Sanctuary for the Abused

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Pathological Narcissism - A Spiritual Disorder

Dr. Maria Hsia Chang, Professor
Political Science, University of Nevada

In psychology, personality disorders refer to individual traits that reflect ingrained, inflexible, and maladaptive patterns of behavior that cause discomfort and impair a person’s ability to function--including her relations with friends and family. At least ten distinct personality disorders have been identified, one of which is the narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) that the American Psychological Association (APA) classifies as a "cluster B" disorder.

NPD is a highly complex psychological-behavioral syndrome that confounds and baffles those close to the afflicted. Once understood, however, one achieves clarity of vision.

Socio-biologists maintain that narcissism is natural for both individuals and groups because self-love is an instinctive, natural-selection trait. That is why all children are narcissists. As individuals mature into adulthood, however, they become less narcissistic because their insecurity tends to diminish as a result of concrete achievements and successes. A certain degree of healthy self-love nevertheless continues into adulthood. It is when narcissism in adults is excessive that psychologists consider it to be a sign of immaturity or worse, a pathology--that of narcissistic personality disorder.

Although the phenomenon of excessive narcissism is as old as humanity, the formal diagnosis of NPD was made by the APA only as recently as 1990.

I’ve compiled the following, after having read, assimilated, and synthesized a great deal of the literature on this subject. Instead of the typical approach taken by the psychological literature on NPD--which describes the disorder as a syndrome of various attributes--what I attempt to do here is to uncover the central logic that accounts for the syndrome. In the following description of the NPD syndrome, I use the pronoun "she" to refer to the narcissist, for the sake of avoiding the cumbersome "he/she" and " his/her."

Some psychological literature, claims that male NPDs outnumber females. The literature also claims that the incidence of NPD is relatively rare, afflicting an estimated 1% of the population. Both of these claims, however, are not verified by my own personal experiences. The problem, as the psychological literature itself admits, is that the very nature of NPD prevents narcissists from admitting they have a problem and to seek professional help. As psychiatrist M. Scott Peck explains: "To receive treatment one must want it, at least on some level. And to want it one must consider oneself to be in need of it. One must, at least on some level, acknowledge his or her imperfection." The few narcissists who do seek therapy, do so when their narcissism has led to a major life crisis, such as divorce, drug addiction, unemployment, and imprisonment. Even when NPDs seek counseling, they typically do not complete the course of psychotherapy. Instead, when the therapist confronts them with their pathological narcissism, the NPD would simply abandon treatment and flee. Given this, I have every reason to conclude that the statistics claimed in the literature are suspect. The simple truth, I believe, is that psychologists don’t really know how many NPDs there are in the population, nor do they really know that male NPDs outnumber females.

The NPD Syndrome
At the core of the NPD syndrome is the construction of a false self as a way to cope with the external world by compensating for the individual’s feelings of insecurity and uncertainty of identity.. Like its namesake, the mythic Narcissus who is in love with his reflection in water, the self that the narcissist loves is not her real self, but a false self that is grandiose, perfect, and superior. The particular basis of the grandiosity is what the narcissist loves herself for. That varies according to the individual, and may be physical beauty, intellect, talent, power, etc. As a consequence, psychologists divide narcissists into two types: the somatic and the cerebral. The former are those whose narcissism is focused on their bodies; the latter are those who have a grandiose conception that they have a superior intellect.

I would add a third type: the spiritual narcissist. These are those who ooze with false piety, having a false conception of themselves as supremely virtuous.

Regardless of the particular basis of grandiosity, the narcissist strives to maintain and protect that false self at all costs. In effect, the grandiose false self acts like the center of a wheel, to which are affixed the spokes. The latter are the syndromatic attributes of NPD, which function to protect and maintain the grandiose false self. The constellation of attributes is not accidental because there is a functional reason for the various attributes. This is the underlying logic that accounts for the syndrome.

Together with the APA’s DSM IV criteria, those "spokes" may constitute a particularly malignant form of narcissism.

They include the following attributes
Using people—even supposed loved ones—as tools of self-aggrandisement to affirm and maintain the false self. The narcissist is hollow inside and derives her sense-of-self from seeing her reflection in the eyes of others. The psychological literature calls this "mirroring": the narcissist mainly uses other people as a mirror to reflect her grandiose self-conception. Like a vampire who must feed on others’ blood in order to live, the narcissist feeds on other people’s love, approval, admiration, and compliments. Once the source is sucked dry, the narcissist no longer has use of that person and will abruptly and mercilessly cast him/her aside.

To lure people into her web, the successful narcissist puts on an attractive social mask. She can be charming, gracious, socially adept, even obsequious. She must also be a consummate actor, skilled at simulating the whole range of human emotions, especially those of love, compassion, and kindness. The more successful she is at simulation, the greater her circle of friends and acquaintances who function as her primary and secondary feeding sources.

More than to lure people into her web, the narcissist’s charming social mask also conceals the false self from scrutiny. Concealment requires secrecy, evasion, dishonesty, and lying. In effect, the narcissist is a consummate pathological liar, i.e., she habitually lies, even about seemingly trivial, inconsequential matters.

Using other people as her "bloodbank" requires that the narcissist be a human emotional radar. The successful narcissist is psychologically astute and shrewd so that she can "size up" everyone she encounters for their potential to be her blood-donor.

Cynically using other people also requires that the narcissist be lacking in empathy. Do not be fooled by her simulations at empathy. A good experiment is for you to withhold your approval and compliments. You will discover that, overnight, the narcissist has lost her kindness and even simple civility.

The maintenance and protection of the false self also requires the narcissist to be constantly vigilant against being "attacked" by others. This is why the narcissist overreacts with rage and humiliation to any perceived criticism, no matter how minor or trivial the perceived criticism.

As the saying goes, "the best defense is offense." More than reacting with rage to criticisms, the narcissist attacks the critic. This is called scapegoating--projecting one’s own faults (what Carl Jung called our "shadow") onto another person, and blaming the other for the narcissist’s own inadequacies. The narcissist is very skilled at this.

The false self must be impervious, which requires the narcissist to resist self-examination and introspection. Doing so would open the narcissist to reality-based assessment--a dangerous undertaking because the false self is, by definition, unreal. As a consequence, instead of the insecurities of normal human beings, the narcissist exhibits an impassive and uncritical acceptance of herself.

The inability or unwillingness to be introspective, in turn, results in cognitive dissonance, cognitive gaps, and non sequiturs. Trying to engage a narcissist in serious dialogue--especially about herself or her beliefs and values--can be a disconcerting experience because nothing she says makes sense.

Since the false self is superior and grandiose, it needs no one. The narcissist dreads becoming dependent on others, but asserts and clings to an exaggerated independence. Since her love of herself is all-consuming, she is incapable of love and emotional commitments to other people. This is why the narcissist reacts to sincere declarations of love (verbal or in the form of behavior, such as significant gifts) by emotionally distancing herself and, in some cases, outright abandonment--because she is unable to reciprocate that commitment..

In effect, the narcissist’s grandiose self-conception makes her a god unto herself. Gods are not subject to the morality that governs lesser beings--"rules don’t apply to me." The narcissist refuses to subscribe to society’s moral rules and ethical standards. Instead, morality is subjective: "Nobody can judge me." One NPD I know exhibited this trait when she blithely received the Holy Eucharist (believed by Catholics to be the actual body of Christ) in Mass--although she is not Catholic. Another NPD, a former student of mine, responded with rage to my critique of his essay-exam, which garnered a respectable "B" grade, insisting that he was not subject to the grammatical rules of the English language.

Lacking an abstract universal system of moral codes--and being cognitively impaired--the narcissist lives in a world of feelings and sensations: "What’s good is that which makes me feel good." Narcissists tend to wallow in cheap "feel good" sentiments. • Since the false self is grandiose and perfect, relationship problems are never the fault of the narcissist. She blames everyone, but herself. This also means that narcissists do not ever apologize or admit that they are wrong or at fault. Instead, they will always subtly, if not blatantly, turn things around to blame you.

All of this means that narcissists do not, as a rule, seek therapy. In the few cases that do, it is because their problems have become so serious that they cannot be ignored (e.g., divorce, drug abuse, job loss, imprisonment). Even then, the narcissist resists therapy and is likely to blame the therapist (scapegoating!) and flee from treatment.

How to Deal With a Narcissist

The first rule is: Give up on your fantasy that you have an authentic relationship with the narcissist. Sadly, the person you think you love/like never existed.

The second rule is: Don’t be a bloodbank for the narcissist.

The third rule is: Be emotionally detached.

The fourth rule is: If you must interact with her, challenge the narcissist’s false conceptions of herself by insisting on reality-based assessment. Doing so, however, is guaranteed to alienate you from the narcissist--which is a good thing because the narcissist is incapable of genuine friendship and love. In the last analysis, you are better off without the narcissist.

If, unfortunately, you must have her in your life because your survival depends on her, as in the case of a child needing the narcissistic mother’s care, the way to get along with her is to feed her fantasies by lavishing compliments on her, i.e., by letting yourself be her bloodbank.

Pathological Narcissism is a Spiritual Disorder
A fifth-century theologian who called himself Dionysius the Aereopagite once wrote in The Divine Names that, "The denial of the true Self is a declension from Truth." In the last analysis, in constructing and clinging to their false selves, the entire persona of the NPD is a big lie. That being so, I have come to believe that NPD is not a psychological disorder at all, but a moral and spiritual disorder. Allow me to explain. An intrinsic attribute of the NPD syndrome is deception--of oneself and of others--in the service of maintaining the grandiose false self. Philosopher René Descartes wrote that "willful deception evinces maliciousness and weakness."A person does not deceive without thinking about and willing it. One does not lie unless one intends to hide the truth, which means that one knows that one is being deceptive. Nor can the NPD put together and maintain the elaborate and intricate NPD syndrome of attributes (e.g., using others for self-aggrandisement, attractive social mask, secrecy, evasion, lying, scapegoating, etc.) without conscious effort.

Psychologists say that, in their quiet moments, NPDs know that they are not really as grandiose as they pretend:

When NPDs cynically use others to "feed" their false self, they know it.

When they overreact to perceived criticisms, they know what the truth is.

When they lie to conceal their inadequacies, they have chosen to deceive.

When they scapegoat others, they do so with deliberation.

When they refuse to apologize, they know they are in the wrong.

All of which means that free will is fully engaged in this so-called "disorder."

In effect, the NPD is more than a mental sickness. Pathological narcissism is not some noxious virus or bacteria that overtakes a person. Whatever the early childhood experiences, free will is still operative here. Rather, NPD is a moral disorder, because it is immoral to lie and to use, exploit, blame, and hurt others.

More than immoral, NPD is, at its foundation, a spiritual blight. Since the false self of the narcissist is extremely grandiose, she excludes herself from the moral norms that govern "lesser" beings: "rules don’t apply to me." That makes NPDs their own gods. In so doing, they are in denial of the fundamentally flawed nature of all human beings.

The malignant narcissist is more than immoral, she/he is evil.

In his book, People of the Lie, Peck proposed to the psychological profession a new diagnostic category of the "evil personality disorder" (EPD) as a sub-type of NPD. As he put it, "The evil are ‘the people of the lie,’ deceiving others as they also build layer upon layer of self-deception." And when the narcissist intentionally hurts another, she has crossed the line from being an NPD to being an EPD. In Peck’s words, "evil individuals will flee self-examination and guilt by blaming and attempting to destroy whatever or whoever highlights their deficiencies.". Except for atheists (who must be very grandiose because they claim to know a negative, i.e., that God does not exist),viall of us--the religious as well as agnostics--believe in the existence of some supreme moral being or force in the universe.

Recognizing that, most of us harken to these words of Descartes: "I have been so constituted as to be some kind of middle ground between God and nothing .

I am not the supreme being, I lack quite a few things.

Dionysius the Areopagite concluded that being self-centered is "inherently wrong" because we have "no right to be the centre of things" as only God is the rightful center of all things.

Not only is vanity and pride the first of the Seven Deadly Sins, I believe that narcissism is the root of all evil. Decrying the ills that he saw rampant in modern society--the relativization of all moral norms and the reduction of life to the immediate pursuit of material gain without regard to its general consequences--VaÇlav Havel observed that "Given its fatal incorrigibility, humanity will have to go through many more Rwandas and Chernobyls before it understands how unbelievably short-sighted a human being can be who has forgotten that he is not God."

It is the misdiagnosis of pathological narcissism as a "personality disorder" instead of a moral-spiritual condition which accounts for psychiatrists’ characterization of it as "one of the most . . . difficult-to-treat conditions in the lexicon of mental illness.


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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressive communication is a means of expressing anger indirectly. 

Examples of passive-aggressive behaviors are listed below.


Examples of Passive-Aggressive Obstructionism

Examples of Common Fears and Issues for Passive-Aggressive People

Dealing with passive-aggressive people can be especially difficult, particularly when you are relying on them to do something properly and on time, without difficulty and complications.

In the workplace, passive-aggressive people should be dealt with administratively, since trying to work around, adjust to, and change their behavior is impossible. They will sorely resent the supervision; however, they were likely already displeased and resentful of it anyhow.


Passive-aggressive people will always find a way to slip out of what you need them to do or otherwise make you pay for trying to get them to cooperate.

Dealing or working with a passive-aggressive person can feel like a gigantic game of Whack-a-Mole.

Once you think you’ve addressed the first excuse, lie, issue or ambiguity, they’re off and running presenting you with a third, second and fourth. It’s as if they’re playing a mental game designed to exhaust you into giving up asking anything reasonable of them. Insisting and pressuring them into fulfilling their obligations only makes things worse.

When in situations where you are forced to work with them, do not assume responsibility for their work or lack thereof. Do not let the maddening inefficiency and game-playing get to you. Concentrate on your own responsibilities, and minimize working on joint projects with them as much as possible. Above all, don’t take the bait that sends you begging them to cooperate. They will only resent you for it and get you back later.

And definitely, without delay, add passive-aggressive people to your list of toxic people to avoid wherever possible.


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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Narcissistic Mothers

By Cyndi Lopez

I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love. . .   I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world. – Sylvia Plath

There is a special place in hell for narcissistic mothers. Ms. Plath herself indulged in the ultimate narcissistic act when she committed suicide by sticking her head in the oven while her two young children were asleep in the same apartment. How thoughtful of her to have sealed off their rooms with towels so that the fumes wouldn’t consume them too. She needed someone to live on to remember her and care that she was gone.

Narcissistic mothers do not have children for the same reasons the rest of us do. They do not look forward to the birth of their child because they can’t wait to see what they look like or what type of personality they will have or who they will become. No, they have children for one reason only: More mirrors. They have children so that the children will love them unconditionally, not the other way around. They have children to do things for them. They have children to reflect their false images. They have children to use, abuse and control them.

They don’t see their role as a mother as life’s biggest gift. It’s a burden they didn’t expect. They thought they were creating little “mini-me’s.” They didn’t take into account the fact that somewhere around age 2, these spiteful, ungrateful (in their minds) little creatures start to develop their own individual personalities and wills of their own. For the rest of us, that’s the best part of being a mom — watching our children grow into increasingly independent, confident, free-thinking individuals. For the narcissistic mother, each step away from her is an absolute act of betrayal.

Children have emotions that they express quite freely. This annoying practice is squashed as early as possible since narcissists cannot handle emotions. “What is wrong with you?” and “You’re so oversensitive” and “You’re overreacting” are common phrases uttered to children of narcissists.

These mothers end up resenting all the work that goes into raising a child, having no use for them unless they are achieving, doing something or otherwise reflecting their false image onto them. Children are a nuisance to them, taking precious time away from their own agendas. They don’t like to have to shop for clothes for their children, prepare meals for them, do their laundry, pay for daycare, enroll them in activities, drive them to friends’ houses, throw birthday parties, pay for their college educations or protect them from abuse.

They will smother and overprotect their children under the guise that they are taking care of them. They will fail to provide age-appropriate information on such things as menstruation, personal grooming (make-up, hairstyles, shaving, etc.), budgeting money and dating. This all serves to keep her children under her control as long as possible. If they are ill-informed and overprotected, they will not feel confident to grow or move further away from her.

They will use their children as slaves. They will delegate all household chores to the children as early as possible. They will insist that they pay for their own personal items and clothing as early as possible. Older children will become responsible for younger children. No matter how many of her responsibilities her children take on, it will never be enough or be done well enough. They expect perfection and constantly remind their children that they fail to meet this expectation.

Of course, they train their children to believe that they are the ideal mother. Any evidence to the contrary is to be kept secret at all costs. They will behave much differently toward their children in public than they do at home. They will vehemently deny any wrongdoing on their part and most likely blame their children, completely rewriting history.

Narcissistic mothers don’t stop being narcissists when their children become adults. They will play siblings against each other. They will compare siblings. They will talk to siblings about each other. When they have a problem with one, they will talk to another about it.

They are jealous of their children’s successes, even though they brag to others about them (‘see how great MY kids turned out’). They will make snide comments if they think one of their adult children has a better marriage, house, job, etc. than they do. They are thrilled when they perceive that one of their adult children has failed in some way (although they never tell others about these “failures”; it reflects poorly on them). They are more than happy to assist when necessary because that makes them look good, plus, there is an added bonus of having favors to collect on. Asking a narcissistic mother for a favor feels like selling your soul to the devil. It’s emotional extortion.

These mothers steal their kids’ childhoods, identities and future healthy relationships. They will keep on taking and sucking the life out of their children for as long as they live, if their children allow it. It is incredibly difficult and painful to acknowledge that your mother never loved you without blaming yourself — she raised you to blame yourself for everything. But it is necessary to put the blame where it rightfully belongs in order to insure that this insidious disorder isn’t perpetuated generation after generation.



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Monday, January 07, 2019


National Center for Victims of Crime Hails Senate Recognition of Stalking Awareness Month

Washington, DC -- The National Center for Victims of Crime applauds the United States Senate for adopting a resolution establishing January 2016 as "National Stalking Awareness Month."

S. Con.Res 10, sponsored by Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Joseph Biden (D-DE), will help bring national focus to a crime that has far-reaching impact on the daily lives of victims.

"Stalking is a tremendous problem, and it is one that we need to do more to address," said Senator DeWine. "A National Stalking Awareness Month will help to educate and increase awareness about stalking. We can--and we should--do more to ensure that stalkers are brought to justice and that their victims are not forced to live in fear."

More than one million women and nearly 400,000 men are stalked each year in the United States. In the majority of cases, victims are stalked by someone they know. Many victims live in constant fear and are forced to relocate to protect themselves. More than two-thirds of women who were murdered by an intimate partner had been stalked by the person who killed them.

"We are very grateful for the efforts of Senator DeWine and Senator Biden to help us bring this issue to the attention of the public," said Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the Center for Victims of Crime. The adoption of this resolution by the Senate will spur communities nationwide to improve their response to this devastating crime."

For more information about stalking or National Stalking Awareness Month, including fact sheets, brochures, and copies of stalking laws, visit the National Center's Stalking Resource Center Web site, at

The National Center for Victims of Crime is dedicated to forging a national commitment to help victims of crime rebuild their lives. The National Center's toll-free Helpline, 1-800-FYI-CALL, offers supportive counseling, practical information about crime and victimization, and referrals to local community resources, as well as skilled advocacy in the criminal justice and social service systems.

For additional resources to help promote National Stalking Awareness Month, please visit

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Will the Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath Treat the New Victim Better?

by K. Saaed

Yes, at first he will.

But keep in mind that when a Narcissist is securing new supply, he will love-bomb her; just as he did you in the beginning. For those of you who are just learning about Narcissism, “love-bombing” is the constant bombardment of flirting and flattery from the Narcissist. This includes actions that are over-the-top after you’ve just started dating, such as:

• Splashing your social media with flirty messages, though you’ve only just met
• Sending numerous texts throughout the day
• Calling more than what’s considered normal
• Pretending to miss you when you go out with friends
• If you work in the public eye, showing up at your place of employment
• Sending flowers and gifts, after only one date
• Leaving multiple voice mails
• Offering to take you on vacation
• Pushing for physical intimacy too soon
• Spending hours on the phone with you

Just as we have four seasons, the Narcissist will use these tactics to secure new supply. That’s why he seems so happy with his new partner; you see him doing the above things with her.

Frankly, it coincides rather conveniently with his discarding of you. Since love-bombing is time-consuming, grueling, and involves spending money, the Narcissist is depleted. On the inside, he is feeling grouchy due to all of this exertion. Therefore, his efforts may as well fulfill two purposes:

1) secure the new supply,
2) fulfill his discarding of you.

Hence, you’ll likely get “heartfelt confessions” that he loves this new girl and they’re a match made in Heaven. She understands him like you never could. She accepts him for who he is. She does everything for him…  sound familiar?

Although he and his new supply look as if they’re walking on sunshine, you can bet he is making little jabs here and there. And while you are left feeling that his new partner is much better than you, the truth of the matter is the Narcissist simply wants shelter, food, money, and freedom to do as he pleases. He may feel a temporary giddiness that the new girlfriend doesn’t know him for what he is because he’s extracting copious amounts of adoration from her.

Consider how one typically feels before and during a job interview. There’s a lot at stake so we go out and buy an expensive suit, use our best manners,and tell the interviewer what they want to hear. In essence, we sell ourselves. That’s what the Narc does when he is in pursuit of a new source of livelihood. However, he soon turns into a bad employee who shows up for the paycheck, but doesn’t really do any work.

Reasons Not to Die When the Narcissist Looks Happy with New Supply

1. It’s highly likely that while he is out on the town with a pretty new girl on his arm, he has others who are waiting for his phone call. Why? Just in case. The worst situation for the Narcissist is to be left alone with no supply…which means no one to house him, no one to feed him, no one to make all of his appointments, take care of paperwork, apply for employment of his behalf (assuming he decides to work), etc. Most Narcissists, especially the overt ones, are the equivalent of 7-yr olds running around in adult bodies. They literally cannot fulfill adult responsibilities on their own.

2. Without someone to reflect a positive image back to him, the Narcissist feels worthless. His new girlfriend doesn’t know him like you do, so naturally she is feeding his ego to the nth degree. But rest assured that it will only be a matter of time before she starts noticing the cracks, probably when it’s too late and she’s lost all sense of direction. Everything he did to you will also happen to her.

3. Narcissists are attracted to attractive people, but not for the same reasons we are. Beautiful people make them look good by association.

Besides, because she’s pretty doesn’t mean you’re not…

4. The new girl is not only a new source of supply, she’s a matter of revenge. Since you attempted to establish a boundary, ask for respect and/or fidelity, requested him to find employment, or otherwise pointed out any flaws in him, he has a burning need to show you he can find someone who will accept him as he is. And while he may already have a new partner swooning over his very existence, it won’t last. She doesn’t know he’s an abuser, irresponsible, cruel, or sociopathic. All she knows is what he’s told her, along with the false illusion that he’s a hopeless romantic.

No matter what it looks like, the Narcissist’s “happiness” is a facade. What he’s most happy about is that he’s locked down a new place to live with someone who will cook for him, wash his clothes, and pay for everything. Don’t eat the soup he tries to feed you about how great she is. She may very well be a nice person, but the Narcissist doesn’t appreciate her personality past how it benefits him. Once you understand these dynamics, all that’s left to do is feel sorry for his new girlfriend. She doesn’t deserve what’s coming any more than you did.


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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Cognitive Distortions

Definition of Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive Hazard

Cognitive distortions are logical, but they are not rational. They can create real difficulty with your thinking. See if you are doing any of the ten common distortions that people use. Rate yourself from one to ten with one being low and ten being high. Ask yourself if you can stop using the distortions and think in a different way.

1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see your self as a total failure.

2. OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

3. MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

1. MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check this out

2. THE FORTUNETELLER ERROR: you can anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
6. MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the binocular trick."

7. EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."

8. SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn't, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

9. LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him" "He's a Goddamn louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

10. PERSONALIZATION: You see your self as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

(note: some of these can be CAUSED by either being a victim of abuse or having an abusive personality disorder - Barbara)



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Saturday, November 03, 2018

Emotional Abuse or Going Crazy?

The blows of physical or sexual abuse are oftentimes obvious. Broken bones, bruises, and lacerations leave scars as evidence. Yet worst of all are the scars of emotional abuse - nearly invisible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, these can be more caustic, long-lasting, and life-altering than those left by any other type of abuse and the psychological damage the most profound.

What is emotional abuse? Sometimes called "Ambient Abuse," it is an extremely subtle form of control and manipulation that may go unrecognized for months or years -- many times even by those on the receiving end -- at least until it is too late. By the time the victim is aware of the actual abusive behaviors, she has oftentimes become a bundle of nerves and finds it difficult to see her way off the emotional roller coaster ride she's stuck on. Worse yet, she can't even explain what's happening to her, and in some cases, she may actually think she is going crazy; struggling with anxiety, depression, fear, or eventually -- apathy. She may quit doing anything, for fear of doing it "wrong" - at least according to the controller in her life.

Abusers and controllers may start out using little digs like, "Honey, everyone knows that you do it this way," as just another way to say, "How stupid are you that you don't know this?"

Constant criticism becomes part of the game. "You are too fat, dumb, ugly," or even, "I wish I had that abortion instead of having you!" These are all ammunition in emotional abuse.

Even teasing can be abusive, for it frequently has some truth at its core. Jane lives in a marriage where her husband's teasing-type cuts are constant. "The Ayatollah says dinner is ready," he announces regularly whenever they have guests. He thinks it's funny. She certainly doesn't. And what are we, the guests supposed to think -- that he is paying her a compliment? Absolutely not. I don't care how much he smiles or laughs when he throws it out there -- it is meant to wound. And she knows it. And he knows that she knows it.

Emotional abuse may take the form of the controller limiting the "victim's" outside contacts. "You don't need anybody but me," he may remind you constantly, and can actually get angry if you spend time with your friends or family, even on the phone. The more he can lock you away from your external support systems, the more he locks you in his boxx of control.

Deanna's husband tells her what time she can go to bed, what she is allowed to eat, and just how long she'd better be gone when she goes out to do errands. He never gives her a birthday or Christmas gift. He threatens to kill her and hide her car if she doesn't obey him. He makes her recite each day that she is worthless -- that he will tell her what she is worth, what she can and can't do, and who she is allowed to see when. This is obviously extreme emotional abuse.

Unfortunately, all these situations may seem extremely difficult to escape for the victim. The brainwashing of weeks, months, and years of constant demeaning remarks are meant to make her feel worthless and as though no one else in the world could love her. Thus, her fear of leaving exceeds the fear of staying, and even worse -- many times she blames herself for all that is wrong. Guilt becomes her constant companion. Leaving seems impossible. And besides, it's "not that bad." For if it were, there would certainly be broken bones to prove it. Or so she believes.

If you find yourself trapped in the boxx of emotional abuse, it's important to know you CAN escape! The long-term emotional damage caused by this type of situation will affect your physical as well as your mental health -- and that of your children. While there may not be laws protecting you from the constant verbal attacks, you do have the ability to recognize it for what it is -- definitely NOT something that goes hand-in-hand with a loving relationship. Furthermore, teaching your children that this is an acceptable behavior only leads them to believe that emotional abuse is an acceptable part of a normal relationship. Would you wish this for your child? Or your grandchild?

Mary Jo Fay is a speaker and writer. http://


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Friday, November 02, 2018



In addition to his work as head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and founder of the elite private sector consulting firm, The Academy Group, Roger L. Depue has also worked as a police chief, a SWAT Team member, and is a former Brother of the Order of Missionaries of the Holy Apostles. He speaks widely as a corporate consultant and has been interviewed by People magazine, CBS’ 48 Hours, and most recently The Discovery Channel, for whom he constructed a hypothetical profile of Deep Throat for an upcoming program pegged to the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. The Academy Group also served as the real-life basis for the Fox television series, Millennium.

Most recently, in addition to his ongoing casework with The Academy Group, Depue acted as a consultant on Universal Studio’s Red Dragon, a feature film version of Thomas Harris’ first Hannibal Lecter novel, which opened in October 2002 starring Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes and Edward Norton. His memoir, Between Good and Evil co-written by Susan Schindehette, was recently published by Warner Books.


SHE WAS SOMEONE’S DAUGHTER, fifteen years old, found lying on a mound of earth just off a desolate country road, with frosted pink polish on her fingernails and a gaping wound where her throat had been cut. As I surveyed the scene, surrounded in stillness, I studied the details of this tableau—little girl’s hands, clothing missing below the waist, bruises circling the fragile neck. But beyond the obvious evidence of violence, there was something jarring about the way the killer had left her here.

She was on her back, arms straight down at her sides. Yet after a brutal sexual assault, her legs were together now at knees and ankles, drawn up and tipped, almost demurely, to one side. Her killer had left her in a position of peaceful repose. Gently, it seemed. Tenderly. As if she were a sleeping child.

For ten years beginning in 1979, I was chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, at a time when its pioneering work in the field of criminal profiling first came to prominence, thanks in part to author Thomas Harris, who picked the brains of our profilers in conjuring up the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter for his novel The Silence of the Lambs.

Today, in a related incarnation, I am the founder of The Academy Group, an elite international crime consulting firm whose half dozen members, all FBI, CIA, or Secret Service veterans, constitute a brain trust of the world’s top forensic behavioral science experts in their respective fields: from sexual homicide and child predation, to international terrorism and espionage.

In that role I have listened to tapes of the Columbine school shootings, studied the rage wounds inflicted with a golf club on Martha Moxley’s skull, analyzed the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note, and helped a colleague plan his approach in debriefing the notorious FBI agent-turned-traitor Robert Hanssen. I am summoned to cases when all other investigations have failed, when law firms, police jurisdictions, or the emotionally devastated families of victims have nowhere else to turn. It is work that calls on me to be an advocate, a father confessor, and, sometimes, even a bit of the diviner.

In the course of my career I have seen horrible things—cruelty and human depravity in every imaginable permutation. In the 1980s I supervised agents investigating a series of bizarre homicides in California, in which the killer not only eviscerated his victims, but lingered at the scene while blood pooled in their abdominal cavities. Only after carefully studying the crime scene did we recognize the special proclivity of twenty-seven-year-old Richard Trenton Chase, whom the press later christened the Vampire Killer. It was revealed in the odd ring marks found on the floor next to victims, the kind that might be left by someone drinking from a blood-filled plastic yogurt cup.

A decade later, reviewing the murder of a housebound elderly woman, I noted the tremendous amounts of blood—sprays of darkening crimson on the walls, ceiling, and floors in the room where she was killed. But I was also struck by something that had not been given much significance by local police—the fact there was no blood at all on any of the room’s baseboards. The killer, I realized, must have wiped them down afterward.

Even after forensic lab tests confirmed that scenario, there was still no obvious message, of the kind left as a taunt by the seasoned serial killer at a crime scene. This was evidence of a disordered perpetrator clinging to the control afforded by familiar routine. Of someone, I thought, who might recently have left a psychiatric facility. Ultimately, investigation did indeed bear out that theory—the perpetrator was a young man just released from a California state mental hospital, whose job had been cleaning the baseboards on his ward.

Now, at a rural crime scene near a farmer’s field, I was trying to solve the brutal murder of an innocent fifteen-year-old girl. And I began to try to decipher what our killer had written with his savagery.

Bloodstains pointed to the precise location of the murder, a dense wood thick with stands of evergreen and maple, fifty feet from the side of the road. But the killer had chosen not to leave his victim there, and I knew what that meant. Any subject with normal human response—one who had, say, raped this young girl and then, in a panic, killed her—would have done all he could to hide his crime and avoid detection. He would have left her in the woods, perhaps in a shallow grave, or at least made some effort to hide her corpse in the brush. But this killer followed a different imperative. He had deposited his victim where he was certain she would be found.

Why would he do such a thing? Was he a braggart, a provocateur? I didn’t think so. I have seen sexual predators make unspeakable displays of their victims, violating them with gun barrels and broom handles in what hardened investigators refer to as “stick jobs.” But this killer had shown no such contempt. It seemed to me that there was only one plausible explanation: He had moved his victim because he did not want to leave her in the woods, unseen, where she might be vulnerable to insects or animals. He wanted whoever found her to appreciate her—as he had—with her freshness and beauty still intact.

Even so, he might have dragged her by the hair, or simply dumped her body. Instead, he had gone to the trouble of laying her carefully on a raised berm, higher than the surrounding ground. And then I began to understand. This killer did what human beings have done with objects of veneration since time immemorial. He had placed his victim on an altar.

Quickly, the pieces began to fit. After he had brutalized her, he felt remorse, very nearly a tenderness toward her. He treated her gently after he killed her, and I knew now exactly how he had transported her to this resting place. He had carried her from the spot where he had killed her the way a parent would a sleeping child—slipping one hand beneath her back, and the other under her knees. Then, when he laid her down softly on the ground, as if not to wake her, her knees had rolled gently to one side. What did this mean?

It meant that he knew her. Finally, it was clear to me. Whoever killed this young girl had also, in his own evil way, loved her.

How can those two things—love and hate—exist together in a person? In the same way, I believe, that good and evil exist in the world. In a constant state of tension, fighting each other for dominance. I know something about that struggle. I believe that I have a deeper understanding of these things than most people do.

My work has given me a profound respect for what humans suffer at the hands of evil, and a particular sensitivity for what its victims endure. During every investigation that I participate in, there is always an invisible observer at my shoulder, whose presence I never forget. Regardless of the circumstances of a case, I am always giving voice to its silent victim.

What must this young girl’s final minutes have been like? Did she cry out while he was repeatedly stabbing her, or keep silent, breathing like a wounded animal, watching for the next glint of a blade? Did her thoughts turn to her parents in those final seconds, when she was overwhelmed by the deepest loneliness she had ever known? Did she experience a dissociative response, the sense of drifting upward and watching her own death as if from above? Or did she sink mercifully into unconsciousness, and feel nothing as her life ebbed away?

The most difficult part of solving a case is the fathoming of it, the understanding of the measure of evil that produced it. The rest—the legwork and interrogation—come only after the intuiting, as the means of proving an investigative hypothesis. In this instance, once I had a clear picture of how the crime had occurred, the rest was not difficult. Investigators narrowed their focus to a relatively short list of potential suspects, questioned them thoroughly, and ultimately charged and convicted an obsessive young man—the young girl’s neighbor.

When I was a young man, a friend taught me the ancient art of dowsing, and after a time, I became something of a practitioner myself, finding water underground as a kind of parlor trick for friends. It might seem odd that a man so rooted in grim reality would take an interest in something so ethereal. In fact, I’m fascinated by the unseen forces at play in the lives of human beings.

Still, I’m sometimes challenged by abstract intellectual discussion about the nature of evil. If Hitler genuinely believed that he was carrying out a noble mission by exterminating Jews, some wonder, was he truly evil? Were there mitigating factors, others ask, for the genocide of his countrymen carried out by Cambodia’s Pol Pot? What exactly runs through the mind of an Osama bin Laden? I’ve never had the time to engage in such armchair dialectics. My job has been to try to stop human predators before they kill again, and after studying them so closely over so many years, to me their traits seem clearly recognizable.

They are rational, sadistic, often intelligent, and almost invariably narcissistic. They see themselves as living in a realm somewhere above the rest of us, in a place where the rules of normal society do not apply. Over the years, I’ve drawn up a list of their common operating principles, something that I call the Anti-Commandments: “That which you love is what I most seek to destroy.” “Life is as meaningless as death.” “There are few things more pleasurable than hurting someone who is trying to help me.” “People die too easily. It should be more painful, and take longer.”

The depth of this psychopathic evil is beyond the comprehension of most normal people. I have seen it many times: a pedophile is arrested, a man from a comfortable, upper-class neighborhood. Suddenly, all of his neighbors express shock and disbelief. “He was such a fine, upstanding man, a doting father. Why, he even coached Little League. He can’t possibly have done what he’s accused of.”

What those good people don’t fully comprehend is that, as a pedophile, this man is, above all, a sexual abuser of children. That is what he is at his core. He hurts children because, to him, their suffering is of no consequence. It is a meaningless by-product of behavior that makes him feel good, and his own pleasure is more important to him than anything, or anyone, else. Invariably, even from behind prison bars, he will never concede that what he did was damaging to a child. No, he insists, what he did was done out of love. It’s the rest of the world that doesn’t understand.

The reality is that this man’s wife, his nice house in the suburbs, his coaching job, even his own children, are props—the artifice that covers up, and facilitates, what he truly is. He continues to do what he does because that is what he cherishes above all else. What is most real about him is his evil.

Evil is more than a vague notion. It is an entity, and it is manifest on the earth. It has reflexes and intuition, senses vulnerability, and changes its form to adapt to its surroundings. Those who do not believe the Devil walks this earth have not seen the things that I have seen.

The stories I will relate are not fabrications. I have witnessed the unbelievable. Eviscerated children. Mothers who have sold their own toddlers into prostitution, and profited from the videotapes of them being victimized by strangers. Fathers who sleep with their daughters, and their daughter’s daughters. A man who, because a six-year-old girl doesn’t know her spelling words, binds her with duct tape and pierces her with an embroidery needle more than two hundred times.

Evil is not a discrete entity that springs forth fully formed. It is born in the mind, takes root there as fantasy, and prospers when normal human restraint can no longer contain it. I have seen it devour the personalities of men like Richard Speck, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy, turning them into blank-faced sociopaths who clearly know right from wrong, but choose, time and again, to follow their own base urges, with complete disregard for the terrible human suffering they cause.

I believe that every act of homicide causes a slight unbalancing in the world, and that it diminishes life’s universal equation. In the interest of justice, it is imperative that someone try to right that imbalance. But the task of fighting evil can take a terrible toll on the people who are charged with it. It can cost them their families, their equilibrium, their capacity for joy.

A relentless diet of human misery and sadistic violence can bring any human being—even those armored by years of experience in a law enforcement career—to the brink of despair. I once came to that place myself. But I returned from it, because, along with the evil, I have also come to know something about the redemptive power of good.

A decade ago, I lost the person who embodied most of what was true and worthwhile in my life, and the tragedy of her death caused a grief so great that I came to question God’s very existence. I made a decision to leave the world for a holy place, one that, I hoped, would be untouched by evil. I did my searching there, and made my peace. But ultimately, I came to understand that it was only by returning to the world that I would find redemption.

I have stood at the edge of the abyss and peered down into the darkest things that human beings are capable of, at times feared that evil, and very nearly seen it bring me to my knees. But, always, I have tried to conquer it, or at least to force it into submission. In the final accounting, I am a man of faith, in spite of the work that I have done. Or, perhaps, because of it.

How is it that a human being can dwell in the midst of such depravity, be reminded every day of the suffering of victims, and emerge from it intact? Is the path of evil irrevocable, or do we have the power to change it? It’s not for me to preach or posture. I can only bear witness to what I have seen.

I believe that we are all players in an ongoing battle, one that is both larger and more subtle than we often realize. What follows is a dispatch from the front lines of that war—a cautionary tale. It is the story of one man’s travels through darkness and redemption, a testament to the belief that in the unending struggle between God and the Devil, evil prevails in this world mostly when we, through apathy, fear, or indifference, allow it to.

In the fall of 1990 a phone call came to my Virginia consulting firm, The Academy Group, from a law firm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, requesting our help with a cold case robbery-homicide that had taken place some six years before. Its victim, a young woman in her twenties, had been found early one morning, stabbed to death, in the kitchen of the fast food restaurant where she worked. Her name was Terri Brooks.
The attorney, Greg Sturn, with the firm of Harris and Harris, told me that despite a lengthy investigation, local police had never been able to solve the case. But since money was missing from the restaurant safe, and similar fast food robberies had been common in the early 1980s, the consensus was that this must have been the same thing—an armed robbery gone bad.

Now, said Sturn, the dead girl’s father and stepmother, George Brooks and his wife, Betty, intended to file a wrongful death suit against the Marriott Corporation, owner of the restaurant chain where Terri had worked. Since Terri’s death occurred while she was on the job, state law dictated the case be filed as a workmen’s compensation claim; that was the sole legal remedy available to the Brookses. And that presented a problem. Under workmen’s comp rules, the only parties eligible for a monetary award were the victim’s dependents, and Terri, who was single and childless at the time of her death, had none. Which meant that her only living survivors—her parents and siblings—could file a claim, but weren’t eligible to collect a financial settlement.

It seemed like a cruel catch-22. But there was an alternative, said Sturn. Pennsylvania law allowed one exception to the workmen’s comp provision: If a plaintiff could prove that something called “personal animus”—malevolent ill will—had existed between killer and victim, then Terri’s parents could step outside the workmen’s comp restriction and take their case to civil court. Of course, the idea that Terri’s killer knew her might well make a negligence case against the corporation more difficult to prove, but Sturn wasn’t worried about that. Marriott company policy clearly stated that employees weren’t supposed to work alone at night. And on the night she was murdered, Terri had been closing up the restaurant alone.

That was the financial issue, but of course, it wasn’t the only one. After George Brooks and his first wife—Terri’s biological mother—had divorced, he went on to raise Terri and her three brothers and sisters by himself, and it was obvious he had loved his daughter deeply. He managed to survive in the wake of her murder, as the parents of many murdered children do. But it hadn’t been easy. George Brooks did the best he could to carry on with his life. But six long years after Terri’s death, he was still grieving. He needed to know who had killed his little girl.

After talking it over with my colleague, Ken Baker, we agreed to take on the case, and I asked the law firm to send us what information they had. A few days later, it arrived—a large manila envelope of investigative reports, depositions, police reports, autopsy information, and crime scene photographs. I poured myself a cup of coffee, we closed the door behind us, and sat down at the table in our conference room to begin reconstructing what had happened to Terri Brooks in the final hour of her life.

Just after 6:00 a.m. on the foggy morning of February 4, 1984, the general manager of a Roy Rogers restaurant at Oxford Valley Road and Route 1 in Falls Township, in Bucks County, came to work. He found the outer restaurant doors unlocked, the inner doors locked, and immediately became suspicious. He went inside, and was heading for the kitchen when he saw shoes and a set of store keys on the floor. Then he discovered Terri Brooks, twenty-five, his assistant manager, lying on the floor. She had been brutally murdered, and $2,579 was missing from the office safe.

When Terri didn’t return home that morning, her father, George, called the restaurant to see if she was there. He was told Terri had been taken to the hospital. “Is she all right?” he asked. “Is she all right?” Finally, they gave him the terrible news: Terri was dead.

All murder cases are tragic in their own way, but this one broke your heart. George Brooks was working class, and he had helped put Terri through college at the University of Maryland. She hoped to have a career in restaurant management, and she often stayed after closing at the restaurant, finishing up the paperwork. She was also engaged to be married that coming summer. In fact, two days before her death, she and her fiancé had put down a deposit on a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. Later that week, Terri was going to pick out her wedding dress.

A good investigator can tell a lot about a killer by studying evidence at the scene of the crime—blood splatter, the position of the body, the pattern of wounds. But the killer isn’t the only one to leave telling information. Sometimes, the victim leaves a message, too. And as I looked at the horrific murder scene photographs, I felt it: Terri herself was trying to tell us something.

She was found lying in a pool of blood on a dark industrial tile floor, on her back, not far from the restaurant’s office, still wearing her winter jacket. Her shoes, keys, and cigarettes were lying nearby. Her face was cut and badly bruised. The hyoid bone in her throat was fractured, which meant she had been strangled. A clear plastic trash bag liner was wrapped around her neck, covering her head. And a butcher knife was protruding from her throat, lodged with such force it couldn’t be pulled out from between the vertebrae of the spinal column.

In all of my years of law enforcement, I had never before seen anything quite like it: beating, strangulation, stabbing, and suffocation—four distinct modes of death. At that moment, I had no idea who had taken this young woman’s life so brutally, or why. But I did know that whoever murdered Terri Brooks had killed her four times.

We began to piece together a hypothetical sequence of events. It was a Friday night, and the kitchen had been cleaned and prepped for the morning shift, and Terri was ready to go home. She had her coat on and her purse, cigarettes, and keys with her. She was closing up when someone came to the door. Whether she knew the person or didn’t, she let him in. Then something began to go horribly wrong. It was as if she had suddenly said to herself, “I’ve got to get out of here.” She bolted for the door, and if it had only opened outward instead of inward, she might have made it.

He hit her like a football player, tackling her so hard she was literally knocked out of her shoes. Her purse, keys, and cigarettes flew onto the floor. She was stunned, but after taking a moment to recover, she started to fight back. She had played intramural sports in college. She was young and athletic, and fought with all her strength. They exchanged blows. He punched her in the face repeatedly, hitting her as hard as he could.

At some point, he dragged her across the tile floor, causing holes in her nylons on the top of her feet, worn away by the friction. There was a tremendous bruise line across her upper chest, from where she was slammed into the stainless steel counter. He started to strangle her, with such force he fractured the hyoid bone, just below the larynx. But she continued to fight.

Then came the butcher knife. Maybe the killer was the one who took it first, from the rack above the oven. Maybe it was Terri who grabbed it in an effort to defend herself, in which case he would have wrested it away from her. She had defensive wounds on her hands, which meant that as he was trying to cut her throat, she put her hands up to keep the blade away. Finally, perhaps holding her around the neck from behind, he plunged the knife into the front of her throat, where it partially cut her spinal cord. Still, she struggled. He pulled the knife out, but only partway, and then plunged it in again, harder. This time, the blade entered between the sixth and seventh vertebrae, and severed the other half of her spinal cord. 
Now she was paralyzed from the neck down, and she went limp, slipping to the floor. When she was found, her arms and legs were not cocked or bent, but extended straight out. At that point, she would have offered no resistance.

The knife was still protruding from her throat, lodged tightly between the vertebrae of the spine. As she struggled before she was stabbed, her neck had been extended, and the blade was thrust into her with such force that when she dropped to the floor, her head snapped forward, wedging the blade between her vertebrae. Even after all that, she was still alive. The blade had not severed her jugular vein or carotid artery. Her assailant realized she was still breathing. So he went to a storage area where the supplies were kept, and found a plastic trash bag. He wrapped it around her neck and head and, in one final spasm of violence, asphyxiated her.

There are many ways to kill a human being. If the perpetrator uses a gun, it is a more distanced act, cold and impersonal. But this killer wanted the pleasure of using his hands. He wanted to see his victim’s face, to look her in the eye as she died. One thing was clear. No matter what the local police had concluded, this was no simple robbery. Terri Brooks had not been fighting for the money, or even for her virtue. This young woman had been fighting for her life.

After I examined the file and talked it over with Ken, we found that we both had the same reaction. The Academy Group had been hired by a law firm to make a determination on a legal technicality in this case—the existence of personal animus—which was very different from being assigned as a homicide investigator to find the killer. Strictly speaking, it was not our job to provide a definitive resolution to the crime.

But after seeing how Terri Brooks had met her end, Ken and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s solve the damn thing anyway.”

After all these years, it wasn’t about the accolade. I’d had plenty of recognitiby that time—citations and promotions, moments in the limelight, the respect of my peers. This was about something deeper, about knowing that the person who’d killed this young woman was still out there somewhere, living his life, as if it were the natural order of things. He’d done something unspeakable, and he was smug in the knowledge that he’d gotten away with it. There was no one to fight on Terri’s behalf. No one but us.

It wasn’t going to be easy to solve this crime, but I knew what it would take. Working along with Ken, I’d have to tap into everything I’d learned in forty years of law enforcement. Still, wasn’t that the value of the past—its bearing on the future? The search for Terri Brooks’s killer would mark a chapter in a journey that had begun many years before. It would serve as a clear reminder of where I had come from, and how far I had already gone.

Copyright © 2005 by Roger L. Depue and Susan Schindeh

thanks to Holly for bringing this book to my attention!

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Thursday, November 01, 2018

Managing Abandonment Depression in Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)

By Pete Walker

Here is a map of the layering of defensive reactions to the underlying feelings of abandonment typically found in Complex PTSD. This territory is best viewed through unwinding the dynamics of emotional flashbacks. 

Flashbacks are at the deepest level painful layers of reactions - physiological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral - to the reemerging despair of the childhood abandonment depression. One very common flashback-scenario occurs as follows: Internal or external perceptions of possible abandonment trigger fear and shame, which then activates panicky Inner Critic cognitions, which in turn launches an adrenalized fight, flight, freeze or fawn trauma response (subsequently referred to as the 4F's). The 4F's correlate respectively with narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, or dissociative defensive reactions.

Here is an example of the layered processes of an emotional flashback. A complex PTSD sufferer wakes up feeling depressed. Because childhood experience has conditioned her to believe that she is unworthy and unacceptable in this state, she quickly becomes anxious and ashamed. This in turn activates her Inner Critic to goad her with perfectionistic and endangering messages. The critic clamors: "No wonder no one likes you. Get your lazy, worthless ass going or you'll end up as a wretched bag lady on the street"! Retraumatized by her own inner voice, she then launches into her most habitual 4F behavior. She lashes out at the nearest person as she becomes irritable, controlling and pushy (Fight/ Narcissistic) - or she launches into busy productivity driven by negative, perfectionistic and catastrophic thinking (Flight/Obsessive-Compulsive)- or she flips on the TV and becomes dissociated, spaced out and sleepy (Freeze/ Dissociative)- or she focuses immediately on solving someone's else's problem and becomes servile, self-abnegating and ingratiating (Fawn/Dependent). Unfortunately this dynamic also commonly operates in reverse, creating perpetual motion cycles of internal trauma as 4F acting out also gives the critic endless material for self-hating criticism, which in turn amps up fear and shame and finally compounds the abandonment depression with a non-stop experience of self-abandonment.

Here is a diagram of these dynamics: 
Triggered ABANDONMENT DEPRESSION -- FEAR & SHAME -- INNER CRITIC Activation: (Perfectionism & Endangerment) -- 4F's: (Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn Response). 
Especially noteworthy here is how the inner critic can interact with fear and shame in a particular vicious and escalating cycle.

This article describes a treatment approach that decreases retraumatizing reactivity to the internal affects of the abandonment depression. It guides the client to meet abandonment feelings equanimously by staying somatically present to the physical sensations of depression and fear. This in turn promotes the ability to feel through abandonment experiences without launching into inner critic drasticizing and 4F acting out. R.D. Laing once stated that: "The only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid unavoidable pain". In my experience resisting unavoidable encounters with depression and fear accounts for more than the lion's share of the PTSD client's pain.

The etiology of a self-abandoning response to depression. Chronic emotional abandonment is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. It naturally makes her feel and appear deadened and depressed. Functional parents respond to a child's depression with concern and comfort; abandoning parents respond to it with anger, disgust and further abandonment, which in turn create the fear, shame and despair that become characteristic of the abandonment depression. A child who is never comforted when she is depressed has no model for developing a self-comforting response to her own depression. Without a nurturing connection with a caretaker, she may flounder for long periods of time in a depression that can devolve into The Failure to Thrive Syndrome. In my experience failure to thrive is not an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather a continuum that begins with excessive depression and ends in the most severe cases with death. Many PTSD survivors "thrived" very poorly, and perhaps at times lingered near the end of the continuum where they were close to death, if not physically, then psychologically. When a child is consistently abandoned, her developing superego eventually assumes totalitarian control of her psyche and carcinogenically morphs into a toxic Inner Critic. She is then driven to desperately seek connection and acceptance through the numerous processes of perfectionism and endangerment described in my article "Shrinking The Inner Critic in Complex PTSD" (see link for this article: Shrinking the Inner Critic). Her inner critic also typically becomes emotional perfectionistic, as it imitates her parent's contempt of her emotional pain about abandonment. The child learns to judge her dysphoric feelings as the cause of her abandonment. Over time her affects are repressed, but not without contaminating her thinking processes. Unfelt fear, shame and depression are transmuted into thoughts and images so frightening, humiliating and despairing that they instantly trigger escapist 4F acting out. Eventually even the mildest hint of fear or depression, no matter how functional or appropriate, is automatically deemed as danger-ridden and overwhelming as the original abandonment. The capacity to self-nurturingly weather any experience of depression, no matter how mild, remains unrealized. The original experience of parental abandonment devolves into self-abandonment. The ability to stay supportively present to all of one's own inner experience gradually disappears.

We can gradually deconstruct the self-abandoning habit of reacting to depression with fear and shame, inner critic "freak out", and 4F acting out. The processes  awaken the psyche's innate, developmentally arrested capacity to respond amelioratively to depression and the fear and shame that attaches to it. It is a long difficult journey however, for even without attachment trauma, feelings of fear and depression are difficult to accept and weather.

The normalcy of depression
We live in a culture that judges fear as despicable, and depression as an unpatriotic violation of the "pursuit of happiness". Taboos about depression even emanate from the psychological establishment, where some schools strip it of its status as a legitimate emotion - dismissing it simplistically as mere negative thinking, or as a dysfunctional state that results from the repression of less taboo emotions like sadness and anger. I believe we must learn to distinguish depressed thinking - which can be eliminated - from depressed feelings - which must sometimes be felt. 

Occasional feelings of enervation and anhedonia are normal and existential - part of the admission price to life. Moreover, depression is sometimes an invaluable harbinger of the need to slow down, to drop interiorly into a place that at least allows us to restore and recharge, and at best unfolds into our deepest intuitiveness. One recurring gift that typically comes cloaked in depression is an invitation to grow that necessitates relinquishing a formerly treasured job or relationship that has now become obsolete or moribund. Overreaction to depression essentially reinforces learned toxic shame. It reinforces the individual's notion that, when depressed, he is unworthy, defective and unlovable. Sadly this typically drives him deeper into abandonment-exacerbating isolation. Deep level recovery from childhood trauma requires a normalization of depression, a renunciation of the habit of reflexively reacting to it. Central to this is the development of a capacity to stay in one's body, to stay fully present to all internal experience, to stay acceptingly open to one's emotional, visceral and somatic experiences without 4F acting out. Renouncing this kind of self-abandonment is a journey that often feels frustratingly Sisyphean. It is a labor of self-love and a self-nurturing process of the highest order, but it can feel like an ordeal replete with unspectacular redundancy - with countless, menial experiences of noticing, naming and disidentifying from the unhelpful internal overreactions that depression triggers in us.

A relational approach to healing abandonment
I am a relational therapist, because I believe this journey requires reparative relational experience. Healing Complex PTSD and the attachment disorder that typically accompanies it is an interpersonal journey which needs to be initiated and shepherded by a therapist, partner or trusted friend who has the capacity to stay unreactively present to their own depression and the various affects that attach to it. When a therapist has this level of emotional intelligence, she can guide the client to gradually release the learned habit of automatic affect-rejection and overreaction. A key operation here appears to depend on the eye and ear contact of a bi-hemispheric brain process Daniel Siegel calls "the co-regulation of affect". Safe and empathic eye and voice connection with an individual with "good enough" emotional intelligence provides a working model and a "limbic resonance" to help her stay unreactively present to her depression and the fear that attaches to it. This, in turn, promotes the integration of right and left brain functioning - helping the client to feel and think simultaneously and egosyntonically. Moreover, as Susan Vaughan's book: The Talking Cure avers, such work appears to promote the development of the inner neural circuitry necessary to healthily manage and integrate depression and its attenuated affects.
Guiding the client into somatic mindfulness
Therapists can teach clients the practice of "paying" non-reactive, self-accepting attention to their own affects. Behaviorally, this entails staying aware of, focused on and present to the somatic experience of the abandonment depression. Typically, this process is indirect at first because depression so commonly and instantly morphs into the hyperaroused sensations of fear. Early work then primarily involves staying present to the kinesthetic sensations of fear and noticing the psyche's penchant to dissociate or distract from them. Dissociation can be either the classical right brain distraction of spacing out into reverie, fantasy, TV/computer trance, fogginess or sleep - or it can be the left brain, cognitive dissociation of becoming distracted in obsessive thinking. Particularly nefarious here is the inner critic's penchant for dissociating from and reacting to depression and fear with toxic cognitions and reveries of endangerment and perfectionism. Over and over, the client needs to be guided to rescue himself from dissociation (left and/or right), and to gently bring his awareness back into fully feeling and experiencing the sensations of his fear and noticing his reactions to it. Sensations of fear may range from simple tension and muscular tightness anywhere in the body, especially the alimentary canal - to nauseous, jumpy, wired feelings and shocks of electrification - to shortness of breath, hyperventilation and diarrhea, when it is at its worst. Although these sensations typically feel unbearable at first, persistent focusing on them with non-judgmental, non-eschewing awareness eventually lessens and quiets them. Held non-reactively enough, they are seemingly dissolved, digested and integrated by awareness itself.

It is important to note here that this type of kinesthetic focusing often triggers memories and unworked through feelings of grief about the client's abuse and neglect in his original abandonment. This provides many invaluable opportunities to ameliorate PTSD by more fully grieving the losses of childhood. Therapists can also use the results of such explorations to foster the creation of an egosyntonic and self-compassionate narrative that deconstructs the shame and self-blame the PTSD client typically assigns to her suffering. I describe a safe, efficacious process for this type of grief work in my book: The Tao Of Fully Feeling: Harvesting Forgiveness Out of Blame. With considerable practice, the client eventually begins to exhume, from his fear, an awareness of the more elemental, underlying sensations of depression - sensations exceedingly subtle and barely perceptible at first. These sensations are initially as difficult to stay present to as they are to find. With guided ongoing practice however, focused attending also digests them as they are integrated into consciousness. As practice becomes more proficient, these feelings and sensations of depression sometimes morph into a sense of peace, relaxation and ease. Such relaxation can even, over time, open into a continuum of inner peace that may stretch from profound equanimity to that place of unsurpassable peace that various Eastern pundits describe as the Great Void or Sublime Nothingness.

Inner Somatic Work
Therapeutic gains in diminishing automatic self-abandonment in the face of fear or depression are augmented by individual introspective work. In my personal discovery of this skill, I spent over an hour a day in meditation with my awareness yo-yo vacillating between my body and my mind - between tense sensations of fear and the myriad disturbing mentations of my inner critic. These drasticizing thoughts and visualizations were my critic's outmoded historical interpretations that my feelings and sensations meant that I was in imminent danger of the abandonment of attack or neglect. My critic excoriated me incessantly to strive for safety through productivity and perfection. In the first year of this practice I frequently had to white-knuckle the handles on my chair to stay somatically present to my feelings - to break my adrenalin addiction, to stop myself from launching into my preferred 4F flight response. I had survived my childhood with ADHD-like busyness - with marathons of activity that kept me one step ahead of my fear- and shame-stained depression. Gradually as I used my focused awareness to digest my fear, I experientially discovered the rock bottom underlying core sensations of my abandonment depression itself. Over and over I focused on sensations of heaviness, swollenness, exhaustion, emptiness, hunger, longing, soreness, ache-iness, deadness. Sometimes these sensations were intense, but more often they were very subtle. With time I noticed how instantly my depression scared me and lead me to echo my parents' toxic shaming: "You're bad, worthless, useless, defective, ugly, despicable". Blessedly, with ongoing practice, I gradually learned to disidentify from the toxic vocabulary of the critic. I found myself more accurately naming these revisited childhood feelings: "Small, helpless, lonely, unsupported, unloved, needy" (as in profoundly unsuccessful in getting my needs for emotional comfort met).

Camouflaged Depression
Feelings of depression sometimes mimic gnawings of hunger, especially the emotions of abandonment which commonly masquerade as physiological sensations. Feeling very hungry a hour or two after a big meal is an almost certain signal of abandonment feelings and not real hunger. As much as this hunger appears to be about food, it is actually an emotional hunger - an emotional longing for safe, nurturing connection and for the satiation of abandonment. Even after a decade of practice, I still find it difficult to differentiate this type of attachment hunger from physical hunger. One, often, reliable clue is that the sensation of longing for the nourishment of attachment is usually in my small intestine, while physical hunger's locus is a little higher up in my stomach. (I believe the extreme longing for sex and/or love typical of sex and love addiction can similarly be an encounter with our abandonment depression, especially when no amount of affection or sexual attention from another seems to fill the void of longing).

On a parallel with false hunger, feeling tired is sometimes an emotional experience of the abandonment depression, and entirely unrelated to sleep deprivation - although over time the two can easily become confusingly intertwined. The emotional tiredness of not resting enough in the comfort of safe attachment and belonging, often masquerades as physiological tiredness. When our abandonment depression is unremediated, any kind of tiredness - emotional or physical - commonly triggers us into fear, which the inner critic translates into endangerment and imperfection, and the accompanying adrenalization launches us into one of the 4F responses.

It is a sad irony that reacting to emotional tiredness in this way can eventually exacerbate it into real physical exhaustion via a process I call the The Cyclothymic Two-Step. PTSD sufferers with a primary or secondary flight response frequently overreact to their tiredness with workaholic or busyholic action. They run so compulsively from their depression, that they eventually exhaust themselves physically, and at times become too depleted or sick to continue running. When this occurs, they collapse into an experience of abandonment so painful, that they re-launch desperately into "flight" speed at the first sign of replenished adrenalin. I have witnessed a number of such clients misdiagnose themselves as bipolar because of the extremes that ensue from desperately pursuing the adrenalin high and eschewing the abandonment low.

Adrenalization often becomes addictive because it self-medicates and counteracts the emotional tiredness that emanates from undigested and unworked through abandonment feelings. Especially noteworthy here is the endless and expensive journey that many survivors undergo trying to remedy emotional tiredness with physiologically-based medical treatments. Even worse, the short-lived (if any) improvements of such an approach increasingly augments the shame and self-hate of the sufferer over time: "What's wrong with me. I've changed everything in my diet and in my sleep and exercise schedule. I've seen every type of practitioner imaginable and I am still waking up feeling dead tired." It is a subtle, hard acquired skill, but learning to self-compassionately focus on the inexorable somatic experiences of sometimes feeling tired, bad, lonely, or depressed is the only way out of this cul-de-sac of self-destructive and unwarranted efforting. In this regard, the notable AA 12 Step acronym, HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired - can remind us to stop and pause introspectively to determine whether our abandonment depression has been triggered and needs the quiet, internal, self-compassionate attention described above.

We can sometimes gain motivation for this difficult work by seeing our depressed feelings as messages from our developmentally arrested child who is flashing back to his abandonment in hopes that his adult self will respond to him in a more comforting, compassionate and appropriate way.

Through such practice, clients can gradually achieve the healing that the Buddhists call separating necessary suffering (normal depression) from unnecessary suffering (the internal hopelessness, shame and fear, and the life-constricting acting out that ensues from unnecessary engagements with the critic and the 4F's). 


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