Sanctuary for the Abused

Saturday, August 17, 2019

How Friends & Family Can Help an Abuse Victim


HOW FRIENDS AND FAMILY CAN HELP AN ABUSE VICTIM


Family can have a great impact on the recovery of an abuse victim. Here is a brief description of things that family can do to help heal the heaviest of hearts and the deepest of wounds.

LISTEN: Although the thought of addressing an abusive relationship can be a difficult one, an abuse victim needs communication to help heal. Something as simple as letting the abuse victim talk to you and "vent" can make such a considerable difference in their recovery.

THINGS TO DO TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT: Be supportive. Really listen and indicate that you care

Help them receive help. See to it that they receive sensitive, concerned, and competent medical attention and/or counseling.

Recognize your own limitations in dealing with the abuse. If the survivor is a person you really care about, you are probably experiencing a number of different emotions from outrage to helplessness. Try to resist the urge to express your feelings to the survivor, especially in those silent periods when she may be crying or find it difficult to talk.

Block the abuser and do not communicate with them: 'Not taking sides' or 'remaining neutral' is anything but.  Block the abuser, support the victim.  Period.

Remember to take care of yourself. It can be emotionally exhausting to be supportive to the survivor, while keeping your feelings bottled up. Find someone you can talk to-your feeling matter too. By talking out your feelings with someone other than the survivor, you will be better able to provide the continuing support that the survivor needs.

Remember to put your frustration and anger where it belongs, not on the survivor. They are not "damaged property"; but instead a person who has been abused and violently mistreated.

Your personal revenge against the abuser will not help, and in fact only make matters worse.

HOW FRIENDS AND FAMILY CAN HURT
How many times have you heard the phrase, "well, why don't you just leave him/her?" Probably more times then you can count. Although the topic of abuse is something that many of us can relate to, there are those out there who don't quite understand. In fact, one of the common reasons that abuse victims stay with their abuser is because of family issues, and fear of their family's rejection.

DENIAL/ MISPLACED BLAMING:
Accepting the fact that you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship is very difficult, and often times we do anything we can to push that possibility away. We would all like to believe that it "can not happen to us/those around us" but unfortunately, it can and it does. A common defense mechanism for friends and family of abuse victims is to pretend that the abuse is not taking place. Friends and family attempt to change the subject, become upset once the topic is unavoidable, and even accuse the victim of lying. Some even say "it was your choice" which it wasn't.  Not at all.

Although this is not the case in every situation, it happens more often then not. Through this system of lack of support or denial the victim becomes more isolated and eventually more connected to their abuser. Once this feeling of isolation has thoroughly sunk in the mind of an abuse victim, it becomes even more difficult to leave. An abuser has a powerful hold on their victim, and without assistance from family or friends, that hold can become almost unbreakable. After all, why leave if there is nothing else to go to?

THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO:
Ask for specifics and details. Allow the survivor to express their feelings, fears and reactions as they choose.

Tell the survivor what they must and must not do. It is their decision whether or not to report the abuse to the police. If they do not decide to report the abuse, still remain supportive and help them in any way possible.

Make the survivor feel guilty. The survivor has already been through an ordeal; try not to make it worse by using statements such as, "Why did you" or "How could you" or "Why didn't you just leave" or "Just forget them" or "move on/ get over it" or "I don't believe that - are you for real?" or "Don't answer the phone/ etc" ? These statements will only make the survivor feel worse, and further isolate them from seeking help.

Tell anyone about the abuse, unless specified by the survivor. If you need to talk out your feelings, that is fine. But please remember that this is a hard time for the survivor, and they do not want any unnecessary people knowing about the abuse, unless it is on their terms. Let the survivor tell people at their own pace, and in their own way.

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Crazy Roller Coaster Ride: Life with a Psychopath from Idealization to Devaluation


by Claudia Moscovici

Life with a psychopath quickly turns into a crazy roller coaster ride. Psychopaths usually retain the appearance of calm, even in the face of great duress. However, sharing your life with a psychopath for any significant period of time means living with constant drama and extreme ups and downs. There are four main reasons for this, three of which I’ve alluded to in previous posts and a fourth that I’d like to examine in greater detail today:

1) The psychopath, not being capable of forming deep emotional attachments, is very easily bored. Consequently, he (or she) will need to provoke constant drama in his personal and sometimes even his professional life, for entertainment.

2) The psychopath, aiming for power and control over others, generally becomes involved sexually and romantically with many individuals at once. This in itself will create a lot of mutual jealousy, fighting over him and drama (among those targets that know of each other), once again, entertaining the psychopath and demonstrating his dominance over his victims.

3) A psychopath will engage in arbitrary displays of power, to maintain control over his targets. If he got upset in a rational manner only for legitimate reasons, this would not demonstrate his power nor psychologically and emotionally unhinge those around him. Psychopaths are always tyrants: be it of their small families or of an entire nation. Whether they wield power over few or over many, their behavior is similar, as are their techniques of maintaining control (deceit, brainwashing, isolation, abuse interspersed with small favors and arbitrary displays of power, manifested from anything to physical violence to gaslighting and emotional abuse and, in some cases, to death itself).

4) However, there’s an aspect of the roller coaster ride–the constant ups and downs, the extreme idealization and the bitter devaluation–which is even harder for victims to accept. It’s nearly impossible for victims to understand why somebody who made such a great effort to seduce you; who couldn’t praise you enough; who gave you so many romantic gifts; who said “I love you Baby” more often than “hello”; who seemed to be lost in your eyes could all of a sudden perceive you as a nothing and a nobody; insult your appearance, accomplishments and intellect; criticize and stab you in the back to others and–above all–hate you as the worst enemy of their lives. I believe that this dramatic and seemingly unmotivated shift from high to low regard absolutely stuns victims of psychopaths, leading some of them to wonder what they did wrong to provoke it.


The answer usually is: you did nothing wrong. In some cases, the flattery and gifts were only a ruse the psychopath used to get whatever he may have wanted from you: be it money, sex, or a cover of normalcy. In other cases, however, the flattery was genuine: which, of course, also means genuinely shallow. It was a sign that the psychopath’s pursuit of you was extremely exciting and rewarding to him. You were (for a period of time) a very high priority because of the immediate gratification the relationship with you offered him.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that he didn’t cheat on you, that he didn’t lie to you, or that he treated you well. It only means that he took the trouble to deceive you and hide his secret lives far better because that was the only way to get from you whatever he wanted at the time. He couldn’t have obtained your trust, your love, your commitment, or your wealth without doing everything possible to convince you of the lie that he, himself was capable of trust, love and commitment.

The high in your relationship is therefore explicable in terms of the time required to lure you, to get you to buy the false image and bond to him. The low is explicable in terms of his need to control and dominate you. Later, it’s also the manifestation of the final phase of the relationship–the discard phase–when the psychopath finally exposed himself for what he is. At that point, he either left you or you left him. Usually, however, psychopaths never leave you for good, but return from time to time to probe for more supply and to destabilize your life.

But it seems as if the psychopath’s devaluation of you is so filled with bitterness, hatred and sometimes even violence that it can’t be fully explained in terms of him tiring of you and moving on to other promising victims. Loving couples can grow apart and leave each other for better matches and lives. Non-loving couples can grow apart once they’re no longer useful to one another. But a psychopath takes this process one step further, to discard his ex-lovers with a degree of vitriol and hatred that astonishes his victims and exceeds any boundaries of normality.

This becomes most obvious in those cases when psychopaths kill their ex-partners and dispose of their bodies as if they were a pile of garbage. Fortunately, this only happens rarely: and when it does, we tend to hear about it on the news. However, even psychopaths who don’t engage in such extreme behavior manifest an inexplicably strong vitriol towards their former partners, particularly towards those who left them of their own volition.

It’s as if a psychopath feels doubly betrayed in those cases: not only for being rejected by you, but also for the fact you’re no longer living up to the unrealistic ideal of the honeymoon phase of the relationship. He projects the blame for the diminished excitement in the relationship unto you. What’s wrong with you that you don’t thrill him anymore, as you did in the beginning of his hot pursuit? Is it because you’re not beautiful enough? Is it because you’re not smart enough? Or rich enough? Or sexual and sensual enough? What do you do wrong and how do you fail to meet his needs?

Failing to accept any responsibility for anything in life, a psychopath never really blames himself for any failure in his relationships. Someone else, or circumstances, are always to blame. Like a child who tires of an old mechanical toy and smashes it to the ground when it no longer works, so the psychopath destroys old relationships (along with their positive associations in his mind) after he tires of each of his partners. For a psychopath, it’s not enough to end a dying relationship. He must also demolish that person and what she once represented to him. The higher you were initially idealized by a psychopath, the lower you will fall in his eyes when the relationship inevitably fizzles out. Hatred and contempt will fill the place in his empty heart, which was temporarily filled by shallow admiration and lust.

SOURCE

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Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Abuse Victims Engage in Dangerous "Magical Thinking"


Personality disorders are not only all-pervasive, but also diffuse and shape-shifting. It is taxing and emotionally harrowing to watch how a loved one is consumed by these pernicious and largely incurable conditions. Victims adopt varying stances and react in different ways to the inevitable abuse involved in relationships with personality disordered patients.

1. Destructive & Unrealistic Optimism
A form of self-delusion, refusing to believe that some diseases are untreatable. Malignant optimists see signs of hope in every fluctuation, read meanings and patterns into every random occurrence, utterance, or slip. These Pollyanna defenses are varieties of magical thinking.

"The abusers hold such thinking in barely undisguised contempt. To them, it is a sign of weakness, the scent of prey, a gaping vulnerability. They use and exploit this human need for order, good, and meaning - as they use and abuse all other human needs. Gullibility, selective blindness, toxic optimism - these are the weapons of theses beasts. And the abused are hard at work to provide it with its arsenal."

2. Rescue Fantasies

"It is true that he is chauvinistic and that his behaviour is unacceptable and repulsive. But all he needs is a little love and he will be straightened out. I will rescue him from his misery and misfortune. I will give him the love that he lacked as a child. Then his (narcissism, psychopathy, paranoia, reclusiveness, abusiveness) will vanish and we will live happily ever after."


3. Self-recrimination
Constant feelings of guilt, self-reproach, self-recrimination and, thus, self-punishment.

The victims of sadists, paranoids, narcissists, borderlines, passive-aggressives, sociopaths and psychopaths internalises the endless hectoring and humiliating criticism and makes them her own. She begins to self-punish, to withhold, to request approval prior to any action, to forgo her preferences and priorities, to erase her own identity - hoping to thus avoid the excruciating pains of her partner's or her clueless friend's destructive analyses.

They often take to a glass or 2 of wine, medication and other pursuits to numb reality.

Many of these partners, when they realise their situation (it is very difficult to discern it from the inside), abandon the personality disordered partner and dismantle the relationship. They are often called "bitter" or "hateful" by others who choose to continue to cling to magical thinking.

Others prefer to believe in the healing power of love or God/ Prayer . But here love is wasted on a human shell (the abuser), incapable of feeling anything but negative emotions.

4. Emulation
The psychiatric profession uses the word: "epidemiology" when it describes the prevalence of personality disorders. Are personality disorders communicable diseases? In a way, they are.

"The affected entertain the (false) notion that they can compartmentalize their abusive (e.g., narcissistic, or psychopathic) behavior and direct it only at their victimizers. In other words, they trust in their ability to segregate their conduct and to be verbally abusive towards the abuser while civil and compassionate with others, to act with malice where their mentally-ill partner is concerned and with "Christian charity" towards all others.


They believe that they can turn on and off their negative feelings, their abusive outbursts, their vindictiveness and vengefulness, their blind rage, their "non-discriminating" judgment.


This, of course, is untrue. These behaviors spill over into daily transactions with innocent neighbors, colleagues, family members, co-workers, or customers. One cannot be partly or temporarily vindictive and judgmental any more than one can be partly or temporarily pregnant.


They judge and chide anyone who doesn't go along with their POSITIVE THINKING attitudes or who embraces reality rather than numbing it. Thereby passing on abuse. "To heal is to not feel" is their motto.


To their horror, these victims discover that they have been changed and transformed into their worst nightmare: into their abusers - judgmental, malevolent, vicious, lacking empathy, egotistical, exploitative, violent and abusive."

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Saturday, August 03, 2019

Stockholm Syndrome & Cognitive Dissonance

The Mystery of Loving an Abuser

By Joseph M. Carver, PhD -- Mental Health Professional, Clinical Psychologist

People are often amazed at their own psychological conditions and reactions. Those with depression are stunned when they remember they've thought of killing themselves. Patients recovering from severe psychiatric disturbances are often shocked as they remember their symptoms and behavior during the episode. A patient with Bipolar Disorder recently told me "I can't believe I thought I could change the weather through mental telepathy!" A common reaction is "I can't believe I did that!"

In clinical practice, some of the most surprised and shocked individuals are those who have been involved in controlling and abusive relationships. When the relationship ends, they offer comments such as:


Recently I've heard "This doesn't make sense. He's got a new girlfriend and he's abusing her too… but I'm jealous!" Friends and relatives are even more amazed and shocked when they hear these comments or witness their loved one returning to an abusive relationship. While the situation doesn't make sense from a social standpoint, does it make sense from a psychological viewpoint? The answer is - Yes!

On August 23rd, 1973 two machine-gun carrying criminals entered a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Blasting their guns, one prison escapee named Jan-Erik Olsson announced to the terrified bank employees "The party has just begun!" The two bank robbers held four hostages, three women and one man, for the next 131 hours. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a bank vault until finally rescued on August 28th.

After their rescue, the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering they were threatened, abused, and feared for their lives for over five days. In their media interviews, it was clear that they supported their captors and actually feared law enforcement personnel who came to their rescue. The hostages had begun to feel the captors were actually protecting them from the police. One woman later became engaged to one of the criminals and another developed a legal defense fund to aid in their criminal defense fees. Clearly, the hostages had "bonded" emotionally with their captors.

While the psychological condition in hostage situations became known as "Stockholm Syndrome" due to the publicity – the emotional "bonding" with captors was a familiar story in psychology. It had been recognized many years before and was found in studies of other hostage, prisoner, or abusive situations such as:

* Abused Children/ Adults
* Battered/Abused Women
* Prisoners of War
* Cult Members
* Incest Victims
* Criminal Hostage Situations
* Controlling/Intimidating Relationships
* Betrayal Victims
* Abusive, Controlling Boss

In the final analysis, emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation. The "Stockholm Syndrome" reaction in hostage and/or abuse situations is so well recognized at this time that police hostage negotiators no longer view it as unusual. In fact, it is often encouraged in crime situations as it improves the chances for survival of the hostages. On the down side, it also assures that the hostages experiencing "Stockholm Syndrome" will not be very cooperative during rescue or criminal prosecution. Local law enforcement personnel have long recognized this syndrome with battered women who fail to press charges, bail their battering husband/boyfriend out of jail, and even physically attack police officers when they arrive to rescue them from a violent assault.

Stockholm Syndrome (SS) can also be found in family, romantic, and interpersonal relationships. The abuser may be a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, friend, sibling, father or mother, boss, or any other role in which the abuser is in a position of control or authority.

It's important to understand the components of Stockholm Syndrome as they relate to abusive and controlling relationships. Once the syndrome is understood, it's easier to understand why victims support, love, and even defend their abusers and controllers.

Every syndrome has symptoms or behaviors and Stockholm Syndrome is no exception. While a clear-cut list has not been established due to varying opinions by researchers and experts, several of these features will be present:

* Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller
* Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends, or authorities trying to rescue/support them or win their release
* Support of the abuser's reasons and behaviors
* Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim
* Supportive behaviors by the victim, at times helping the abuser
* Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release or detachment

Stockholm Syndrome doesn't occur in every hostage or abusive situation. In another bank robbery involving hostages, after terrorizing patrons and employees for many hours, a police sharpshooter shot and wounded the terrorizing bank robber. After he hit the floor, two women picked him up and physically held him up to the window for another shot. As you can see, the length of time one is exposed to abuse/control and other factors are certainly involved.

It has been found that four situations or conditions are present that serve as a foundation for the development of Stockholm Syndrome. These four situations can be found in hostage, severe abuse, and abusive relationships:

* The presence of a perceived threat to one's physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat
* The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim
* Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser
* The perceived inability to escape the situation

By considering each situation we can understand how Stockholm Syndrome develops in romantic relationships as well as criminal/hostage situations. Looking at each situation:
Perceived threat to one's physical/psychological survival

The perception of threat can be formed by direct, indirect, or witnessed methods. Criminal or antisocial partners can directly threaten your life or the life of friends and family. Their history of violence leads us to believe that the captor/controller will carry out the threat in a direct manner if we fail to comply with their demands. The abuser assures us that only our cooperation keeps our loved ones safe.

Indirectly, the abuser/controller offers subtle threats that you will never leave them or have another partner, reminding you that people in the past have paid dearly for not following their wishes. Hints are often offered such as "I know people who can make others disappear". Indirect threats also come from the stories told by the abuser or controller – how they obtained revenge on those who have crossed them in the past. These stories of revenge are told to remind the victim that revenge is possible if they leave.

Witnessing violence or aggression is also a perceived threat. Witnessing a violent temper directed at a television set, others on the highway, or a third party clearly sends us the message that we could be the next target for violence. Witnessing the thoughts and attitudes of the abuser/controller is threatening and intimidating, knowing that we will be the target of those thoughts in the future.

The "Small Kindness" Perception
In threatening and survival situations, we look for evidence of hope – a small sign that the situation may improve. When an abuser/controller shows the victim some small kindness, even though it is to the abusers benefit as well, the victim interprets that small kindness as a positive trait of the captor. In criminal/war hostage situations, letting the victim live is often enough. Small behaviors, such as allowing a bathroom visit or providing food/water, are enough to strengthen the Stockholm Syndrome in criminal hostage events.

In relationships with abusers, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat are interpreted as not only positive, but evidence that the abuser is not "all bad" and may at some time correct his/her behavior. Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner, when the partner would have normally been subjected to verbal or physical abuse in a certain situation. An aggressive and jealous partner may normally become intimidating or abusive in certain social situations, as when an opposite-sex coworker waves in a crowd. After seeing the wave, the victim expects to be verbally battered and when it doesn't happen, that "small kindness" is interpreted as a positive sign.

Similar to the small kindness perception is the perception of a "soft side". During the relationship, the abuser/controller may share information about their past – how they were mistreated, abused, neglected, or wronged. The victim begins to feel the abuser/controller may be capable of fixing their behavior or worse yet, that they (abuser) may also be a "victim". Sympathy may develop toward the abuser and we often hear the victim of Stockholm Syndrome defending their abuser with "I know he fractured my jaw and ribs…but he's troubled. He had a rough childhood!" Losers and abusers may admit they need psychiatric help or acknowledge they are mentally disturbed, however, it's almost always after they have already abused or intimidated the victim. The admission is a way of denying responsibility for the abuse. In truth, personality disorders and criminals have learned over the years that personal responsibility for their violent/abusive behaviors can be minimized and even denied by blaming their bad upbringing, abuse as a child, and now - video games. One murderer blamed his crime on eating too much junk food – now known as the "Twinkie Defense". While it may be true that the abuser/controller had a difficult upbringing – showing sympathy for his/her history produces no change in their behavior and in fact, prolongs the length of time you will be abused. While "sad stories" are always included in their apologies – after the abusive/controlling event - their behavior never changes! Keep in mind; once you become hardened to the "sad stories", they will simply try another approach. I know of no victim of abuse or crime who has heard their abuser say "I'm beating (robbing, mugging, etc.) you because my Mom hated me!"

Isolation from Perspectives Other than those of the Captor
In abusive and controlling relationships, the victim has the sense they are always "walking on eggshells" – fearful of saying or doing anything that might prompt a violent/intimidating outburst. For their survival, they begin to see the world through the abuser's perspective. They begin to fix things that might prompt an outburst, act in ways they know makes the abuser happy, or avoid aspects of their own life that may prompt a problem. If we only have a dollar in our pocket, then most of our decisions become financial decisions. If our partner is an abuser or controller, then the majority of our decisions are based on our perception of the abuser's potential reaction. We become preoccupied with the needs, desires, and habits of the abuser/controller.

Taking the abuser's perspective as a survival technique can become so intense that the victim actually develops anger toward those trying to help them. The abuser is already angry and resentful toward anyone who would provide the victim support, typically using multiple methods and manipulations to isolate the victim from others. Any contact the victim has with supportive people in the community is met with accusations, threats, and/or violent outbursts. Victims then turn on their family – fearing family contact will cause additional violence and abuse in the home. At this point, victims curse their parents and friends, tell them not to call and stop interfering, and break off communication with others. Agreeing with the abuser/controller, supportive others are now viewed as "causing trouble" and must be avoided. Many victims threaten their family and friends with restraining orders if they continue to "interfere" or try to help the victim in their situation. On the surface it would appear that they have sided with the abuser/controller. In truth, they are trying to minimize contact situation that might make them a target of additional verbal abuse or intimidation. If a casual phone call from Mom prompts a two-hour temper outburst with threats and accusations – the victim quickly realizes it's safer if Mom stops calling. If simply telling Mom to stop calling doesn't work, for his or her own safety the victim may accuse Mom of attempting to ruin the relationship and demand that she stop calling.

In severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome in relationships, the victim may have difficulty leaving the abuser and may actually feel the abusive situation is their fault. In law enforcement situations, the victim may actually feel the arrest of their partner for physical abuse or battering is their fault. Some women will allow their children to be removed by child protective agencies rather than give up the relationship with their abuser. As they take the perspective of the abuser, the children are at fault – they complained about the situation, they brought the attention of authorities to the home, and they put the adult relationship at risk. Sadly, the children have now become a danger to the victim's safety. For those with Stockholm Syndrome, allowing the children to be removed from the home decreases their victim stress while providing an emotionally and physically safer environment for the children.

Perceived Inability to Escape
As a hostage in a bank robbery, threatened by criminals with guns, it's easy to understand the perceived inability to escape. In romantic relationships, the belief that one can't escape is also very common. Many abusive/controlling relationships feel like till-death-do-us-part relationships – locked together by mutual financial issues/assets, mutual intimate knowledge, or legal situations. Here are some common situations:

* Controlling partners have increased the financial obligations/debt in the relationship to the point that neither partner can financially survive on their own. Controllers who sense their partner may be leaving will often purchase a new automobile, later claiming they can't pay alimony or child support due to their large car payments.

* The legal ending of a relationship, especially a martial relationship, often creates significant problems. A Controller who has an income that is "under the table" or maintained through legally questionable situations runs the risk of those sources of income being investigated or made public by the divorce/separation. The Controller then becomes more agitated about the possible public exposure of their business arrangements than the loss of the relationship.

* The Controller often uses extreme threats including threatening to take the children out of state, threatening to quit their job/business rather than pay alimony/support, threatening public exposure of the victim's personal issues, or assuring the victim they will never have a peaceful life due to nonstop harassment. In severe cases, the Controller may threaten an action that will undercut the victim's support such as "I'll see that you lose your job" or "I'll have your automobile burned".

* Controllers often keep the victim locked into the relationship with severe guilt – threatening suicide if the victim leaves. The victim hears "I'll kill myself in front of the children", "I'll set myself on fire in the front yard", or "Our children won't have a father/mother if you leave me!"

* In relationships with an abuser or controller, the victim has also experienced a loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, and psychological energy. The victim may feel "burned out" and too depressed to leave. Additionally, abusers and controllers often create a type of dependency by controlling the finances, placing automobiles/homes in their name, and eliminating any assets or resources the victim may use to leave. In clinical practice I've heard "I'd leave but I can't even get money out of the savings account! I don't know the PIN number."

* In teens and young adults, victims may be attracted to a controlling individual when they feel inexperienced, insecure, and overwhelmed by a change in their life situation. When parents are going through a divorce, a teen may attach to a controlling individual, feeling the controller may stabilize their life. Freshmen in college may be attracted to controlling individuals who promise to help them survive living away from home on a college campus.

In unhealthy relationships and definitely in Stockholm Syndrome there is a daily preoccupation with "trouble". Trouble is any individual, group, situation, comment, casual glance, or cold meal that may produce a temper tantrum or verbal abuse from the controller or abuser. To survive, "trouble" is to be avoided at all costs. The victim must control situations that produce trouble. That may include avoiding family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who may create "trouble" in the abusive relationship. The victim does not hate family and friends; they are only avoiding "trouble"! The victim also cleans the house, calms the children, scans the mail, avoids certain topics, and anticipates every issue of the controller or abuse in an effort to avoid "trouble". In this situation, children who are noisy become "trouble". Loved ones and friends are sources of "trouble" for the victim who is attempting to avoid verbal or physical aggression.

Stockholm Syndrome in relationships is not uncommon. Law enforcement professionals are painfully aware of the situation – making a domestic dispute one of the high-risk calls during the work hours. Called by neighbors during a spousal abuse incident, the abuser is passive upon arrival of the police, only to find the abused spouse upset and threatening the officers if their abusive partner is arrested for domestic violence. In truth, the victim knows the abuser/controller will retaliate against him/her if

1) they encourage an arrest,
2) they offer statements about the abuse/fight that are deemed disloyal by the abuser,
3) they don't bail them out of jail as quickly as possible, and
4) they don't personally apologize for the situation – as though it was their fault.

Stockholm Syndrome produces an unhealthy bond with the controller and abuser. It is the reason many victims continue to support an abuser after the relationship is over. It's also the reason they continue to see "the good side" of an abusive individual and appear sympathetic to someone who has mentally and sometimes physically abused them.

Is There Something Else Involved?
In a short response – Yes! Throughout history, people have found themselves supporting and participating in life situations that range from abusive to bizarre. In talking to these active and willing participants in bad and bizarre situations, it is clear they have developed feelings and attitudes that support their participation. One way these feelings and thoughts are developed is known as "cognitive dissonance". As you can tell, psychologists have large words and phrases for just about everything.

"Cognitive Dissonance" explains how and why people change their ideas and opinions to support situations that do not appear to be healthy, positive, or normal. In the theory, an individual seeks to reduce information or opinions that make him or her uncomfortable. When we have two sets of cognitions (knowledge, opinion, feelings, input from others, etc.) that are the opposite, the situation becomes emotionally uncomfortable. Even though we might find ourselves in a foolish or difficult situation – few want to admit that fact. Instead, we attempt to reduce the dissonance - the fact that our cognitions don't match, agree, or make sense when combined. "Cognitive Dissonance" can be reduced by adding new cognitions – adding new thoughts and attitudes. Some examples:

* Heavy smokers know smoking causes lung cancer and multiple health risks. To continue smoking, the smoker changes his cognitions (thoughts/feelings) such as
1) "I'm smoking less than ten years ago",
2) "I'm smoking low-tar cigarettes",
3) "Those statistics are made up by the cancer industry conspiracy", or
4) "Something's got to get you anyway!"

These new cognitions/attitudes allow them to keep smoking and actually begin blaming restaurants for being unfair.

* You purchase a $40,000.00 Sport Utility Vehicle that gets 8 miles a gallon. You justify the expense and related issues with 1) "It's great on trips (you take one trip per year)", 2) "I can use it to haul stuff (one coffee table in 12 months), and 3) "You can carry a lot of people in it  (95% of your trips are driver-only)."

* Your husband/boyfriend becomes abusive and assaultive. You can't leave due to the finances, children, or other factors. Through cognitive dissonance, you begin telling yourself "He only hits me open-handed" and "He's had a lot of stress at work."

Leon Festinger first coined "Cognitive Dissonance". He had observed a cult (1956) in which members gave up their homes, incomes, and jobs to work for the cult. This cult believed in messages from outer space that predicted the day the world would end by a flood. As cult members and firm believers, they believed they would be saved by flying saucers at the appointed time. As they gathered and waited to be taken by flying saucers at the specified time, the end-of-the-world came and went. No flood and no flying saucer! Rather than believing they were foolish after all that personal and emotional investment – they decided their beliefs had actually saved the world from the flood and they became firmer in their beliefs after the failure of the prophecy. The moral – the more you invest (income, job, home, time, effort, etc.) the stronger your need to justify your position. If we invest $5.00 in a raffle ticket, we justify losing with "I'll get them next time". If you invest everything you have, it requires an almost unreasoning belief and unusual attitude to support and justify that investment.

Studies tell us we are more loyal and committed to something that is difficult, uncomfortable, and even humiliating. The initiation rituals of college fraternities, Marine boot camp, and graduate school all produce loyal and committed individuals. Almost any ordeal creates a bonding experience. Every couple, no matter how mismatched, falls in love in the movies after going through a terrorist takeover, being stalked by a killer, being stranded on an island, or being involved in an alien abduction. Investment and an ordeal are ingredients for a strong bonding – even if the bonding is unhealthy. No one bonds or falls in love by being a member of the Automobile Club or a music CD club. Struggling to survive on a deserted island – you bet!

Abusive relationships produce a great amount on unhealthy investment in both parties. In many cases we tend to remain and support the abusive relationship due to our investment in the relationship. Try telling a new Marine that since he or she has survived boot camp, they should now enroll in the National Guard! Several types of investments keep us in the bad relationship:

* Emotional Investment – We've invested so many emotions, cried so much, and worried so much that we feel we must see the relationship through to the finish.

* Social Investment – We've got our pride! To avoid social embarrassment and uncomfortable social situations, we remain in the relationship.

* Family Investments – If children are present in the relationship, decisions regarding the relationship are clouded by the status and needs of the children.

* Financial Investment – In many cases, the controlling and abusive partner has created a complex financial situation. Many victims remain in a bad relationship, waiting for a better financial situation to develop that would make their departure and detachment easier.

* Lifestyle Investment – Many controlling/abusive partners use money or a lifestyle as an investment. Victims in this situation may not want to lose their current lifestyle.

* Intimacy Investment – We often invest emotional and sexual intimacy. Some victims have experienced a destruction of their emotional and/or sexual self-esteem in the unhealthy relationship. The abusing partner may threaten to spread rumors or tell intimate details or secrets. A type of blackmail using intimacy is often found in these situations.

In many cases, it's not simply our feelings for an individual that keeps us in an unhealthy relationship - it's often the amount of investment. Relationships are complex and we often only see the tip of the iceberg in public. For this reason, the most common phrase offered by the victim in defense of their unhealthy relationship is "You just don't understand!"
Combining Two Unhealthy Conditions

The combination of "Stockholm Syndrome" and "cognitive dissonance" produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed "all their eggs in one basket". The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

For reasons described above, the victim feels family and friends are a threat to the relationship and eventually to their personal health and existence. The more family/friends protest the controlling and abusive nature of the relationship, the more the victim develops cognitive dissonance and becomes defensive. At this point, family and friends become victims of the abusive and controlling individual.

Importantly, both Stockholm Syndrome and cognitive dissonance develop on an involuntary basis. The victim does not purposely invent this attitude. Both develop as an attempt to exist and survive in a threatening and controlling environment and relationship. Despite what we might think, our loved one is not in the unhealthy relationship to irritate, embarrass, or drive us to drink. What might have began as a normal relationship has turned into a controlling and abusive situation. They are trying to survive. Their personality is developing the feelings and thoughts needed to survive the situation and lower their emotional and physical risks. All of us have developed attitudes and feelings that help us accept and survive situations. We have these attitudes/feelings about our jobs, our community, and other aspects of our life. As we have found throughout history, the more dysfunctional the situation, the more dysfunctional our adaptation and thoughts to survive. The victim is engaged in an attempt to survive and make a relationship work. Once they decide it doesn't work and can't be fixed, they will need our support as we patiently await their decision to return to a healthy and positive lifestyle.

Family and Friends of the Victim
When a family is confronted with a loved one involved with a Loser or controlling/abusive individual, the situation becomes emotionally painful and socially difficult for the family. While each situation is different, some general guidelines to consider are:

* Your loved one, the "victim" of the Loser/Abuser, has probably been given a choice - the relationship or the family. This choice is made more difficult by the control and intimidation often present in abusive/controlling relationships. Knowing that choosing the family will result in severe personal and social consequences, the family always comes in second. Keep in mind that the victim knows in their heart the family will always love them and accept their return – whenever the return happens.

* Remember, the more you pressure the "victim" of the Loser/Abuser, the more you prove the their point. Your loved one is being told the family is trying to ruin their wonderful relationship. Pressure in the form of contacts, comments, and communications will be used as evidence against you. An invitation to a Tupperware party is met with "You see! They just want to get you by yourself so they can tell you bad things about me!" Increasing your contacts is viewed as "putting pressure" on their relationship – not being lovingly concerned.

* Your contacts with your loved one, no matter how routine and loving, may be met with anger and resentment. This is because each contact may prompt the Loser/Abuser to attack them verbally or emotionally. Imagine getting a four-hour lecture every time your Aunt Gladys calls. In a short time, you become angry each time she calls, knowing what the contact will produce in your home. The longer Aunt Gladys talks – the longer your lecture becomes! Thus, when Aunt Gladys calls, you want to get her off the phone as quickly as possible.

* The 1980's song, "Hold on Loosely", maybe the key to a good family and friend approach. Holding on too tight produces more pressure. When the victim is out of the home, it's often best to establish predictable, scheduled contacts. Calling every Wednesday evening, just for a status report or to go over current events, is less threatening than random calls during the week. Random calls are always viewed as "checking up on us" calls. While you may encounter an answering machine, leave a polite and loving message. Importantly, don't discuss the relationship (the controller may be listening!) unless the victim brings it up. The goal of these scheduled calls is to maintain contact, remind your loved one that you are always there to help, and to quietly remind the controller that family and loved ones are nearby and haven't disappeared.

* Try to maintain traditional and special contacts with your loved one - holidays, special occasions, etc. Keep your contacts short and brief, with no comments that can be used as evidence. Contacts made at "traditional" times – holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. – are not as threatening to a controller/abuser. Contacts that provide information, but not questions, are also not as threatening. An example might be a simple card reading "Just a note to let you know that your brother landed a new job this week. You might see him on a Wal-Mart commercial any day now. Love, Mom and Dad". This approach allows the victim to recognize that the family is there - waiting in the wings if needed. It also lessens the lectures/tantrums provided by the Loser as the contacts are on a traditional and expected basis. It's also hard to be angry about brother's new job without looking ridiculous. Also, don't invent holidays or send a reminder that it's Sigmund Freud's birthday. That's suspicious…even in my family.

* Remember that there are many channels of communication. It's important that we keep a channel open if at all possible. Communication channels might include phone calls, letters, cards, and e-mail. Scheduled monthly shopping trips or outings are helpful if possible. The goal is to maintain contact while your loved one is involved in the controlling/abusive relationship. Remember, the goal is contact, not pressure.

* Don't feel the victim's behavior is against the family or friends. It may be a form of survival or a way of lowering stress. Victims may be very resistive, angry, and even hostile due to the complexity of their relationship with the controller/abuser. They may even curse, threaten, and accuse loved ones and friends. This hostile defensiveness is actually self-protection in the relationship – an attempt to avoid "trouble".

* The victim needs to know and feel they are not rejected because of their behavior. Keep in mind, they are painfully aware of their situation. They know they are being treated badly and/or controlled by their partner. Frequent reminders of this will only make them want less contact. We naturally avoid people who remind us of things or situations that are emotionally painful.

* Victims may slightly open the door and provide information about their relationship or hint they may be considering leaving. When the door opens, don't jump through with the Marines behind you! Listen and simply offer support such as "You know your family is/ we are/ I am behind any decision you need to make and at any time you make it." They may be exploring what support is available but may not be ready to call in the troops just yet. Many victims use an "exit plan" that may take months or even years to complete. They may be gathering information at this point, not yet ready for an exit.

* We can get messages to people in two ways - the pipeline and the grapevine. The pipeline is face-to-face, telling the person directly. This seldom happens in Loser situations as controllers and abusers monitor and control contacts with others. However, the grapevine is still open. When we use the grapevine, we send a message to our loved one through another person. Victims of controlling and abusive individuals are often allowed to maintain a relationship with a few people, perhaps a sibling or best friend. We can send our loved one a message through that contact person, a message that voices our understanding and support. We don't send insults ("Bill is such a jerk!) or put-downs ("If he doesn't get out of this relationship he'll end up crazy!) - we send messages of love and support. We send "I hope she/he (victim) knows the family is concerned and that we love and support them." Comments sent on the grapevine are phrased with the understanding that our loved one will hear them in that manner. Don't talk with a grapevine contact to express anger and threaten to hire a hit man, and then try to send a message of loving support. Be careful what and how the message is provided. The grapevine contact can often get messages to the victim when we can't. It's another way of letting them know we're supporting them, just waiting to help if and when needed.

* Each situation is different. The family may need to seek counseling support in the community. A family consultation with a mental health professional or attorney may be helpful if the situation becomes legally complex or there is a significant danger of harm.

* As relatives or friends of a victim involved with a controller or abuser, our normal reaction is to consider dramatic action. We become angry, resentful, and aggressive at times. Our mind fills with a variety of plans that often range from rescue and kidnapping to ambushing the controller/abuser with a ball bat. A rule of thumb is that any aggression toward the controller/abuser will result in additional difficulties for your loved one. Try to remain calm and await an opportunity to show your love and support when your loved one needs it.

* In some cases, as in teenagers and young adults, the family may still provide some financial, insurance, or other support. When we receive angry responses to our phone calls, our anger and resentment tells us to cut off their support. I've heard "If she's going to date that jerk, it's not going to be in a car I'm paying for!" and "If he's choosing that woman over his family, he can drop out of college and flip hamburgers!" Withdrawing financial support only makes your loved one more dependent upon the controller/abuser. Remember, if we're aggressive by threatening, withdrawing support, or pressuring – we become the threatening force, not the controller/abuser. It actually moves the victim into the support of the controller. Sadly, the more of an "ordeal" they experience, the more bonding takes place as noted in Stockholm Syndrome and cognitive dissonance.

* As you might imagine, the combination of Stockholm Syndrome and cognitive dissonance may also be active when our loved one is involved in cults, unusual religions, and other groups. In some situations, the abuser and controller is actually a group or organization. Victims are punished if they are viewed as disloyal to the group. While this article deals with individual relationships, the family guidelines may be helpful in controlling-group situations.

Final Thoughts
You may be the victim of a controlling and abusive partner, seeking an understanding of your feelings and attitudes. You may have a son, daughter, or friend currently involved with a controlling and abusive partner, looking for ways to understand and help.

If a loved one is involved with a Loser, a controlling and abusing partner, the long-term outcome is difficult to determine due to the many factors involved. If their relationship is in the "dating" phase, they may end the relationship on their own. If the relationship has continued for over a year, they may require support and an exit plan before ending the relationship. Marriage and children further complicates their ability to leave the situation. When the victim decides to end the unhappy relationship, it's important that they view loved ones as supportive, loving, and understanding – not a source of pressure, guilt, or aggression.

This article is an attempt to understand the complex feelings and attitudes that are as puzzling to the victim as they are to family and friends. I've outlined recommendations for detaching from a Loser or controlling/abusive individual but clearly, there are more victims in this situation. It is hoped this article is helpful to family and friends who worry, cry, and have difficulty understanding the situation of their loved one. It has been said that knowledge is power. Hopefully this knowledge will prove helpful and powerful to victims and their loved ones.

Please consider this article as a general guideline. Some recommendations may be appropriate and helpful while some may not apply to a specific situation. In many cases, we may need additional professional help of a mental health or legal nature.


Dr. Carver has thirty years of clinical experience in a variety of settings including inpatient, outpatient, private practice, state hospitals, child-protective agencies, community mental health centers, neuro-rehabilitation, and now juvenile correctional facilities. He is currently in private practice and the Psychology Supervisor at Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility.


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Sunday, July 21, 2019

How a Psychopath Conditions His Victims


by Claudia Moscovici

In previous posts I have shown how psychopaths camouflage their real evil identities and bad intentions, to appear normal and even better than normal partners to their victims. What may seem surprising to those who have not experienced personally the psychopathic bond is why their victims put up with it once the bait and switch occurs and Mr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde. There’s no simple answer to this question, since the motivations and personalities of the victims themselves vary. Some stay out of fear, others out of extreme emotional dependency and love addiction, others because they, themselves, suffer from a personality disorder that bonds them to a psychopath. Today I’d like to delve into the question of why even relatively normal and healthy women can stay with psychopathic men after the initial luring phase is over and the relationship becomes overtly toxic.

Psychopaths are extremely skilled not just at pretending to be decent men, but also at dosing. As early as the luring phase of the relationship, when they appear to be loving and normal partners, they make deviant requests, under the guise of romantic love. For instance, they isolate their new partners from those who care about them–family and friends–by claiming that they’re so in love with them that they wish to spend as much time as possible together. If the psychopath’s partner wishes to go out with friends, he spreads gossip about those individuals, claiming that they were critical of her or of their relationship. Or the psychopath may state that he’s so much in love with his partner that he can’t bear to spend time apart from her.

Couched in these positive terms, many women allow their other, healthy, social relationships with family members and friends to slowly but surely deteriorate. The less support they have from others, the more such women invest themselves wholeheartedly in the psychopathic bond. Once he senses his power over her, the psychopath becomes more openly possessive and controlling. Psychopaths have an intuitive relationship barometer that tells them when they have achieved dominance over others and can demand more (and more and more…) from them.

Another way in which psychopaths condition their partners to accept a toxic relationship is by gradually pushing the envelope of deviant requests. Since psychopaths are easily bored and need constant thrills, they may initially ask their targets to make out in public, under the pretense that they’re so attracted to them that they can’t keep his hands off of them. In reality, however, psychopaths are not as attracted to their partners, even at the beginning of the relationship, as to the thrill of crossing the boundaries of public decency and demeaning their partners. Recall from my previous post that psychopaths are extreme narcissists who derive most pleasure from the dominance and victimization of others.

As soon as the victim complies with one perverse request, it becomes normative. After a short while, the psychopath will demand more indecent behavior from her, once again pretending that it stems from their great and special passion. Pretty soon, the victim finds herself complicit with his abnormal behavior, sometimes even addicted to it. Not surprisingly, this technique is often used by pimps to create loyalty and submission in the women and girls they ensnare into prostitution. What begins under the guise of romantic love and passion–something that most women yearn for–ends up being what it always was in reality and in the psychopath’s evil design: a form of sexual slavery.

Even partners who refuse to engage in the psychopath’s transgressive behavior–be it his scams, lies or sexual perversion–are inevitably poisoned by the toxic relationship if they continue to stay with him. The most common way in which a psychopath poisons his partner is to condition her to accept his abusive behavior as normal. This doesn’t have to be under the form of physical violence, although it can be. 

More commonly, however, any person who stays with a psychopath becomes gradually used to bigger and bigger doses of emotional abuse. 

When she catches the psychopath cheating on her for the first time, she may have a normal reaction and break up with him. But if she doesn’t have the strength to move on and later returns to him–since after bouts of promiscuity, a psychopath is likely to act repentant and romantic to lure back his main partner(s)–then the next times she discovers evidence of his cheating (or lying, or fraud), she puts up with it, or pretends she doesn’t know about it.

Denial becomes the shield that absorbs most of the emotional impact of his hurtful behavior. When denial is no longer possible, because his wrongdoings become too frequent and flagrant, she displaces her anger and resentment towards the other women in order to maintain the “integrity” of her relationship with him. If he cheated and lied, it’s the other women’s fault rather than his. She also blames those who point out the psychopath’s pathology rather than him for mistreating her. They’re the bearers of bad news, who expose the hollowness of the life she leads with him: a truth she can no longer face, after becoming so dependent on him. At some point, she becomes more invested in the false image of strength and of a wonderful relationship she has with the psychopath than in facing the dire reality and moving on, to achieve real strength in life and have the chance of having a non-pathological romantic relationship.

Eventually, after a long series of discoveries of infidelities and other kinds of bad behavior, she becomes used to it and finds some solace in the assumption that those flings mean nothing to him. In spite of his consistently unloving behavior, she convinces herself that the psychopath loves her and that she’s the most important woman in his life. His infidelity then becomes open and normative: what he used to do behind her back he does openly, before her eyes. What’s more, since psychopaths are sadists, he relishes seeing her suffer from a combination of jealousy, wounded pride and helpless love.

Any person intimately involved with a psychopath will be harmed. To offer an analogy, the cancer cells that are most dangerous are the few that resist the chemotherapy and multiply quickly in the body, to kill it. Psychologically, the most dangerous aspects of any victim of psychopathic seduction are the ones that survive and adapt to his mistreatment. Once she becomes inured to the constant lies, verbal abuse, cheating, etc, she allows those vices to multiply in the relationship and take over her life.

Just as the most pathological elements of a society adapt to and rise to the top of totalitarian regimes, and just as the most pathological individuals thrive in the life of crime of gangs, so the most pathological parts of a person adapt to and embrace the disorder of a psychopath. A psychopath trains his victim gradually into a form of submission–or acceptance of his deviant behavior–that annihilates everything that’s healthy about her personality and existence. Eventually, if she doesn’t find the strength to leave him, she’s reduced by the psychopath’s gradual poison to the shadow of the strong and healthy person she once was.

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Narcissists & Conflict


by Kathy Krajco
One simple but easy-to-forget thing about narcissists is that, unlike normal people, they don't mind conflict. They enjoy it.

Conflict makes normal people uncomfortable. We try to minimize it in our dealings with others. Oddly, we love it in fiction (Conflict is the gunpowder of fiction, and it's near relative - controversy - is the gunpowder of journalism. Maintaining constant conflict is the secret to storytelling success). But note that this is "safe" conflict. In real life we hate what we love to see characters go through in fiction.

Narcissists have a whole different attitude toward conflict. They use it strategically to manipulate. They seek conflict. They become impossible people, flying into conflict with you over anything you think, say, do, feel, or wear. As if THEY have the right to determine what you say, think, do, feel, or wear.

This isn't just arrogance.
It's a game in which you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, because they are being deliberately impossible to please.
When this is the motive, what happens when you try to defuse conflict, when you try to appease? The narcissist sees that as a sign of weakness, as sign of backing down. It just makes him bolder. This is no testing run at you anymore: now he is serious about running you over.
He sees your "weakness" as REASON to come on stronger = to get madder and even more impossible. It's how he's controlling you.
In other words, trying to smooth it over, trying to appease the narcissist just backfires, making him more aggressive, not less aggressive.

So, don't do it.

This is just one of many examples of how normal human behavior backfires in Wonderland, simply because of a narcissist's alien mentality.

ARTICLE

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Be Very Specific in Custody Agreements


A child custody agreement is an extremely important document that will largely influence your life as a co-parent. Child custody agreements essentially lay out how you, your co-parent, and your child will be living your daily lives. For this reason, you and your co-parent must ensure that the rules of raising your child are clearly defined in the document. Including provisions in your custody agreement is a good way to thoroughly cover every aspect of your responsibilities as co-parents.

Before adding provisions to your custody agreement

Child custody agreements must be given a lot of time and thought. They must be thorough and include everything that you will need to know as a co-parent for your child. Before adding provisions to your custody agreement there are a few major issues that must be accounted for. A basic child custody agreement should include:
Most states require by law that co-parents include these issues in their custody agreement. Be sure to consult with you attorney or a family law professional in your state to determine what needs to be included in your own custody agreement.

Including your own provisions in your custody agreement

Now that the basic issues of your custody agreement have been defined, you and your co-parent will be able to add your own provisions if you feel that its necessary. These provisions will be useful in saving you and your co-parent a lot of stress and unneeded conflict in the future. The easiest way to come up with these provisions is to reflect on what issues you and your co-parent have currently regarding your co-parenting relationship. You may also come up with provisions by trying to predict and problems that may arise in the future and creating preventative provisions.

The most common types of provisions are used to provide more detail to the issues included in your basic child custody agreement. For instance, if you and your co-parent agree that details need to be added to your legal or physical custody agreements you may do so. Other provisions may also be added regarding separate issues such as how you will allow your child to interact with new partners or how you and you co-parent choose to contact one another. Any stipulation can be created as long as you and your co-parent come to an agreement on it. If you and your co-parent wish to make a provision but you cannot come to an agreement on the situation, you may request that a judge make a determination.

Remember that a judge must approve all provisions. A judge may also request you to state your argument as to why a provision is needed. Be sure to have a valid reason for creating each provision otherwise it is likely that it will not be approved.

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Thursday, July 04, 2019

Invalidation



INVALIDATION

Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone's feelings. Constant invalidation may be one of the most significant reasons a person with high innate emotional intelligence suffers from unmet emotional needs later in life.(1)

A sensitive child who is repeatedly invalidated becomes confused and begins to distrust his own emotions. He fails to develop confidence in and healthy use of his emotional brain-- one of nature's most basic survival tools. To adapt to this unhealthy and dysfunctional environment, the working relationship between his thoughts and feelings becomes twisted. His emotional responses, emotional management, and emotional development will likely be seriously, and perhaps permanently, impaired. The emotional processes which worked for him as a child may begin to work against him as an adult. In fact, one defintion of the so-called "borderline personality disorder" is "the normal response of a sensitive person to an invalidating environment" (2)

Psychiatrist R.D. Laing said that when we invalidate people or deny their perceptions and personal experiences, we make mental invalids of them. He found that when one's feelings are denied a person can be made to feel crazy even they are perfectly mentally healthy. (Reference)

Recent research by Thomas R. Lynch, Ph.D. of Duke University supports the idea that invalidation leads to mental health problems. He writes "...a history of emotion invalidation (i.e., a history of childhood psychological abuse and parental punishment, minimization, and distress in response to negative emotion) was significantly associated with emotion inhibition (i.e., ambivalence over emotional expression, thought suppression, and avoidant stress responses). Further, emotion inhibition significantly predicted psychological distress, including depression and anxiety symptoms.) (Reference)

Invalidation goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that our feelings are disapproved of, but that we are fundamentally abnormal. This implies that there is something wrong with us because we aren't like everyone else; we are strange; we are different; we are weird.

None of this feels good, and all of it damages us. The more different from the mass norm a person is, for example, more intelligent or more sensitive, the more he is likely to be invalidated. When we are invalidated by having our feelings repudiated, we are attacked at the deepest level possible, since our feelings are the innermost expression of our individual identities.


Psychological invalidation is one of the most lethal forms of emotional abuse. It kills confidence, creativity and individuality.





Telling a person she shouldn't feel the way she does feel is akin to telling water it shouldn't be wet, grass it shouldn't be green, or rocks they shouldn't be hard. Each persons's feelings are real. Whether we like or understand someone's feelings, they are still real. Rejecting feelings is rejecting reality; it is to fight nature and may be called a crime against nature, "psychological murder", or "soul murder." Considering that trying to fight feelings, rather than accept them, is trying to fight all of nature, you can see why it is so frustrating, draining and futile. A good guideline is:

First accept the feelings, then address the behavior.

One the great leaders in education, Haim Ginott, said this:

Primum non nocere- First do no harm. Do not deny your teenager's perception. Do not argue with his experience. Do not disown his feelings.
We regularly invalidate others because we ourselves were, and are often invalidated, so it has become habitual. Below are a few of the many ways we are invalidated:

You Can't Heal an Emotional Wound with Logic
People with high IQ and low EQ tend to use logic to address emotional issues. They may say, "You are not being rational. There is no reason for you to feel the way you do. Let's look at the facts." Businesses, for example, and "professionals" are traditionally out of balance towards logic at the expense of emotions. This tends to alienate people and diminish their potential.

Actually, all emotions do have a basis in reality, and feelings are facts, fleeting though they may be. But trying to dress an emotional wound, with logic tends to either confuse, sadden or infuriate a person. Or it may eventually isolate them from their feelings, with a resulting loss of major part of their natural intelligence.

Remember:


You can't solve an emotional problem, or heal an emotional wound, with logic alone.

There are many forms of invalidation. Most of them are so insidious that we don't even know what is happening. We know that something doesn't feel good, but we sometimes can't put our finger on it. We have been conditioned to think that invalidation is "normal." Indeed, it is extremely common, but it is certainly not healthy.

I have heard parents and teachers call children:

dramatic, crybabies, whiners, whingers, too sensitive, worry warts, drama queens

I have also heard them say things like: "He cries at the drop of a hat." One teacher said "When she starts to cry, I just ignore her and eventually she stops." Another said, "When one kid's crying is disrupting the lesson, I tell them to go cry in the hall till they can pull themselves back together again."
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Defensiveness and Invalidation
All invalidation is a form of psychological attack. When we are attacked, our survival instinct tells us to defend ourselves either through withdrawal or counter-attack. Repteated withdrawal, though, tends to decrease our self-confidence and lead to a sense of powerlessness and depression. On the other hand, going on the offensive often escalates the conflict or puts us in the position of trying to change another person.

One sign of both high self-esteem and high EQ is the absence of either of these defensive responses. A healthier response, one which is both informative and assertive, without being aggressive, is to simply express your feelings clearly and concisely. For example, you might respond, "I feel invalidated," "I feel mocked," or "I feel judged."

How the other person responds to your emotional honesty will depend upon, and be indicative of:

(a) how much they respect you

(b) how much they care about you and your feelings

(c) how insecure and defensive they are

(d) how much they are trying to change or control you

All of this is information which will help you make decisions which are in your best interest.

Self-Injury and Invalidation
Invalidation has been suggested as one of the primary reasons people cut, burn and injure themselves.

For example this quote is from D. Martinson

One factor common to most people who self-injure, whether they were abused or not, is invalidation. They were taught at an early age that their interpretations of and feelings about the things around them were bad and wrong. They learned that certain feelings weren't allowed. In abusive homes, they may have been severely punished for expressing certain thoughts and feelings.

Martnison also writes:

Self-injury is probably the result of many different factors. Among them: Lack of role models and invalidation - most people who self-injure were chronically invalidated in some way as children (many self-injurers report abuse, but almost all report chronic invalidation).
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Examples of invalidating expressions. -- Each is an attempt to talk you out of your feelings.

"Ordering" You to Feel Differently
Smile.
Be happy.
Cheer up
Lighten up.
Get over it.
Grow up.
Get a life
Don't cry.
Don't worry.
Don't be sad.
Stop whining.
Stop laughing..
Don't get angry.
Deal with it.
Give it a rest.
Forget about it.
Stop complaining.
Don't be so dramatic.
Don't be so sensitive.
Stop being so emotional.
Stop taking everything so personally.

Ordering you to "look" differently
Don't look so sad.
Don't look so smug.
Don't look so down.
Don't look like that.
Don't make that face.
Don't look so serious.
Don't look so proud of yourself.
Don't look so pleased with yourself.

Denying Your Perception, Defending
But of course I respect you.
But I do listen to you.
That is ridiculous (nonsense, totally absurd, etc.)
I was only kidding.
I honestly don't judge you as much as you think.

Trying to Make You Feel Guilty While Invalidating You
I tried to help you..
At least I .....
At least you....

Trying to Isolate You
You are the only one who feels that way.
It doesn't bother anyone else, why should it bother you?

Minimizing Your Feelings
You must be kidding.
You can't be serious.
It can't be that bad.
Your life can't be that bad.
You are just ... (being difficult; being dramatic, in a bad mood, tired, etc)
It's nothing to get upset over.
It's not worth getting that upset over.
Using Reason
There is no reason to get upset.
You are not being rational.
But it doesn't make any sense to feel that way.
Let's look at the facts.
Let's stick to the facts.
But if you really think about it....

Debating
I don't always do that.
It's not that bad. (that far, that heavy, that hot, that serious, etc.)

Judging & Labeling You
You are a cry baby.
You have a problem.
You are too sensitive.
You are over-reacting. You are too thin-skinned.
You are way too emotional.
You are an insensitive jerk. .
You need to get your head examined!
You are impossible to talk to.
You are impossible.
You are hopeless.

Turning Things Around
You are making a big deal out of nothing.
You are blowing this way out of proportion.
You are making a mountain out of a molehill.

Trying to get you to question yourself
What is your problem?
What's wrong with you?
What's the matter with you?
Why can't you just get over it?
Why do you always have to ....?
Is that all you can do, complain?
Why are you making such a big deal over it?
What's wrong with you, can't you take a joke?
How can you let a little thing like that bother you?
Don't you think you are being a little dramatic?
Do you really think that crying about it is going to help anything?

Telling You How You "Should" Feel or Act
You should be excited.
You should be thrilled.
You should feel guilty.
You should feel thankful that...
You should be happy that ....
You should be glad that ...
You should just drop it.
You shouldn't worry so much.
You shouldn't let it bother you.
You should just forget about it.
You should feel ashamed of yourself.
You shouldn't wear your heart out on your sleeve.
You shouldn't say that about your father/mother.

Defending The Other Person
Maybe they were just having a bad day.
I am sure she didn't mean it like that.
You just took it wrong.
I am sure she means well.

Negating, Denial & Confusion
Now you know that isn't true.
You don't mean that. You know you love your baby brother.
You don't really mean that. You are just ... (in a bad mood today, tired, cranky)

Sarcasm and Mocking
Oh, you poor thing. Did I hurt your little feelings?
What did you think? The world was created to serve you?
What happened to you? Did you get out of the wrong side of bed again?

Laying Guilt Trips
Don't you ever think of anyone but yourself?
What about my feelings?!
Have you ever stopped to consider my feelings?

Philosophizing Or Clichés
Time heals all wounds.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Life is full of pain and pleasure.
In time you will understand this.
When you are older you will understand
You are just going through a phase.
Everything has its reasons.
Everything is just the way it is supposed to be.

Talking about you when you can hear it
She is impossible to talk to.
You can't say anything to her.

Showing Intolerance
This is getting really old.
This is getting really pathetic.
I am sick of hearing about it.
------

Even when we are happy, unhappy people want to ruin it for us by saying diminishing things like: What are you so happy about? That's it? That's all you are so excited about?

There was an expression I heard when I was growing up. It was "Who put a quarter in you?" A quarter is a 25 cent coin in the USA. It was a coin which was once enough to start music in a juke box. So the implication was the person was acting abnormally happy, excited, lively etc.
------

When your awareness rises, you'll begin to notice such comments on a regular basis. Together, they take their toll on us. We wonder if there is something wrong with us for feeling how we do. It seems fair to say that with enough invalidation, one person can figuratively, if not literally, drive another person crazy. This is especially possible, I believe, in the case where one person has long-term power over another. Examples of such relationships are parent/child, teacher/child, "spiritual" leader/follower, boss/employee, spouse A/spouse B. Such a sad scenario appears to be even more likely when the person being invalidated is highly sensitive, intelligent and has previously suffered self-esteem damage.

The more sensitive the person, the more serious the damage of invalidation. Invalidation undermines self-confidence because it causes self-doubt. This in turn further diminishes self-esteem. Invalidation is serious violation of one's "true self." I believe it is one of the worst crimes one person can commit against another without ever lifting a finger against them. And yet it is neither illegal, "immoral" by most who consider themselves moralists, nor even widely recognized as a problem.

The high EQ person will never invalidate another person's feelings, especially not the feelings of a sensitive child.
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Below is an article on invalidation which uses some of my thoughts.
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Validation and Invalidation
Excerpts from an article by Cathy Palmer-Scruggs
Recently, I had a few situations to come up that called for some comfort from my friends. I really needed them. A few came through for me in just 'being there'...and others took it as their cue to 'give advice'...and believe me, it only made the situation worse. I did not ask anyone for advice.

I don't make the habit of asking my friends for advice....believe me. I am a 'thinking' person and only need some time and to get things off of my chest. I do not ask my friends to solve my problems. I do not tell my friends about a situation in order for them to come up with ways in which to tell me how to 'get through it' or 'how to think about it' or how to look at it.

No one likes to hear things like "don't let it get to you"...or "don't let her / him get to you"....or "you need to just 'get over' this"....etc. If solutions were that easy, don't you think we'd all do them? And I've also noticed that the very people who tell me this will also eventually deal with frustrating things, and they don't follow their own advice. See, it's different when something happens to THEM.....but not when it's me.

It's easier said than done....how does one not let things get to them? If they are upset, obviously, it's bothering them. They can't just 'dismiss' their feelings on a whim. How do you feel when someone says that to you?

Then there's the other side of the coin...the friends who do not know what to say and do, so, they avoid their friend altogether...the friend in pain. Well, you don't need to say or do anything...just 'be there' for them. They do not expect special words and solutions....they only want to know you care.

They know that not all of their friends are poetic, graceful with words...know 'just what to say'....this isn't a contest of who can make them feel the best. They just want to know you care...that you will merely listen, if they need to talk. And believe me, even if you don't think so at the moment, if you have a hard time facing your friend, you can get a little blank note card and just put the words 'you are in my thoughts' and that is enough...it does show you care. Send it to them. No one ever expects anything 'fancy' or 'just the right thing to say'....please believe that.

Basically, for me, I just need to talk...or type....just 'get it out'...then I can look at it, process it, deal with it, begin the healing, and move on. The very best words a friend can ever say to me is "I'm here for you if you just need to talk". My close friends know that I am not coming to them for answers.....I just need to talk it out ....hear myself say it....

And sometimes, my good friends will 're-state' what I've already said, or re-phrase it....letting me know they 'got it'....they understood me....they heard me. And sometimes they even tell me a similar situation that may have happened in their own lives...and from there, I can glean out some good things that I can take with me. Not everything works for all people. What may have worked for you may NOT work for your friend.

I realize that when our friends are hurting and in pain, our instincts urge us to want to help. None of us want to see our friends hurt. But, especially in my own situation recently, I expected no solutions....no answers...no 'fixes'....no advice....and certainly no philosophical sayings. All I needed was 'validation'....let me feel what I feel. And when my wonderful friends do that, they are deeper into my heart....I feel closer to them and respect them because they respected me and my feelings.

If a person loses a loved one to death, it might not be a good time to say things like "you need to get past that"...or "just don't think of it"....or "you need to get on with your life"....And I've actually had people say this to me.

I don't care how much time passes or what a person tells themselves....you never 'get over' something like this...you merely learn to live with it...live around it....cope with it. No amount of grieving, then or now, will take away the pain or fill the void. Time will allow us to continue our lives while we accept the loss.

Accepting the loss does not mean we are not allowed to grieve from time to time...or cry, when inspired to do so. No one has the right to tell you to put it so far back behind you, that you no longer feel the loss. It will always be there.

Being able to live with this loss does not mean that you are not allowed to visit those very painful memories. Just because you can still cry about anything does not mean you have not gone on with your life....and that somehow, once you are past the initial hurt and tears, that to re-visit those feelings will be wrong and damaging. And anyone who tells you anything different ...well, they are not being realistic.

Why is it that when a person feels momentarily sad, their friends think it's their cue to stop them from feeling and grieving? Who in the world told them that was healthy? When did they become an expert at how long a person should grieve, and feel, and cry and remember? And just because I do cry from time to time over something, that does not mean that for the rest of my life, each and every day, I will sit and cry, just like this, forever....and that I have ruined my life....forever. Allow me to be sad, just as you would welcome and allow me to be happy....I need it.

My telling someone of an event or something that I am going through, does not mean it's their cue to try to 'solve my problem'...I didn't ask for advice or ask how to grieve.

I have the RIGHT to grieve and cry and 'feel' any emotions I ever have in any event in MY life. No one has the right to rob me of my right to express myself or to grieve....to do what "I" need to do in order to continue on with my life. (note)

If your friend is hurting....if they are angry at someone, if they have to make a decision that they feel is in the best interest of them, LET THEM DO IT....let them feel it....validate what they are going through. Just because YOU can't feel it in the same way or maybe not 'see it' in the same way, does not mean that YOU get to take it away from your friend....who "IS" feeling that way. You need to respect what your FRIEND feels. This does not mean your friend is wrong...'feelings' are not wrong. The feelings are based on your friend's life experiences...not yours.

What if you are the kind of person who is in denial of things around you...trying to look at things through 'rose colored glasses'...and your friend doesn't ....you cannot expect your friend to put on your 'special glasses' and pretend that their pain doesn't exist, or that nothing is wrong, just because it would be easier for YOU to deal with. Maybe that works for you...but I doubt it...it will come out eventually, in one way or another. I try to avoid that by dealing with it now, not later.

And it will still hurt later, but not with the same intensity. That does not mean I didn't do something right...it just means that it was a painful event in my life that I will forever feel....as long as I am alive, just not with the same intensity. You do grow with, and from, your experiences.

If you can't deal with your friend's pain and frustration, then maybe it's best that you say nothing at all....it's certainly better to say nothing than to make your friend feel worse. They probably aren't asking you for a solution anyway. Why hurt them worse?

I'm sure that if your friend needs or asks advice, it would be a different story. I'm just talking about those people who like to immediately step in and tell a hurting person to suppress their feelings.

They see and feel what they see and feel...and unless they have been diagnosed with a mental illness that causes hallucinations and 'voices'....don't be so quick to 'dismiss' them. They may be more grounded in reality than you are....and YOU are the one who may need the advice when it's all said and done. Your friend is trying to deal with reality, what is real...

Please do NOT see it as your cue to 'fix' them or tell them that they "should feel this way" or that they "should not feel that way". They feel as they do because of their own life's experiences....not based on your life's experiences. It does not have to make sense to YOU or even be real to YOU...it does not have to be felt by YOU, in order to validate what your FRIEND is feeling.

Being 'strong' for your friend does not mean you have to solve their problems or give them answers.

Just be there to 'listen'....they may not even need to talk to you about it, but feel close enough to you to share it...and if you give them the hurtful advice that I mentioned on this page, you are going to alienate them from you.

You may help them, upon hearing them explain their situation, to even agree that 'you can understand how and why they would feel that way', even if YOUR OWN thoughts are different...try to understand the way THEY are seeing it.

To your friend, all of what they are feeling is very real and very painful....it's affecting their life.

As a great friend, all you need to do is just lend a listening ear....'be there' for them....don't try to make them look at it differently. If that needs to be done, they will do it on their own, you can't rush it. They have to see their OWN way through.

If you take it as your cue to minimize their situation, 'make excuses' for their enemies, or the ones who are hurting them and causing them grief, what you are now doing is making them feel defensive .....they already feel bad enough, but now they have to further frustrate the situation by defending their feelings and emotions to you.

So, while they try, once again, to tell you why they are hurting, you have just sent them on a detour of the path they are on....now they have to get it all past YOU. And, not only are they upset at the original situation, now they feel alienated and unsupported by you....their friend...the person they just needed to talk to.

And the more you try to get them to see it a different way, the worse it will get. They have to see those things for themselves, "if" it's something they can ever do to begin with. Again, not on YOUR schedule. They, most likely, know more about the situation than you do, give them the benefit of the doubt.

No one expects you to have a clever saying....no one has the answers or the solutions. Each person has to work through their own pain....they can't hurry things along on YOUR schedule, just because you don't want this to be happening to them. The worst thing you can do is minimize what they are dealing with....that just makes them feel even more isolated. If I really want to get some advice from, I'll ask for it....and so will your other friends.

And this also goes for situations regarding pets. I have friends who have lost pets through a death, or the pet turned up missing, and they have told me of incredibly insensitive things that were said to them. They are grieving a companion...a friend...and a friendship that, through 'unspoken language', grew into a special friendship that they will surely miss. This was a creature, a 'friend', who loved them unconditionally. Who wouldn't miss something like that?

It' s a real pain, whether it's an animal or a human, it hurts. There are memories associated with the pet...a routine....pictures....little treasures that will forever remind them that the pet is gone. Please be respectful of that. Not everyone can rush out and get another pet...some people need time. And when the time is right, they may be able to open their hearts to another pet. Again, this is on THEIR schedule, not yours.

I have lived for 46 years, thus far...and I hardly think I've waited all these years and went through all the things that I've endured, just to have a friend tell me how to 'get through it'....Nothing anyone says will make it go away....nothing will make a friend in pain feel better....except for the words "I'll be right here for you if you need to talk".

Be a friend....
January 20 , 2001 -- Cathy Palmer-Scruggs
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Note: I would say that it is a "need" to grieve. It doesn't make much sense to try to tell someone else that they have no "right" to tell you to get over it. This is invalidating their feelings almost the same as they are invalidating yours. Evidently they feel something which causes them to say "get over it" or whatever. Probably they feel uncomfortable with your pain. They might feel powerless to do anything to help you, so to have some sense of power over the situation they start trying to give you advice or order you around. S. Hein
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Footnotes

1. At the time I first wrote this this was my own hypothesis. Later I was informed of the defintion of "borderline personality disorder" which is based on invalidation. If you are aware of any scientific research on invalidation and the connection between it and later emotional problems, please let me know. See also section self-injury and invalidation.

2. http://www.priory.com/dbt.htm

3. Reference to R.D. Laing is from chapter 1 of Claude Steiner's book Achieving Emotional Literacy

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The Role of Emotion Inhibition in Psychological Distress
Thomas R. Lynch, Ph.D. , Duke University

Abstract:

Emotion avoidance and inhibition has been implicated as a common feature associated with borderline personality disorder. This presentation will discuss three studies that that have been recently conducted at the Duke Cognitive Behavioral Research and Treatment Program. The first study examined 127 participants to evaluate a developmental model in which chronic emotion inhibition mediates the relation between childhood emotional invalidation/abuse and adult psychological distress. Findings indicated that a history of emotion invalidation (i.e., a history of childhood psychological abuse and parental punishment, minimization, and distress in response to negative emotion) was significantly associated with emotion inhibition (i.e., ambivalence over emotional expression, thought suppression, and avoidant stress responses). Further, emotion inhibition significantly predicted psychological distress, including depression and anxiety symptoms. The second study examined a model in which inhibition of thoughts and emotion was predicted to mediate the relationship between the trait of negative affect intensity and acute psychological distress. Using structural equation modeling hypotheses were supported in both clinical and non-clinical samples, indicating its generalizability. The third study examined the effects of emotion suppression on classical conditioning. Participants were randomized to a suppression (n= 22; show or feel no emotion) or a non-suppression (n = 24; no instruction) condition. Data indicated that discriminative learning (assessed by galvanic skin response) occurred faster and was more robust for suppressors. Suppressors also exhibited less extinction. Results suggest that active attempts to suppress emotion may increase associations to an aversive event, implicating a mechanism by which certain disorders (e.g., PTSD, BPD) retain features associated with greater conditionability. Finally, directions regarding future research from our lab examining borderline personality disorder and a brief overview of a current study examining emotion suppression among suicidal patients will be discussed.


Key Citations:

Lynch, T.R., Robins, C.J., Morse, J.Q., & Krause, E.D. (2001). A mediational model relating affect intensity, emotion inhibition, and psychological distress. Behavior Therapy, 32, 519-536.

Lynch, T.R., Krause, E.D., Morse, J.Q., Mendelson, T., Crozier, J., & LaBar, K.S. (2001). Role of emotion suppression in classical fear conditioning. In T.R. Lynch (Chair), Experiential avoidance and psychopathology: Recent research and methodological developments. Symposium conducted at the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy 35th Annual Convention, Philadelphia.

Krause, E.D., Mendelson, T., & Lynch, T.R. (in press). Childhood emotion invalidation and adult psychological distress: The mediating role of emotion inhibition. Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect.

Krause, E. D., Robins, C.J., & Lynch, T.R. (2000). A mediational model relating sociotropy, ambivalence over emotional expression and eating disorder symptoms. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 328-335.

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