Sanctuary for the Abused
Thursday, March 05, 2015
WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG TO GET OVER A NARCISSIST OR PSYCHOPATH?
Relationships with psychopaths take an unusually long time to recover from. Survivors often find themselves frustrated because they haven't healed as fast as they'd like. They also end up dealing with friends & therapists who give them judgmental advice about how it's "time to move on".
Whether you were in a long-term marriage or a quick summer fling, the recovery process will be the same when it comes to a psychopathic encounter. It takes 12-24 months to get your heart back in a good place, and even after that, you might have tough days. I certainly do!
The important thing here is to stop blaming yourself. Stop wishing it would go faster. Stop thinking that the psychopath somehow "wins" if you're still hurting. They are out of the picture now. This journey is about you. If you come to peace with the extended timeline, you'll find this experience a lot more pleasant. You can settle in, make some friends, and get cozy with this whole recovery thing.
So why is it taking so long?
You were in love
Yes, it was manufactured love. Yes, your personality was mirrored and your dreams manipulated. But you were in love. It's the strongest human emotion & bond in the world, and you felt it with all your heart. It is always painful to lose someone you loved - someone you planned to be with for the rest of your life.
The human spirit must heal from these love losses. Regardless of your abuser's intentions, your love was still very real. It will take a great deal of time and hope to pull yourself out of the standard post-breakup depression.
You were in desperate love
Here's where we branch off from regular breakups. Psychopaths manufacture desperation & desire. You probably worked harder for this relationship than any other, right? You put more time, energy, and thought into it than ever before. And in turn, you were rewarded with the nastiest, most painful experience of your life.
In the idealization phase, they showered you with attention, gifts, letters, and compliments. Unlike most honeymoon phases, they actually pretended to be exactly like you in every way. Everything you did was perfect to them. This put you on Cloud 9, preparing you for the identity erosion.
You began to pick up on all sorts of hints that you might be replaced at any time. This encouraged your racing thoughts, ensuring that this person was on your mind every second of the day. This unhinged, unpredictable lifestyle is what psychopaths hope to create with their lies, gas-lighting, and triangulation.
By keeping them on your mind at all times, you fall into a state of desperate love. This is unhealthy, and not a sign that the person you feel so strongly about is actually worthy of your love. Your mind convinces you that if you feel so powerfully, then they must be the only person who will ever make you feel that way. And when you lose that person, your world completely falls apart. You enter a state of panic & devastation.
The Chemical Reaction
Psychopaths have an intense emotional & sexual bond over their victims. This is due to their sexual magnetism, and the way they train your mind to become reliant upon their approval.
By first adoring you in every way, you let down your guard and began to place your self worth in this person. Your happiness started to rely on this person's opinion on you. Happiness is a chemical reaction going off in your brain - dopamine and receptors firing off to make you feel good.
Like a drug, the psychopath offers you this feeling in full force to begin with. But once you become reliant on it, they begin to pull back. Slowly, you need more and more to feel that same high. You do everything you can to hang onto it, while they are doing everything in their power to keep you just barely starved.
There are thousands of support groups for survivors of infidelity. It leaves long-lasting insecurities and feelings of never being good enough. It leaves you constantly comparing yourself to others. That pain alone takes many people out there years to recover from.
Now compare that to the psychopath's triangulation. Not only do they cheat on you - they happily wave it in your face. They brag about it, trying to prove how happy they are with your replacement. They carry none of the usual shame & guilt that comes with cheating. They are thrilled to be posting pictures and telling their friends how happy they are.
I cannot even begin to explain how emotionally damaging this is after once being the target of their idealization. The triangulation alone will take so much time to heal from.
You have encountered pure evil
Everything you once understood about people did not apply to this person. During the relationship, you tried to be compassionate, easy-going, and forgiving. You never could have known that the person you loved was actively using these things against you. It just doesn't make any sense. No typical person is ready to expect that, and so we spend our time projecting a normal human conscience onto them, trying to explain away their inexplicable behavior.
But once we discover psychopathy, sociopathy, or narcissism, that's when everything starts to change. We begin to feel disgusted - horrified that we let this darkness into our lives. Everything clicks and falls into place. All of the "accidental" or "insensitive" behavior finally makes sense.
You try to explain this to friends and family members - no one really seems to get it. This is why validation matters. When you come together with others who have experienced the same thing as you, you discover you were not crazy. You were not alone in this inhuman experience.
It takes a great deal of time to come to terms with this personality disorder. You end up having to let go of your past understanding of human nature, and building it back up from scratch. You realize that people are not always inherently good. You begin to feel paranoid, hyper-vigialant, and anxious. The healing process is about learning to balance this new state of awareness with your once trusting spirit.
Your spirit is deeply wounded
After the eventual abandonment, most survivors end up feeling a kind of emptiness that cannot even be described as depression. It's like your spirit has completely gone away. You feel numb to everything and everyone around you. The things that once made you happy now make you feel absolutely nothing at all. You worry that your encounter with this monster has destroyed your ability to empathize, feel and care.
I believe this is what takes the longest time to recover from. It feels hopeless at first, but your spirit is always with you. Damaged, for sure, but never gone. As you begin to discover self-respect & boundaries, it slowly starts to find its voice again. It feels safe opening up, peeking out randomly to say hello. You will find yourself grateful to be crying again, happy that your emotions seem to be returning. This is great, and it will start to become more and more consistent.
Ultimately, you will leave this experience with an unexpected wisdom about the people around you. Your spirit will return stronger than ever before, refusing to be treated that way again. You may encounter toxic people throughout your life, but you won't let them stay for very long. You don't have time for mind games & manipulation. You seek out kind, honest, and compassionate individuals. You know you deserve nothing less.
This new found strength is the greatest gift of the psychopathic experience. And it is worth every second of the recovery process, because it will serve you for the rest of your life.
If you're worried that your recovery process is taking too long, please stop worrying. You've been through hell and back - there is no quick fix for that. And what's more, when all is said and done, these few years will be some of the most important years of your life.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Anger isn't always bad - 5 ways that anger is GOOD!
by Ron Huxley
Experience with anger may leave you with the idea that all anger is bad. Yelling at your children for cooperation doesn't leave you feeling very positively. Watching your children fight when they are angry doesn't give you any warm feelings either. But, anger does have it's purpose in our lives and can teach us a thing or two about how to have healthier, happier relationships.
Here are five ways that anger can be a good thing:
1. Anger protects. When your child is in danger your mind will automatically kick into a “fight or flight” reaction that can result in anger. You don't have time to stop and ponder a course of action when your child is in the middle of the street! Anger short cuts our thinking brain to allow us to act quickly. This is nature's way of protecting your family from harm.
2. Anger signals. The purpose of anger is to destroy problems in our lives, not our relationships. When something needs to dramatically change, anger not only lets you know but it gives you the power to do something about it. For example, if your child's doctor won't listen to your concerns, getting angry can stir things up and get a problem diagnosed and solved.
3. Anger rules. Your child left his toys all over the house again! Tired of yelling at your child to get his cooperation. That only reinforces the annoying behavior. Your anger may be telling you that expectations are too high, the rule is not clear enough, or that you are not following through on consequences consistently. Use the energy of your anger to communicate the rule (again) and then follow it up with consistent, age appropriate discipline.
4. Anger talks. What we say to ourselves affects our emotional state. If we tell ourselves we are bad parents then we may act like bad parents. If we tell ourselves we are doing the best we can under stressful circumstances we will react with less hostility and frustration. Practice listening to that little "anger voice" and challenge some of the misperceptions you hold of yourself and your child. Ask some honest friends to help you be objective in your inner inventory. If what you are saying to yourself is true, use this information to make changes in your parent/child relationship.
5. Anger teaches. Our anger management styles are learned from our own parents. If Mom was a yeller, we may follow her example, even if we vowed never to yell at our kids. Fortunately, if you learned one anger expression style you can learn another. Separate the idea that feeling anger is bad. That is natural and unavoidable but what you do with those hot emotions is completely under your control -- with some practice. Allow yourself permission to find new ways to cope with daily parenting hassles by taking a class or reading a book on anger management.
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
How a Narcissist Trains his Victims
by Kathy Krajco
Nearly everyone has seen something like the following little scene...
A three-or-four-year-old is with his mother in the grocery store. He points at a candy bar, looking at his mother with the brightest, cutest, most engaging little face you ever saw. Mother is busy and hardly glancing at him as she reads her grocery list and says, "No, you don't---"
She was going to say, "No, you don't need that," but she didn't get half the words out before he erupted into "WAAAAH!!!!"
Everyone in the store jumps, wondering who's killing that kid. In one split-second his face has undergone a startling transfiguration into something grotesque.
But he hasn't got the first "WAAAH!!!" half out yet before his mother, with a quick look around at all the people looking at her, grabs that candy bar and thrusts it into his hand.
WAAAAH--off, mid-WAAAH, and there is that darling little beaming angel-face again, unwrapping his his candy bar.
That's what you call a spoiled brat -- a kid who has learned to use temper tantrums to control his parents. The dead giveaway is how instantaneously he switches from one emotional extreme to the other. Real people don't do that in one split second, do they?
He can do that because those emotions are bogus. Faked. He isn't upset when he's screaming, and he isn't happy when he's not. He's just a little actor. He has two masks. One is for positive reinforcement, and the other is for negative reinforcement. He switches from one to the other in the blink of an eye.
Yes! This four-year-old has learned the art of Behavior Modification! It's childsplay, ain't it? His happy face is a carrot to reward you for good behavior, and his mad face is a stick to punish you for bad behavior.
Now notice how similar this is to an adult narcissist's rages. They are exactly the same thing.
Whenever you aren't behaving the way they want, they throw a fit. Like that brat in the grocery store, they don't think they should even have to ask for what they they want. They think you should be so attentive to their desires that you just offer it to them. It would be beneath them to ask for anything. So they throw a "Don't-go-there!" tantrum whenever you aren't playing the part they've assigned to you in the stageplay of their life.
That could be because you are behaving like you deserve respect. Or maybe you are busy and do not have lunch on the table yet. Whatever, the cowboy just herds people by yelling and waving things whenever the cattle in his home get out of line.
His wild act is so obnoxious and menacing that people soon learn how to turn it off. They would rather conform to his specifications than put up with that obnoxious wild act all the time.
Thus he trains them to behave the way he wants them to.
Monday, March 02, 2015
Recognize the Pattern & Seek Help!
He says he's sorry and that it won't happen again. But you fear it will. Angry outbursts, hurtful words, sometimes a slap or a punch. You may start to doubt your own judgment, or wonder whether you're going crazy. Maybe you think you've imagined the whole thing.
But you haven't. Domestic violence can and does happen to people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Domestic violence happens to men and to same-sex partners, but most often domestic violence involves men abusing their female partners. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as 4 million women suffer abuse from their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends or intimate partners in the United States each year.
Domestic violence — also called domestic abuse, intimate partner violence or battering — occurs between people in intimate relationships. It takes many forms, including coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual and physical abuse.
Without help, abuse will continue and could worsen. Many resources are available to help you understand your options and to support you. No one deserves to be abused.
An abusive relationship: It's about power and control
Though there are no typical victims of domestic violence, abusive relationships do share similar characteristics. In all cases, the abuser aims to exert power and control over his partner.
"A lot of people think domestic violence is about anger, and it really isn't," says Diana Patterson, a licensed social worker and violence prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "Batterers do tend to take their anger out on their intimate partner. But it's not really about anger. It's about trying to instill fear and wanting to have power and control in the relationship."
But anger is just one way that an abuser tries to gain authority. The batterer may also turn to physical violence — kicking, punching, grabbing, slapping or strangulation, for example. The abuser may also use sexual violence — forcing you to have sexual intercourse or to engage in other sexual activities against your will. Verbal abuse and mental manipulation also count.
In an abusive relationship, the abuser may use varying tactics to gain power and control, including:
Children as pawns. Accuses you of bad parenting, threatens to take the children away, uses the children to relay messages, or threatens to report you to children's protective services.
Coercion and threats. Threatens to hurt other family members, pets, children or self.
Denial and blame. Denies that the abuse occurs and shifts responsibility for the abusive behavior onto you. This may leave you confused and unsure of yourself or make you feel like you're going crazy.
Economic abuse. Controls finances, refuses to share money, makes you account for money spent and doesn't want you to work outside the home. The abuser may also try to sabotage your work performance by forcing you to miss work or by calling you frequently at work.
Emotional (and Verbal) abuse. Uses put-downs, insults, criticism or name-calling to make you feel bad about yourself.
Intimidation. Uses certain looks, actions or gestures to instill fear. The abuser may break things, destroy property, abuse pets or display weapons.
Isolation. Limits your contact with family and friends, requires you to get permission to leave the house, doesn't allow you to work or attend school, and controls your activities and social events. The abuser may ask where you've been, track your time and whereabouts, or check the odometer on your car or hack into your computer.
Power. Makes all major decisions, defines the roles in your relationship, is in charge of the home and social life, and treats you like a servant or possession.
Recognizing abuse: Know the signs
It may not be easy to identify abuse. An abusive relationship can start subtly. The abuser may criticize your appearance or may be unreasonably jealous. Gradually, the abuse becomes more frequent, severe and potentially life-threatening.
"It's important to know that these relationships don't happen overnight," says Patterson. "It's a gradual process — a slow disintegration of a person's sense of self."
However, many characteristics signify an abusive relationship. For example, you may be abused if you:
- Have ever been hit, kicked, shoved or threatened with violence
- Feel that you have no choice about how you spend your time, where you go or what you wear
- Have been accused by your partner of things you've never done
- Must ask your partner for permission to make everyday decisions
- Feel bad about yourself because your partner calls you names, insults you or puts you down
- Limit time with your family and friends because of your partner's demands
- Submit to sexual intercourse or engage in sexual acts against your will or better judgement
- Accept your partner's decisions because you're afraid of ensuing anger
- Are accused of being unfaithful
- Change your behavior in an effort to not anger your partner
Pregnancy is a particularly perilous time for an abused woman. Not only is your health at risk, but also the health of your unborn child. Abuse can begin or may increase during pregnancy.
Breaking the cycle: Difficult, but doable with help
Domestic violence is part of a continuing cycle that's difficult to break. If you're in an abusive situation, you may recognize this pattern:
Your abuser strikes using words or actions.
Your abuser may beg for forgiveness, offer gifts or promise to change.
Your abuser becomes tense, angry or depressed.
Your abuser promises to stop but repeats the abusive behavior.
Typically each time the abuse occurs, it worsens, and the cycle shortens. Breaking this pattern of violence alone and without help is difficult.
"When you live in an environment of chaos, stress and fear, you start doubting yourself and your ability to take care of yourself," says Patterson. "It can really unravel your sense of reality and self-esteem."
So it's important to recognize that you may not be in a position to resolve the situation on your own. You may need outside help, and that's OK. Without help, the abuse will likely continue. Leaving the abusive relationship may be the only way to break the cycle.
Getting ready to leave: Use a safety plan
Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. You're the only person who knows the safest time to leave. Make sure you prepare a safety plan so that you can act quickly when the time is right.
Consider taking these precautions:
* Arrange a safety signal with a neighbor as an alert to call the police if necessary.
* Prepare an emergency bag that includes items you'll need when you leave, such as extra clothes, important papers, money, extra keys and prescription medications.
*Know exactly where you'll go and how you'll get there, even if you have to leave in the middle of the night.
* Call a local women's shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 to find out about legal options and resources available to you, before you need them.
* If you have school-age children, notify the school authorities about custody arrangements, warn them about possible threats and advise the school on what information to keep confidential.
* As part of a safety plan, avoid making long-distance phone calls from home because the abuser could trace the calls to find out where you're going. And the abuser may be able to intercept your cell phone conversations using a scanner. Switch to a corded phone if you're relaying sensitive information.
* Also, be aware that the abuser may be able to monitor your Internet activities and access your e-mail account. Change your passwords, get a new e-mail account or access a computer at a friend's house or a local library.
Where to find help: Options abound
In an emergency situation, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency. If you aren't in immediate danger, consider contacting one of the following resources:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE or (800) 799-7233. Provides crisis referrals to in-state or out-of-state resources, such as women's shelters or crisis centers.
Your doctor or hospital emergency room. Treats any injuries and refers you to safe housing and other local resources.
Local women's crisis center. Typically provides 24-hour, emergency shelter for you and your children, advice on legal matters, advocacy and support services, and evaluation and monitoring of abusers. Some shelters have staff members who speak multiple languages.
Counseling or mental health center. Most communities have agencies that provide individual counseling and support groups to women in abusive relationships. Be wary of anyone who advises couples or marriage counseling. This isn't appropriate for abusive relationships.
Local court. Your district court can help you obtain a court order, which legally mandates the abuser stay away from you or face arrest. These are typically called orders for protection or restraining orders. Advocates are available in many communities to help you complete the paperwork and guide you through the court process.
"There are many resources available to help you if you are being abused." says Patterson. "You can have and you deserve a peaceful life."
Sunday, March 01, 2015
The Inner Landscape of the Psychopath
The surface of the psychopath, however, that is, all of him that can be reached by verbal exploration and direct examination, shows up as equal to or better than normal and gives no hint at all of a disorder within.
Nothing about him suggests oddness, inadequacy, or moral frailty. His mask is that of robust mental health. Yet he has a disorder that often manifests itself in conduct far more seriously abnormal than that of the schizophrenic.
Inwardly, too, there appears to be a significant difference.
Deep in the masked schizophrenic we often sense a cold, weird indifference to many of life's most urgent issues and sometimes also bizarre, inexplicable, and unpredictable but intense emotional reactions to what seems almost irrelevant.
Behind the exquisitely deceptive mask of the psychopath the emotional alteration we feel appears to be primarily one of degree, a consistent leveling of response to petty ranges and an incapacity to react with sufficient seriousness to achieve much more than pseudoexperience or quasi-experience. Nowhere within do we find a real cause or a sincere commitment, reasonable or unreasonable. There is nowhere the loyalty to produce real and lasting allegiance even to a negative or fanatic cause.
Just as meaning and the adequate sense of things as a whole are lost with semantic aphasia in the circumscribed field of speech although the technical mimicry of language remains intact, so in most psychopaths the purposiveness and the significance of all life-striving and of all subjective experience are affected without obvious damage to the outer appearance or superficial reactions of the personality. Nor is there any loss of technical or measurable intelligence.
With such a biologic change the human being becomes more reflex, more machinelike. It has been said that a monkey endowed with sufficient longevity would, if he continuously pounded the keys of a typewriter, finally strike by pure chance the very succession of keys to reproduce all the plays of Shakespeare. These papers so composed in the complete absence of purpose and human awareness would look just as good to any scholar as the actual works of the Bard. Yet we cannot deny that there is a difference. Meaning and life at a prodigiously high level of human values went into one and merely the rule of permutations and combinations would go into the other.
The patient semantically defective by lack of meaningful purpose and realization at deep levels does not, of course, strike sane and normal attitudes merely by chance. His rational power enables him to mimic directly the complex play of human living. Yet what looks like sane realization and normal experience remains, in a sense and to some degree, like the plays of our simian typist.
In Henry Head's interpretation of semantic aphasia we find, however, concepts of neural function and of its integration and impairment that help to convey a hypothesis of grave personality disorder thoroughly screened by the intact peripheral operation of all ordinary abilities.
In relatively abstract or circumscribed situations, such as the psychiatric examination or the trial in court, these abilities do not show impairment but more or less automatically demonstrate an outer sanity unquestionable in all its aspects and at all levels accessible to the observer. That this technical sanity is little more than a mimicry of true sanity cannot be proved at such levels.
Only when the subject sets out to conduct his life can we get evidence of how little his good theoretical understanding means to him, of how inadequate and insubstantial are the apparently normal basic emotional reactions and motivations convincingly portrayed and enunciated but existing in little more than two dimensions.
What we take as evidence of his sanity will not significantly or consistently influence his behavior. Nor does it represent real intention within, the degree of his emotional response, or the quality of his personal experience much more reliably than some grammatically well-formed, clear, and perhaps verbally sensible statement produced vocally by the autonomous neural apparatus of a patient with semantic aphasia can be said to represent such a patient's thought or carry a meaningful communication of it.
Let us assume tentatively that the psychopath is, in this sense, semantically disordered. We have said that his outer functional aspect masks or disguises something quite different within, concealing behind a perfect mimicry of normal emotion, fine intelligence, and social responsibility a grossly disabled and irresponsible personality. Must we conclude that this disguise is a mere pretense voluntarily assumed and that the psychopath's essential dysfunction should be classed as mere hypocrisy instead of psychiatric defect or deformity?
Let us remember that his typical behavior defeats what appear to be his own aims.
Is it not he himself who is most deeply deceived by his apparent normality?
Although he deliberately cheats others and is quite conscious of his lies, he appears unable to distinguish adequately between his own pseudo-intentions, pseudo-remorse, pseudo-love, and the genuine responses of a normal person.
His monumental lack of insight indicates how little he appreciates the nature of his disorder.
When others fail to accept immediately his "word of honor as a gentleman," his amazement, I believe, is often genuine. The term genuine is used here not to qualify the psychopath's intentions but to qualify his amazement. His subjective experience is so bleached of deep emotion that he is invincibly ignorant of what life means to others.
His awareness of hypocrisy's opposite is so insubstantially theoretical that it becomes questionable if what we chiefly mean by hypocrisy should be attributed to him.
Having no major values himself, can he be said to realize adequately the nature and quality of the outrages his conduct inflicts upon others?
A young child who has no impressive memory of severe pain may have been told by his mother it is wrong to cut off the dog's tail. Knowing it is wrong he may proceed with the operation. We need not totally absolve him of responsibility if we say he realized less what he did than an adult who, in full appreciation of physical agony, so uses a knife.
Can a person experience the deeper levels of sorrow without considerable knowledge of happiness? Can he achieve evil intention in the full sense without real awareness of evil's opposite? I have no final answer to these questions.
Attempts to interpret the psychopath's disorder do not, of course, furnish evidence that he has a disorder or that it is serious. For reliable evidence of this we must examine his behavior. Only here, not in psychopathologic formulations, can we apply our judgment to what is objective and demonstrable.
Functionally and structurally all is intact on the outside. Good function (healthy reactivity) will be demonstrated in all theoretical trials. Sound judgment as well as good reasoning are likely to appear at verbal levels. Ethical as well as practical considerations will be recognized in the abstract. A brilliant mimicry of sound, social reactions will occur in every test except the test of life itself.
In the psychopath we confront a personality neither broken nor outwardly distorted but of a substance that lacks ingredients without which normal function in major life issues is impossible. [...]
Simon, Holzberg, and Unger, impressed by the paradox of the psychopath's poor performance despite intact reasoning, devised an objective test specifically to appraise judgment as it would function in real situations, as contrasted with theoretical judgment in abstract situations. These workers are aware that the more complex synthesis of influences constituting what is often called judgment or understanding (as compared to a more theoretical "reasoning") may be simulated in test situations in which emotional participation is minimal, that rational factors alone by an accurate aping or stereotyping can produce in vitro, so to speak, what they cannot produce in vivo. Items for a multiple choice test were selected with an aim of providing maximal possibilities for emotional factors to influence decision and particularly for relatively trivial immediate gratification impulses to clash with major, long-range objectives. The same items were also utilized in the form of a completion test. The results of this test on a group of psychopaths tend to support the hypothetical interpretation attempted in this book.
If such a disorder does indeed exist in the so-called psychopath, it is not remarkable that its recognition as a major and disabling impairment has been long delayed. Pathologic changes visible on the surface of the body (laceration, compound fractures) were already being handled regularly by medical men when the exorcism of indwelling demons retained popular favor in many illnesses now treated by the internist. So, too, it has been with personality disorders. Those characterized by gross outward manifestations have been accepted as psychiatric problems long before others in which a superficial appearance of sanity is preserved.
Despite the psychopath's lack of academic symptoms characteristic of those disorders traditionally classed as psychosis, he often seems, in some important respects, but not in all, to belong more with that group than with any other. Certainly his problems cannot be dealt with, medically or by any other means, unless similar legal instrumentalities for controlling his situation are set up and regularly applied.
I believe that if such a patient shows himself grossly incompetent in his behavior, he should be so appraised. It is necessary to change some of our legal criteria to make attempts at treatment or urgently needed supervision possible for him, the most serious objections are primarily theoretical. Perhaps our traditional definitions of psychiatric disability can stand alteration better than these grossly defective patients and those about them can stand the present farcical and sometimes tragic methods of handling their problems.
This is not to say that all people showing features of this type should be regarded as totally disabled. It is here maintained that this defect, like other psychiatric disorders, appears in every degree of severity and may constitute anything from a personality trait through handicaps of varying magnitude, including maximum disability and maximum threat to the peace and safety of the community.
In attempting to account for the abnormal behavior observed in the psychopath, we have found useful the hypothesis that he has a serious and subtle abnormality or defect at deep levels disturbing the integration and normal appreciation of experience and resulting in a pathology that might, in analogy with Henry Head's classifications of the aphasias, be described as semantic.
Presuming that such a patient does fail to experience life adequately in its major issues, can we then better account for his clinical manifestations? The difficulties of proving, or even of demonstrating direct objective evidence, for hypotheses about psychopathology (or about ordinary subjective functioning) are too obvious to need elaborate discussion here.
If the psychopath's life is devoid of higher order stimuli, of primary or serious goals and values, and of intense and meaningful satisfactions, it may be possible for the observer to better understand the patient who, for the trivial excitement of stealing a dollar (or a candy bar), the small gain of forging a $20.00 check, or halfhearted intercourse with an unappealing partner, sacrifices his job, the respect of his friends, or perhaps his marriage.
Behind much of the psychopath's behavior we see evidence of relatively mild stimuli common to all mankind. In his panhandling, his pranks, his truancy, his idle boasts, his begging, and his taking another drink, he is acting on motives in themselves not unnatural. In their massive accumulation during his career, these acts are impressive chiefly because of what he sacrifices to carry them out. If, for him, the things sacrificed are also of petty value, his conduct becomes more comprehensible.
Woolley, in an interesting interpretation of these patients, compared them with an otherwise intact automobile having very defective brakes. Such an analogy suggests accurately an important pathologic defect which seems to exist. In contrast with an automobile, however, the braking functions of the human organism are built into the personality by reaction to life experience, to reward and punishment, praise and blame, shame, loss, honor, love, and so on. True as Woolley's hypothesis may be, it seems likely that more fundamental than inadequate powers to refrain is the inadequate emotional reactivity upon which the learning to refrain must be based.
Even with good brakes on his car, the driver must have not only knowledge of but also feeling for what will happen otherwise if he is to use them correctly and adequately.
Some of the psychopath's behavior may be fairly well accounted for if we grant a limitation of emotional capacity. Additional factors merit consideration. The psychopath seems to go out of his way to make trouble for himself and for others. In carelessly marrying a whore, in more or less inviting detection of a theft (or at least in ignoring the probability of detection), in attempting gross intimacies with a debutante in the poorly sheltered alcove just off a crowded ballroom, in losing his hospital parole or failing to be with his wife in labor just because he did not want to leave the crap game at midnight (or at 3 A.M.), in such actions there seems to be not only a disregard for consequences but an active impulse to show off, to be not discreet but conspicuous in making mischief. Apparently he likes to flaunt his outlandish or antisocial acts with bravado.
When negative consequences are negligible or slight (both materially and emotionally), who does not like to cut up a little, to make a bit of inconsequential fun, or perhaps playfully take off on the more sober aspects of living? Dignity might otherwise become pompousness; learning, pedantry; goodness, self-righteousness. The essential difference seems to lie in how much the consequences matter. It is also important to remember that inclination and taste are profoundly shaped by capacity to feel the situation adequately. A normal man's potential inclination to give the pretty hatcheck girl $100.00 would probably not reach awareness in view of his knowledge that this would result in his three children's not having shoes or in his having to humiliate himself by wheedling from a friend a loan he will never repay.
If, as we maintain, the big rewards of love, of the hard job well done, of faith kept despite sacrifices, do not enter significantly in the equation, it is not difficult to see that the psychopath is likely to be bored. Being bored, he will seek to cut up more than the ordinary person to relieve the tedium of his unrewarding existence. If we think of a theater half-filled with ordinary pubertal boys who must sit through a performance of King Lear or of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, we need ask little of either imagination or memory to bring to mind the restless fidgeting, the noisy intercommunication of trivialities, the inappropriate guffaws or catcalls, and perhaps the spitballs or the mischievous application of a pin to the fellow in the next seat.
Apparently blocked from fulfillment at deep levels, the psychopath is not unnaturally pushed toward some sort of divertissement. Even weak impulses, petty and fleeting gratifications, are sufficient to produce in him injudicious, distasteful, and even outlandish misbehavior. Major positive attractions are not present to compete successfully with whims, and the major negative deterrents (hot, persistent shame, profound regret) do not loom ahead to influence him. If the 12-year-old boys could enjoy King Lear or the Ninth Symphony as much as some people do, they would not be so reckless or unruly. [...]
In a world where tedium demands that the situation be enlivened by pranks that bring censure, nagging, nights in the local jail, and irritating duns about unpaid bills, it can well be imagined that the psychopath finds cause for vexation and impulses toward reprisal. Few, if any, of the scruples that in the ordinary man might oppose and control such impulses seem to influence him. Unable to realize what it meant to his wife when he was discovered in the cellar flagrante delicto with the cook, he is likely to be put out considerably by her reactions to this. His having used the rent money for a midnight long-distance call to an old acquaintance in California (with whom he bantered for an hour) also brings upon him censure or tearful expostulation. Considering himself harassed beyond measure, he may rise from the dining room table in a petty tantrum, curse his wife violently, slap her, even spit on her, and further annoyed by the sudden weeping of their 6-year-old daughter, throw his salad in the little girl's face before he strides indignantly from the room.
His father, from the patient's point of view, lacks humor and does not understand things. The old man could easily take a different attitude about having had to make good those last three little old checks written by the son. Nor was there any sense in raising so much hell because he took that dilapidated old Chevrolet for his trip to Memphis. What if he did forget to tell the old man he was going to take it? It wouldn't hurt him to go to the office on the bus for a few days. How was he (the patient) to know the fellows were going to clean him out at stud or that the little bitch of a waitress at the Frolic Spot would get so nasty about money? What else could he do except sell the antiquated buggy? If the old man weren't so parsimonious he'd want to get a new car anyway!
And why did he (the father) have to act so magnanimous and hurt about settling things last Saturday night down at the barracks? You'd think from his attitude that it was the old man himself who'd had to put up with being cooped in there all those hours with louse-infested riff-raff! Well, he'd thanked his father and told him how sorry he was. What else could a fellowdo? As for that damned old Chevrolet, he was sick of hearing about it. His grudge passing with a turn of thought, he smiles with half-affectionate, playfully cordial feelings toward the old man as he concludes, "I ought to tell him to take his precious old vehicle and stick it up his _____!"
Lacking vital elements in the appreciation of what the family and various bystanders are experiencing, the psychopath finds it hard to understand why they continually criticize, reproach, quarrel with, and interfere with him. His employer, whom he has praised a few hours before, becomes a pettifogging tyrant who needs some telling off. The policeman to whom he gave tickets for the barbecue last week (because he is such a swell guy) turns out to be a stupid oaf and a meddler who can't mind his own business but has to go and arrest somebody just because of a little argument with Casey in the Midnight Grill about what happened to a few stinking dollar bills that were lying on the bar. [...]
It is not necessary to assume great cruelty or conscious hatred in him commensurate with the degree of suffering he deals out to others. Not knowing how it hurts or even where it hurts, he often seems to believe that he has made a relatively mild but appropriate reprimand and that he has done it with humor.
What he believes he needs to protest against turns out to be no small group, no particular institution or set of ideologies, but human life itself. In it he seems to find nothing deeply meaningful or persistently stimulating, but only some transient and relatively petty pleasant caprices, a terribly repetitious series of minor frustrations, and ennui.
Like many teenagers, saints, history-making statesmen, and other notable leaders or geniuses, he shows unrest; he wants to do something about the situation. Unlike these others, as Lindner has so well and convincingly stressed, he is a "rebel without a cause."
Reacting with something that seems not too much like divine discontent or noble indignation, he finds no cause in the ordinary sense to which, he can devote himself with wholeheartedness or with persistent interest. In certain aspects his essential life seems to be a peevish bickering with the inconsequential. In other aspects he suggests a man hanging from a ledge who knows if he lets go he will fall, is likely to break a leg, may lose his job and his savings (through the disability and hospital expenses), and perhaps may injure his baby in the carriage just below. He suggests a man in this position who, furthermore, is not very tired and who knows help will arrive in a few minutes, but who, nevertheless, with a charming smile and a wisecrack, releases his hold to light a cigarette, to snatch at a butterfly, or just to thumb his nose at a fellow passing in the street below. [...]
A world not by any means identical but with some vivid features of both these underlying situations can be found in Huysmans' Against the Grain and in Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea. In the satirical novels of Evelyn Waugh, also, an atmosphere difficult to describe sometimes develops - an atmosphere that may give the reader awareness of attitudes and evaluations genuinely illustrative of deeply distorted or inadequate reactions to life. [...]
The leading characters depicted therein show a peculiar cynicism which is more conscious and directed and purposive than the behavior of the psychopath. But none of the characters presented show even an approximate awareness of what is most valid and meaningful and natural in human beings. A negative response to life itself, an aversion at levels more basic than ordinary morals or the infraconscious foundations of taste and incentive, is conveyed subtly and impressively.
It is difficult to illustrate by incident, by the expressed attitude of the characters depicted, or by any clearly implied evaluation of the authors the specific quality of what is evoked in these novels as the essence of an unhappy, mutilated, and trivial universe in which all the characters exist. The sense of pathology pervades to levels so deep that rational scrutiny cannot reach and meet the fundamental implications; nor can inquiry satisfactorily demonstrate its precise source. If the actual world and man's biologic scope were only that conveyed in these interesting works, it would perhaps be less difficult to account for obsessive illness and for the psychopath's career as reasonable reactions to a situation where no course is possible except one profoundly pathologic in one way or another.
Thoughtful contemplation of what is depicted in these works of fiction suggests a world as fundamentally altered as what Straus presents as the world of the obsessive patient. In the effective and terse implication of general emotional incapacity in these characters, the authors succeed in evoking awareness of a sort of quasi-life restricted within a range of staggering superficiality. This, rather than those aspects of the works that apparently brought them popularity, may deserve high literary appraisal as concise and valuable communications of something that is by no means easy to convey in direct language. Such a superficiality and lack of major incentive or feeling strongly suggest the apparent emotional limitations of the psychopath. [...]
What Straus and Havelock Ellis have brought out is not discernible in the reactions of the psychopath. It is, as a matter of fact, somewhat veiled in the reactions of most obsessive patients. Observation of the psychopath makes it increasingly plain, however, that he is not reacting normally to the surroundings that are ordinarily assumed to exist. I cannot clearly define the specific milieu which such a patient encounters and to which his reactions are related. There is much to suggest that it is a less distinctly or consistently apprehended world than what Straus describes as the inner world of the obsessive patient. It is my belief that it may be a world not less abnormal and perhaps more complexly confusing. We should remember, however, that we have no direct evidence to prove that a deficiency or distortion of this sort exists in the unconscious core of the psychopath. We can only say that his behavior strongly and consistently suggests it. This discussion has been based, of course. on a hypothesis that the psychopath has a basic inadequacy of feeling and realization that prevents him from normally experiencing the major emotions and from reacting adequately to the chief goals of human life. [...]
Beyond the symptomatic acts of the psychopath, we must bear in mind his reaction to his situation, his general experiencing of life. Typical of psychoneurosis are anxiety, recognition that one is in trouble, and efforts to alter the bad situation. These are natural ("normal") whole personality reactions to localized symptoms.
In contrast, the severe psychopath, like those so long called psychotic, does not show normal responses to the situation. It is offered as an opinion that a less obvious but nonetheless real pathology is general, and that in this respect he is more closely allied with the psychotic than with the psychoneurotic patient. The pathology might be regarded not as gross fragmentation of the personality but as a more subtle alteration. Let us say that instead of macroscopic disintegration our (hypothetical) change might be conceived of as one that seriously curtails function without obliterating form. [...]
Let us think of the personality in the psychopath as differing from the normal in some such way. The form is perfect and the outlines are undistorted. But being subtly and profoundly altered, it can successfully perform only superficial activities or pseudofunctions. It cannot maintain important or meaningful interpersonal relations. It cannot fulfill its purpose of adjusting adequately to social reality. Its performance can only mimic these genuine functions. [...]
The persistent pattern of maladaptation at personality levels and the ostensible purposelessness of many self-damaging acts definitely suggests not only a lack of strong purpose but also a negative purpose or at least a negative drift. This sort of patient, despite all his opportunities, his intelligence, and his plain lessons of experience, seems to go out of his way to woo misfortune. The suggestion has already been made that his typical activities seem less comprehensible in terms, of life-striving or of a pursuit of joy than as an unrecognized blundering toward the negations of nonexistence.
Some of this, it has been suggested, may be interpreted as the tantrum, like reactions of an inadequate personality balked, as behavior similar to that of the spoiled child who bumps his own head against the wall or holds his breath when he is crossed. It might be thought of as not unlike a man's cutting off his nose to spite not only his face, but also the scheme of life in general, which has turned out to be a game that he cannot play. Such reactions are, of course, found in nearly all types of personality disorder or inadequacy. It will perhaps be readily granted that they are all regressive. Behavior against the constructive patterns through which the personality finds expression and seeks fulfillment of its destiny is regressive activity although it may not consist in a return, step by step, or in a partial return to the status of childhood and eventually of infancy.
Such reactions appear to be, in a sense, against the grain of life or against the general biologic purpose.
Regressive reactions or processes may all be regarded as disintegrative, as reverse steps in the general process of biologic growth through which a living entity becomes more complex, more highly adapted and specialized, better coordinated, and more capable of dealing successfully or happily with objective or subjective experience. This scale of increasing complexity exists at points even below the level of living matter. A group of electrons functioning together make up the atom which can indeed be split down again to its components. The atoms joining form molecules which, in turn, coming together in definite orderly arrangement, may become structurally coordinating parts of elaborate crystalline materials; or, in even more specialized and complex fashion, they may form a cell of organic matter. Cells of organic matter may unite and integrate to form the living organism we know as a jellyfish. Always the process is reversible; the organic matter can decompose back into inorganic matter.
Without laboriously following out all the steps of this scale, we might mention the increasing scope of activity, the increasing specialization, and the increasing precariousness of existence at various levels up through vertebrates and mammals to man. All along this scale it is evident that failure to function successfully at a certain level necessitates regression or decomposition to a lower or less complicated one. If the cell membrane of one epithelial unit in a mammalian body becomes imporous and fails to obtain nutriment brought by blood and lymph, it loses its existence as an epithelial cell. If the unwary rabbit fails to perceive the danger of the snare, he soon becomes in rapid succession a dead rabbit, merely a collection of dead organs and supportive structures, protein, fat, and finally, inorganic matter. The fundamental quest for life has been interrupted, and, having been interrupted, the process goes into reverse.
So, too, the criminal discovered and imprisoned ceases to be a free man who comes and goes as he pleases. A curtailment in the scope of his functioning is suffered-a regression in one sense to simpler, more routine, and less varied and vivid activities.
The man who fails in another and more complex way to go on with life, to fulfill his personality growth and function, becomes what we call a schizophrenic. The objective curtailment of his activities by the rules of the psychiatric hospital are almost negligible in comparison with the vast simplification, the loss of self-expression, and the personal disintegration which characterize his regression from the subjective point of view. The old practice of referring to the extremely regressed schizophrenic as leading a vegetative existence implies the significance that is being stressed.
Regression, then, in a broad sense may be taken to mean movement from richer and more full life to levels of scantier or less highly developed life. In other words, it is relative death. It is the cessation of existence or maintenance of function at a given level.
The concept of an active death instinct postulated by Freud has been utilized by some to account for socially self-destructive reactions. I have never been able to discover in the writings of Freud or any of his followers real evidence to confirm this assumption.
In contrast, the familiar tendency to disintegrate, against which life evolves, may be regarded as fundamental and comparable to gravity. The climbing man or animal must use force and purpose to ascend or to maintain himself at a given height. To fall or slide downhill he need only cease his efforts and let go. Without assuming an intrinsic death instinct, it is possible to account for active withdrawal from positions at which adaptation is unsuccessful and stress too extreme.
Whether regression occurs primarily through something like gravity or through impulses more self-contained, the backward movement (or ebbing) is likely to prompt many sorts of secondary reactions, including behavior not adapted for ordinary human purposes but instead, for functioning in the other direction. The modes of such reactivity may vary, may fall into complex patterns, and may seek elaborate expression.
In a movement (or gravitational drift) from levels where life is vigorous and full to those where it is less so, the tactics of withdrawal predominate.
People with all the outer mechanisms of adaptation intact might, one would think, regress more complexly than can those who react more simply. The simplest reaction in reverse might be found in a person who straightway blows out his brains.
As a skillful general who has realized that the objective is unobtainable withdraws by feints and utilizes all sorts of delaying actions, so a patient who has much of the outer mechanisms for living may retire, not in obvious rout but skillfully and elaborately, preserving his lines.
The psychopath as we conceive of him in such an interpretation seems to justify the high estimate of his technical abilities as we see them expressed in reverse movement.
Unlike the general with the retreating army in our analogy, he seems not still devoted to the original contest but to other issues and aims that arise in withdrawal. To force the analogy further we might say that the retiring army is now concerning itself with looting the countryside, seeking mischief and light entertainment. The troops have cast off their original loyalties and given up their former aims but have found no other serious ones to replace them. But the effective organization and all of the technical skills are retained.[And utilized destructively.]
F. L. Wells has expressed things very pertinent to the present discussion. A brief quotation will bring out useful points:
The principle of substitutive reactions, sublimative or regressive in character, has long been known, but Kurt Lewin's (1933) experimental construction of the latter is especially apt, if not unquestionable mental hygiene. A child, for example, continually impelled to open a gate it is impossible for him to open, may blow up in a tantrum, grovel on the ground, till the emotion subsides sufficiently for him to become substitutively occupied, as with fragments of gravel and other detritus he finds there, by which he forgets his distress about the gate. [...] The human personality has the adaptive property of finding satisfactions at simpler levels when higher ones are taken away, fortunately so if this keeps him out of a psychosis, otherwise if it stabilizes him in contentment at this lower level ("going native") or if the satisfactions cannot be found short of a psychosis (MacCurdy, 1925, p. 367). All such cases have the common regressive factor of giving up the higher-level adjustment (opening the gate) with regressive relief at a lower level (playing with the gravel).Another illustration given by Wells emphasizes features of the concept that are valuable to us:
Consider, for example, the group of drives that center about the concept of self-maintenance, the "living standards" of civilization. This means the pursuit of the diverse means to surround oneself with the maximum of material comfort in terms of residence, food, playthings, etc., for the purchase of which one can capitalize his abilities. That the normal individual will do this to a liberal limit is taken in the local culture as a matter of course, probably more liberally than the facts justify. For this pursuit involves a competitive struggle beset also with inner conflicts (e.g., ethical), which by no means everyone is able to set aside. Among regressions specific to this category are those undertakings of poverty common to religious orders, but this regression is quite specific, since these orders often involve their members in other "disciplines" from which the normal individual would flee as far (Parkman, 1867, Chap. 16). It is quite certain, though hard to demonstrate objectively, that many an individual in normal life regresses from these economic conflicts only in less degree. He does not take the vow of poverty like the monastic, nor does he dedicate himself to the simplified life of the "South Sea Island" stereotype, but he prefers salary to commission, city apartment to suburban "bungalow," clerical work to (outside) sales.A thought expressed by William James in 1902 and quoted by Wells deserves renewed attention:
Yonder puny fellow however, whom everyone can beat suffers no chagrin about it, for he has long ago abandoned the attempt to "carry that line," as the merchants say, of Self at all.Something relevant to the points now under consideration may be found also in Sherrington's comment on reactions (or inlaid precautions) against unbearable pain or stress in the human organism. He says:
With no attempt there can be no failure; with no failure no humiliation.
So our self-feeling in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do. It is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities; a fraction of which our pretentions are the denominator and the numerator our success: thus, Self-esteem = Success/Pretensions.
Such a fraction may be increased as well by diminishing the denominator as by increasing the numerator.
To give up pretensions is as blessed a relief as to get them gratified; and where disappointment is incessant and the struggle unending, this is what men will always do.
The history of evangelical theology, with its conviction of sin, its self-despair, and its abandonment of salvation by works, is the deepest of possible examples, but we meet others in every walk of life.
How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young-or slender! Thank God, we say, those illusions are gone. Everything added to the self is a burden as well as a pride.
Again in life's final struggle the chemical delicacy of the brain-net can make distress lapse early because with the brain's disintegration the mind fades early - a rough world's mercy towards its dearest possession.There are, it seems, many ways for this to occur without signs of any change which we yet have objective means to detect, chemically or microscopically. Such changes may occur under the stimulus of agents that do not have direct physical contact with the brain or with any part of the body.
Withdrawal, or limitation of one's quest in living, appears in many forms.
The decision for taking such a step may be consciously voluntary, but it seems likely that many influences less clear and simple may also play a part. In the earliest years of human life a great deal of complicated shaping may occur, with adaptive changes to promote survival by an automatic refusal (inability) to risk one's feelings (response) in the greatest subjective adventures. In adult life such decisions sometimes emerge in clear deliberation.
The activity of the psychopath may seem in some respects to accomplish a kind of protracted and elaborate social and spiritual suicide. Perhaps the complex, sustained, and spectacular undoing of the self may be cherished by him. He seldom allows physical suicide to interrupt it.
Be it noted that such a person retains high intelligence and nearly all the outer mechanisms for carrying on the complicated activities of positive life. It is to be expected then that his function in the opposite (regressive) emotional direction might be more subtle than those of a less highly developed biologic entity.
The average rooster proceeds at once to leap on the nearest hen and have done with his simple erotic impulse. The complex human lover may pay suit for years to his love object, approaching her through many volumes of poetry, through the building up of financial security in his business, through manifold activities and operations of his personality functions, and with aims and emotions incomparably more complicated and more profound than that of the rooster.
When complexly organized functions are devoted to aimless or inconsistent rebellion against the positive goals of life, perhaps they may enable the patient to woo failure and disintegration with similar elaborateness and subtlety. His conscious or outer functioning may at the same time maintain an imitation of life that is uniquely deceptive.
Perhaps the emptiness or superficiality of life without major goals or deep loyalties, or real love, would leave a person with high intelligence and other superior capacities so bored that he would eventually turn to hazardous, self-damaging, outlandish, antisocial, and even self-destructive exploits in order to find something fresh and stimulating in which to apply his relatively useless and unchallenged energies and talents. [...]
The more experience I have with psychopaths over the years, the less likely it seems to me that any dynamic or psychogenic theory is likely to be established by real evidence as the cause of their grave maladaptation.
Increasingly I have come to believe that some subtle and profound defect in the human organism, probably inborn but not hereditary, plays the chief role in the psychopath's puzzling and spectacular failure to experience life normally and to carry on a career acceptable to society. This, too, is still a speculative concept and is not supported by demonstrable evidence.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Beware Disordered Therapists, Gurus and Spiritual 'Teachers'
Narcissistic gurus often come with fine academic credentials. Some are medical doctors or Ph.D.'s. Others call themselves holistic healers, medical intuitives. Their presentations are so smooth that most people are mesmerized by them. Often attractive physically with excellent communications skills, they can captivate any audience within a short period of time. I know of spiritual gurus who travel the world, peddling their packages or retreats which cost $1000 to $3000 for less than a week. The goal is enlightenment----the expensive way. What happens if you don't have any money--That's too bad -- you are out of the spiritual loop. Where do true spirituality and spending a lot of money and attending a five day seminar meet-----NOWHERE! (By the way learning how to meditate and reach levels of calmness and deeper consciousness doesn't cost money. It requires your time and dedication).
Friday, February 27, 2015
Boundaries & Detachment
Lessons About Emotional Detachment / Boundaries
Part 1: The Incredible Shrinking Relatives
Learning to set boundaries is part of the healing process after any form of abuse. This task can be complicated. It seems there will always be people who want to upset you. They could be family members who deny that abuse took place. They could be the offenders or their allies who are still a part of your life. Their comments, expressions, or attitudes can hurt you and make your life much more difficult.
You handle people like this by using an emotional tool called detachment. Like any other emotional process, it is a skill you can learn. It takes practice. But keep working, and you will diminish the effect these people have on your life.
EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT LESSONSMake Them Smaller
Handling the Rough Stuff
Take Care of Yourself First
Practice, Practice, Practice
Make Them Smaller
The first step to detachment is to "shrink" the unhealthy person.
This equation in emotional mathematics means adding things to your life automatically reduces the space taken up by unhealthy people and relationships. Expand your horizons. Occupy your mind with new ideas. The unhealthy person will occupy a smaller portion of your mind, and therefore your life.
The unhealthy people in your life use guilt to keep you enslaved. When you begin to detach, you are upsetting the status quo, and they will use guilt to bludgeon you back into place.
Resisting this tactic is difficult but not impossible. Learn to recognize the guilt trip. Think about why they are doing this. You are trying to take care of yourself, and some people will go to great lengths to stop you. They want to maintain the status quo.
Accept that these unhealthy people will never grant their approval. This is a vital part of letting go. In fact, withholding approval is a most effective weapon to keep you enslaved.
When you let go, and honestly don't care if they approve of you, they will have a hard time hiding their surprise. Watch as they mentally scramble to think of another tactic to keep you entangled.
Realize that the other person's problem is not yours. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that no matter how hard you try, you can never, ever, ever change how another person acts. The only thing you can change is your reaction to them. You can fight the guilt they inspire. You can take care of yourself.
Stock PhrasesThe unhealthy people in your life often try to catch you off guard, or will try to ensnare you in a hopeless problem. The response to both tactics is to memorize some stock phrases. Some examples: "Hm. Interesting." "Wow, that's too bad." Or my favorite: "Huh. What are you going to do about that?" The last one is very effective, since these people want you to fix their problems. This response turns the tables on them. You express interest without offering to fix the problem, and force them to offer solutions. Then you conclude with, "Well, that sounds like a good plan. Good luck with it!"
When I felt required to fix things for other people, I remember my therapist asking, "Has this person been declared incompetent? Has the state institutionalized them? No? Then they have the ability to act responsibly and fix this by themselves."
This good point inspires another type of stock response: flattery. "You're a smart person. I have confidence in your ability to solve this." How can they argue with that? Are they going to insist that they're not smart?
Part 2: Set Your Boundaries
It is critical to spend less time with the person you are detaching from. You can decline invitations. You can make excuses and stay away. You can claim illness. You can complain about your crowded work schedule, or how busy you are with the kids. Sure, you have been taught that it's wrong to lie. Well, in this case, it's good to lie. Taking care of yourself is more important than showing up every time. Besides, they lie to you all the time, don't they?
Another effective tactic using this point is to complain at length about how busy you are. The person you're detaching from doesn't care about your problems. Often, they want to talk about their problems. If they keep hearing about your problems, they may stop calling.
Handling The Rough Stuff
The person you're detaching from can be very abusive.
Often, the reward they seek is to see the hurt in your eyes and the feeling of power they receive from being the cause of that hurt.
Recognizing this fact will give you unexpected power. The verbal jab is blunted when you know it's only meant to hurt you. And you can deny them the pleasure they seek. Don't debate the point. They want to keep the topic going because they know it's hurting you. Think of the verbal jab as a spitball thrown at you. If you laugh, or pretend you didn't hear it, or do anything else instead of looking hurt, it's the equivalent of ducking and letting the spitball sail by. Shrug off the comment as lightly as possible, and then bring up a topic of your own -- one that you know is distasteful to your tormentor. Doing this will deny them their reward, and give negative reinforcement. Eventually, they will stop attacking you. Bullies like an easy target.
Some examples are in order here. I know a man with verbally abusive parents. He learned to respond -- every time! -- by talking about his brother, who was gay. He described his brother's romantic exploits with enthusiasm, knowing his parents were very uncomfortable with the whole subject.
I know a woman whose uncle was verbally abusive and constantly made comments about her childhood molestation by another uncle. This woman learned to respond by staring at him, appearing distracted (and pretending she wasn't listening), then pointing to a spot on her uncle's face, neck or arms, and asking, "Does that look cancerous to you? Maybe you should get it checked."
Her uncle knew she was saying that as a defense. But he still hated it. And he stopped bothering her.
Take Care Of Yourself
In every life, there are other parts that are good. You have a right and a duty to focus on the good parts. If you have a good husband and child, or sweet pets who adore you, but your mother is making your life a living hell, give yourself permission to focus your time and energy on the good things.
Remember the old phrase, "Listen to your gut?" Don't do that. The unhealthy people in your life use guilt and manipulation to inspire a gut reaction from you. I remember my therapist telling me, "Of course they're good at pushing your buttons! They installed them!" Instead, use your intellect to talk back to your gut feelings. You know that person is no good for you. You know your energies are better spent elsewhere. Take care of yourself. Do what's right for you. Say to yourself over and over again, "Taking care of myself must be my first emotional priority."
There's a book that is very helpful for this step. It's called Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. Buy it and read it.
Practice, Practice, Practice
When you start this process, realize that you will slip up. You have spent all of your life in your relationship with this person, so give yourself a break. Don't punish yourself if you don't detach perfectly. Learn from every experience and try to do a little better next time. Be patient and persistent.
Detaching is a vital skill to practice on someone you are unable or unwilling to completely shut out of your life. You can even still love that person if you want to, even though you have detached. Your goal is to recognize the relationships that are not good for you, and make them a smaller part of your life. You can still care about unhealthy people, if you choose. But at the same time, you can prevent them from running (or ruining) your life.
KUDOS TO DOUG LARSEN (http://incestabuse.about.com/mbiopage.htm)
Doug Larsen is a trained grassroots women's advocate.
Doug has counseled battered women, rape survivors, handled the Crisis Hotline, and has looked into the eyes of four-year-old molested children. He also chairs a local HIV/AIDS support group.
Doug holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Political Science from St. Olaf College and -- almost -- has a Master's in Business Communication from The University of St. Thomas. He just never got around to writing his darned thesis.
From Douglas Larsen:
"I believe that education and communication are keys to preventing abuse and incest. Whether you are a survivor, friend, or family member, you will find resources available for help. You don't have to be alone."