Pathological relationships might begin with the Attraction Cocktail of excitement-seeking, extraversion and competiveness but soon it evolves to something more…it requires something more to feed it. What a pathological relationship must have is Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion. I am sure you are thinking that these are not really the things that you might think of when you think of pathology but that makes it all the more needed. Keep in mind that a pathological's "cup" is empty…they lack a sense of cooperation, helpfulness and compassion. So, in order to fill their needs they MUST find someone who possesses these traits.

It is important to understand the mask that a pathological wears. They exist in two distinct ways…the outside perception that they present and the dark, empty underside of who they are. As they move through life they learn to compensate for their deficiencies. One way to compensate is through using what others have and presenting it as their own. One of the traits that they often cling to is cooperation. They need you to be cooperative. They need you to play along. They are running a scam….and without your cooperation it just won't work. Herein lies the risk: You are optimistic, and supportive; you are willing to go the extra mile to make things work and if there is a "problem" you are part of the "fix-it" team. Make no doubt about it - you go along with the program. It's true…the program that is presented is pretty darn convincing…but still, it's your high degree of cooperation that allows you to be the perfect partner for pathology. In our brain, a cooperative mind means that we will stay stuck in the deceit. We will continue to participate in the “he’s good/he’s bad” scenario. As long as we stay there…we cannot get out. The good news is that once you listen to the facts and make a decision about what you are experiencing…it is hard to keep playing. This is the beginning of the end of the relationship. Herein lies the benefit: Just as quickly and as committed as you are to cooperate you will be out…just as fast. You are no sucker. Because of who you are there will be no looking back once you see his two sides…once you know that you are dealing with someone who is pathological. Acknowledging this…deeply and honestly acknowledging this… makes all the difference for you. Making the decision to leave and get out is one thing…getting the intrusive thoughts to stop is another. As a result of his mask-his presentation of two sides- you will continue to struggle with questioning yourself and what you experienced. Your cooperative mind will want to go along with the program when your “fact finding” mind will tell you something completely different. The benefit here is that you have the choice to cooperate-to cooperate with the facts. If you can lean on those around you (who are probably telling you he is no good, he’s dangerous, he’s all wrong for you) and the facts as they are presented (he lied to you, stole from you, manipulated you); you will have a much better chance at emotional healing…healing that will last long after you have had no contact.

The next trait that a pathological relationship requires is helpfulness. This goes hand in hand with cooperation. You are one helpful person. A pathological needs that too. He needs to know that you will do what you need to do to get the job done. He also needs to know that you will stand next to him when times get tough. See, the program he's running is one big con…so sometimes others challenge him. These challenges can be direct or indirect…the can come from family (yours or his), from co-workers, from friends or acquaintances. No matter the direction, he needs to know that you will be there beside him…to stand up for him. You, after all, are just trying to help. He plays the victim and you the rescuer. It is one of the dynamics that keeps you locked in. Herein lies the risk: you are eager and willing to get the job done…be the person to provide assistance and guidance. You want to make things right…set things strait. He needs a person who will make his mask seem true…someone to vouch for him. Sometimes, you are the person who helps seal the deal…make his con appear real. How could he be lying about who he is with you on his arm? Herein lies the benefit: You are not going to help someone con others. The gig will be up when you really see him for who he is. You can then use your helpfulness to make sure no one else gets hurt. In turn, you are helping yourself. You are the kind of person who will be just as strong in aligning against him as you were aligning with him. You will help yourself too…you are the kind of woman who will seek out what you need. You will search the internet until you find answers and when you do…you apply the skills needed to disengage and begin healing.

There are a couple of ways to address these traits so that they do not become a risk but are more of a benefit. Your cooperation was tested early on in the relationship. You may have been asked to do things or led to do things just to see if you would follow through. Take a moment and think about the early stage of your relationship. Did you complete tasks that were outside of your personal boundaries…late night meetings, compromising sexual requests, unannounced visits, requests for money? Take a moment and list these requests or experience-title them "Red Flags-Boundary Breakers." These represent ways in which your cooperation and helpfulness was “over-flowing” from your own cup. Your desire to cooperate and be helpful was greater than your desire to stay true to who you are. As you begin to heal you can use this list as a reminder of where your boundaries are…give yourself a chance to firmly instill them so that no other person will be allowed to cross them.

Next month we will look at the third trait in this trio of “SuperTraits”-Compassion. As we approach the holiday season, remind yourself…these are your traits-your gifts- and should not be handed out to just anyone. Tie them up with a bow and keep them to yourself!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Race

What a powerful expereince to feel, recognize and honor our humanity.

RACE - The Power of an Illusion
(Produced by California Newsreel in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). Major funding provided by the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Diversity Fund. © 2003 California Newsreel. All rights reserved.)

Our eyes tell us that people look different. No one has trouble distinguishing a Czech from a Chinese. But what do those differences mean? Are they biological? Has race always been with us? How does race affect people today?

There's less - and more - to race than meets the eye:

1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical distinctions, but according to religion, status, class, even language. The English language didn't even have the word 'race' until it turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings.

2. Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.

3. Human subspecies don't exist. Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven't been around long enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies or races. Despite surface appearances, we are one of the most similar of all species.

4. Skin color really is only skin deep. Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes influencing hair form, eye shape, blood type, musical talent, athletic ability or forms of intelligence. Knowing someone's skin color doesn't necessarily tell you anything else about him or her.

5. Most variation is within, not between, "races." Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.

6. Slavery predates race. Throughout much of human history, societies have enslaved others, often as a result of conquest or war, even debt, but not because of physical characteristics or a belief in natural inferiority. Due to a unique set of historical circumstances, ours was the first slave system where all the slaves shared similar physical characteristics.

7. Race and freedom evolved together. The U.S. was founded on the radical new principle that "All men are created equal." But our early economy was based largely on slavery. How could this anomaly be rationalized? The new idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.

8. Race justified social inequalities as natural. As the race idea evolved, white superiority became "common sense" in America. It justified not only slavery but also the extermination of Indians, exclusion of Asian immigrants, and the taking of Mexican lands by a nation that professed a belief in democracy. Racial practices were institutionalized within American government, laws, and society.

9. Race isn't biological, but racism is still real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different access to opportunities and resources. Our government and social institutions have created advantages that disproportionately channel wealth, power, and resources to white people. This affects everyone, whether we are aware of it or not.

10. Colorblindness will not end racism. Pretending race doesn't exist is not the same as creating equality. Race is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice. To combat racism, we need to identify and remedy social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Attraction Cocktail

Pathological Relationship Series-Part 2
(This article is part one of a series of articles I am writing for The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education on the traits and characteristics that women posses who find themselves in relationships with pathological men. If you believe that you are in a dangerous relationship or would like to read more about the issue, please visit

"People can be induced to swallow anything, provided it is sufficiently seasoned with praise" - Molière

You might be asking yourself "Why me?" Why did you get to be the one to end up in this crazy relationship? What did you do wrong to land THIS guy? The answer begins with what could be called the "Attraction Cocktail". There is this powerful potion that has brought the two of you together. This potion consists of the first three SuperTraits identified in Sandra's research: Excitement Seeking-Extraversion-Dominance. These are a few of the rare traits that you both posses in high amounts. In your cup and in his cup these traits are spilling over. Remember you both posses these at an 85-95% higher rate than the average person. So, what we have are two high excitement seekers who are both extraverts, looking for a win…sounds like a recipe for inevitable harm to me.

But not immediate harm. First and almost within minutes there is fire and passion, understanding and power, lust and energy. There is electricity…maybe in a way that you have never felt before. While some people might see in him as "fake" and "overkill" you see him as passionate and understanding. In the very early stages of a relationship these traits lead you from one "fun" experience to another…for him its about building your trust and testing your boundaries.

Let’s look at each trait on its own because each ingredient offers its own unique characteristics that contribute to the potion. I am guessing that some of you may be saying, "I'm not an Excitement-Seeker. I do not like to jump out of planes!" But being an excitement seeker is a little more (or less) than that. It can mean that you like to take risks...personal risks, financial risks, professional risks. It can be that thing that creates in you the desire to go out on a limb…maybe go to the nightclub on your own or sign up on a dating sight or go on a blind date. These are not the things that someone who desires boredom would do. It is the excitement you seek in your hobbies..maybe cycling, hiking or traveling. It is the excitement that you get from going to a great job every day-a career that drives you to go for it! You’re the person who says "Yes!" to new experiences and "Sure!" to risky (yet really cool and innovative) opportunities. It's that little something inside of you…think about it…that thing that says "I'll give it a try, why not?"

So, let's mix the cocktail. Here you are…with all this desire to "seek excitement" and here he comes…looking for some excitement too! Pow! It's on! He loves to go...get out there…take risks with no regard for others. His risks are more about feeding his energy…this energy is part of his pathology. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just overwhelms you…they chat you up…with frenetic energy that just doesn't stop-that's the energy of a psychopathy that must be fed with exciting things. He's game for anything…in fact you may have noticed that if you mention a hobby it probably is his hobby too! (Later, you find out that he never really like to do that-it was just part of his hook). He probably loves to travel, if you do; he loves to bike, if you do; he loves to go out with friends, if you do; he loves art, if you do; he loves to go camping, if you do; he loves to go boating, if you do. Whatever he can do that you do-he'll do it. Isn't that exciting? And herein lies the risk: When two excitement-seekers meet it is a chance to join. For you it is a chance to build trust; for him a chance to take trust. For you it is a chance to create a bond; for him a chance to build an attachment. For you a chance to feel a connection-someone finally understands you; for him a chance to make you think that he is just like you and that he understands. Your need for excitement means that you take risky chances…sometimes those risks do not pay off. You (and everyone else in the world) is also more likely to go along with others when you are in a heightened state of excitement. And herein lies the benefit: Because you are an excitement seeker you will be able to see quickly that he is not "all that and a bag of chips". Because inevitably, once the relationship progresses it will become clear that his excitement-seeking fades and the façade he built to trap you will fall to pieces. He bores easily and not because you are boring but because he cannot sustain the emotional energy that it takes to remain in the relationship. He bores because he cannot do the emotional work to remain committed and he does not have the depth to go where you can go. You can turn your wonderful, exciting experiences into real emotional energy-building bonds and forging strength and character for yourself. He has used the opportunity to manipulate you into being under his control. When he is done with that task…he must find someone else to fuel his need for excitement.

What about the ingredient of Extraversion? You might see in yourself a person who openly engages in conversation, someone who is curious about others and often is impulsive in social situations. You might be the person who leads in a group or offers to help out more often than others. You are willing to tell your story, share your thoughts, and contribute. Your extraversion wrapped up with excitement-seeking makes for a pretty great package…life of the party even. So, mixing it up in the room is another extravert…he has no problem going up to complete strangers (how exciting) and introducing himself and then telling you his life story (or whatever story he thinks you want to hear). He is "owning" the room with so much confidence and bravado it’s almost sexy. He displays expertise in to the point he is grandiose…a lot grandiose. His extraversion is the mask…the mask that makes you think it’s safe. It's the mask that convinces you he is what you want him to be. And they are really good at this part-creating that mask of normality.

Extraversion is a great trait to have but herein lies the risk: your extraversion lets him know that you might play his game. Your extraversion means you will do the exciting things he likes to do. It also means that you are curious and probably would not turn down an offer for fun or the offer to try something new…and he might be just that, in the beginning. You are someone who likes to get out and meet people and the guy who is "owning" the room is just the guy for you. But there is one thing about extraversion that makes you different from him-your ability to truly bond with others. And herein lies the benefit: you must become truly bonded with someone to maintain a relationship. Extraversion may bring you two together but you need mutual understanding, respect and unconditional love…this is not what he provides in the long run. It will become clear at some point that his extraversion was a rue to hook you…because his mask will fall and you will see that he is really a lonely, empty person who transforms to meet the needs of those around him. You will begin to use your extraversion as a way to break free of him. When the dynamics of the relationship become clear you will seek out help…you will find people around you who can support you. Your curiosity will lead you to answers and help. You will not fear talking to others…even if they don't really understand. You will keep trying until you find what you need.

The final main component of the "Attraction Cocktail" is dominance. Now, this is another one that at first thought you might say, "What, who me? I am surely not dominant!" But with a closer look you will see that your dominance looks like leadership…it looks like a woman in charge. It's not the kind of dominance that over powers…it is the kind that takes charge. Your dominance does put you in control without being controlling. It tells others that you know what you want and will do what you need to do to get it….even if it means you want a relationship with a certain exciting man. So, there he is…the guy with the magnetic personality who appears as if he "owns" the room…you decide to go for it. He says, "Bring it on!" His dominance means that you are a challenge…two "powerful" people means there is energy. This energy is ultimately moving in different directions but nonetheless energy. His dominance means he wants to have power over you. His power is the kind that is controlling but when you first get together it may look like "a man who knows what he wants"…and knows how to get it. He will use his dominance to appear as if he is your equal…he will move in your circles and appear to be everything you need…and he will do it with swagger. But soon his dominance and need to control will become "power over". And herein lies the risk: Your dominance is not the same as his and when that difference becomes undeniably different you may already be hooked…You may spend the middle to late part of the relationship fighting for your own power and realize that you are completely powerless to his control of you. You may have seen his dominance as "sameness" and felt comforted (thinking that you are always in control and it is finally nice to have someone match you) but that feeling soon fades. By the time it does, you can't break free. And herein lies the benefit: your dominance will be the power that in the end does free you. You will learn how he controls you, you will learn his patterns and with that information you will gain control and dominance…the kind of control and dominance that will set you free.

So if this cocktail isn't strong enough to convince you of the power of his pathology, your risk to it and the benefit it offers you…I want to add one splash of competiveness. It is one of the final traits that you both have in common and that you both have in high amounts…so it makes sense that it adds to the power of the initial attraction. Let's get real…you probably like a good fight. Not one with someone who doesn't know what they are talking about or with someone who is not equally matched to your intelligence but a fight that helps you gain an edge...a smarter outlook…a challenge to build your depth of knowledge. You would not back down if someone came at you with inaccurate information…you have a need to make things right, to get the facts and share facts. Additionally, you will not tolerate being accused of untruths or called inappropriate names. If you think you are not competitive…ask yourself how you would react if someone called you a name or lied about you…I bet you would not back down to that. Well, guess what-he does not like to back down either. He likes a challenge so he is looking for someone who will tangle with him. This type of emotional tangle is just what he loves. He loves to engage in emotional wrangling-it feeds his need for power. When he can control you emotionally he knows that you are invested in the relationship. And herein lies the risk: this relationship is going to feel like a challenge to both of you in the beginning. To you a less passive man probably seems boring. Furthermore, you are not afraid to battle it out and you surely do not want him to "get one over" on you. So this is a great reason to stay and fight. You also might find it a challenge to stay in the relationship and "bust" him doing something…staying until you find the evidence or staying until you find out he's NOT doing what you think he is. Your competiveness means that you are willing and able to battle it out in court. You will go head to head with him…and that is just what he wants. And herein lies the benefit-once you know who he is you will fight like hell to get out. You will realize that you have won because he no longer has the power that comes from your lack of awareness. More importantly, being competitive helped you build a great life. You fought for things that were important to you-an education, a great career. It helped you to challenge others and yourself to always be the best and find the best in others. It helped you make good decisions and take a pro-active approach to almost everything. The best thing about being competitive is that you are often successful. The reason you are successful is because part of competition is knowing when you have been beat-knowing when to cut your losses and move on to a challenge you can win. It is not about being so headstrong that you stay and fight just to be able to say "I win". Your competitiveness, combined with all the other traits you possess lead to more than a need to win…they lead to success.

Because he is sicker than you are smart you will never "win" with him. So all of your book smarts and street smarts and relationship smarts will not out smart his ability to psychologically damage you. Prolonged exposure leads to inevitable harm. Once you know this the battle is over.
By the end of the relationship you may not even feel competitive anymore…he has taken it from you. The energy, fire and gusto that you once had may seem gone. But spend some time away…talk with your girlfriends or family about it…your fire will return. Your brain will tell you to put down the sword and walk away from the emotional vampire; walk away from the battle that you cannot win.

Ultimately and in the end this is where the similarity stops and the pathology begins. Someone who is pathological does not want someone like themselves…ultimately they know that they lack certain things that other people have and they are on a never ending search to get those things…and because they will never get those things or be those things they will use your emotions to control you…so they can fill their empty cup.

So when you ask yourself “Why me?” the answer is clear-because you have what he wants. And when you ask yourself “Why did I stay?” the answer is because you posses traits that meet his needs and he used them to control you. And when you ask yourself “How do I begin to heal?” the answer is by using all of your traits as powerful healing tools, tools that have helped you create a big, full life in every other area of your life.

When it comes to the traits contained in the Attraction Cocktail you may be asking “How do I make sure I never get caught up by another psychopath again?” My suggestion is to use these traits and take the Joyce Brown approach to life. Once you begin to accept that you are an extraverted, excitement-seeking, dominant, competitive woman…once you own that and claim (or re-claim) the benefits…you will find new ways to feed that part of you. Remember, these are NOT deficits, they are overflowing traits you posses so you must use them. You must do it carefully and cautiously, but your must use them. You can do a couple of things:
* Find a hobby-learn to do something you’ve always wanted to learn.
* Take up a political cause or join a social action group.
* Work with a non-profit agency on an issue close to your heart.
* Start a club or group focused on a topic, issue, or hobby you enjoy.
* Learn to ride a motorcycle or take up waterskiing (go big or go home, right?)
Think outside of the box…these are just a few suggestions that will feed your need to be extraverted, do exciting things, be a leader and engage with others. Most importantly you are using your traits in a way that YOU can control. If you are carefully and thoughtfully aware of who you are and what you need…no one can come along and take that away from you.

Peace to you,