balance

Balancing to Hold On by Letting Go

balanceSince I started this blog, I am realizing more and more how much we, the victims and survivors of pathological love relationships, need each other. I’m also realizing how much we need to set each other free.

From the outside looking in, most people who visit this site (and other sites like this one) can easily jump to the conclusion that we’re a bunch of crying, complaining, broken-hearted, love-sick divas who need to move on!

I get it. I really do. I understand why many choose to look at us in that light: it’s easier to see surface emotions and judge them without diving deep into the reasons behind the emotions.

Often when we read or hear of another’s pain, we end up taking on their emotions. It’s draining. That’s called empathy. Being empathetic takes lots of energy and requires an absence of ego.

We know sociopaths can’t do that. They are not able to empathize.

The rest of us can empathize to a high degree, and the beauty of our ability is that we can choose the degree to which we empathize.

What do I mean? Well, think about it. The amount of energy it takes to focus on another’s pain is draining. We know the people in our lives who drain us the most, right? More than likely, the first person that comes to mind is the sociopath with his pseudo-pain.

But there are many non-pathological people who need our attention due to real pain, and we give to them freely. We put our worries and frustrations aside in order to take on the worries and frustrations of others.

And because we are aware of the energy required to do this, we sometimes choose not to empathize. We choose not to get involved. Making that choice is tough and sometimes filled with guilt. But it’s necessary.

I am perfectly content sometimes to not get involved, especially if I have no useful skills or resources that can help someone in great pain. In those circumstances, I end up feeling more helpless and hopeless and sad, in addition to taking on the pain of the person with whom I am empathizing.

So I choose not to get involved.

It’s not easy to turn the switch from “on” to “off.” I have had to do this often over the past months with family, friends and blog followers (I apologize!) in order to protect myself and remain on track to self-awareness and recovery.

Being overly empathetic of others steals our energy needed for ourselves. It’s the catch-22 of being a healthy, non-pathological person who critiques sociopaths and psychopaths daily–I end up looking no better than the sociopaths and psychopaths I analyze and digest.

But that’s just my guilt talking. I know I’m not a sociopath or psychopath. I also know when the time has come for me to be serious about my limitations and think seriously about hanging up my current hat in order to try on a new one.

Now is one of those times.

Since late February, I have been struggling with writing about sociopaths/psychopaths. I know deep down that I can’t maintain this momentum. I just can’t. I’ve written exhaustively about my experience and observations over the past 16 months or so. With the submission of each post, I think, “This could be the last one on the subject.”

It never is. There is always something that sparks something inside of me. It could be a conversation with a friend, a question from a reader, a TV commercial I watch, a word I hear, a song I begin to hum…whatever it is, I become inspired to share one more story related to sociopaths and toxic relationships.

But I am serious this time. This really could be the last post on the subject I write, but that’s only because I have so many other wonderful things in my life on which I want to focus.

Other than the obvious need to spend more time with my family, I am also actively planning to begin yoga teacher training in the fall. Once certified in yoga, I can then become certified to teach yoga to trauma patients.

THAT is what I see as my ultimate gift and take away from my toxic relationship and the best use of my empathy and all the energy it consumes. My writing has been a stepping stone to many things: friendships, understanding, job opportunities, vision and purpose.

I’ll continue to write, but probably less and less about sociopaths and psychopaths but more and more on healing techniques and mindful approaches to self-care (which anyone could benefit regardless of past relationship horrors).

I remain dedicated to transforming this blog into a comprehensive book on the aftermath and journey to self-recovery and healing from relational harm. That goal will be primary through the end of this year. As far as writing new material, I want to focus more on writing and editing for Elephant Journal and my Washington Times Communities’ column (which could possibly go into syndication, but I need to hunker down for that to happen).

So I’m not really going anywhere. I could never leave this community. However, I realize I need to let go a little in order to free myself to explore more possibilities for life, love and laughter. The “longing” part is taken care of now, because I feel more free today than I have ever felt in my entire life. I owe a large majority of that to my blog readers and visitors. You’ve made these past months so worth it to me.

The rest is thanks to my loving husband J., my son A. and myself.

Namaste!
~Paula

(image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/147492956518852766/)

yoga pose

The Most Important Part of My Healing and Continued Growth

yoga poseYoga! What is yoga and how can it help you?

I refer to yoga a lot. I have only been practicing yoga for 19 months. I began in October 2011 with a single goal–to heal my knee. I had been living with a bum knee since a car accident in 2002. Nine years of chronic pain was long enough, I thought, and I really wanted to avoid surgery. (I hate the idea of being cut open.)

I read and researched various therapy techniques and approaches to healing the type of injury I had sustained. I finally stumbled on a few testimonials from folks who had tried Bikram yoga.

Well, what do you know!? There was a Bikram studio just around the corner from my home, a studio I had passed many, many times and had never given a second thought.

I walked in one day, talked to the owner and signed up. The studio offered a deal for beginners: $20 for unlimited classes your first 7 days.

Being the skeptical, stubborn and determined person I am, I took 6 classes my first 7 days and couldn’t believe the results!

Not only did I heal my knee, I also realized that my overall health and well-being was getting healed along the way.

My mental and emotional health didn’t miraculously change in those first 7 days of practice. Not even close. It took about 6 months of dedicated attendance before I could feel, really feel, myself becoming a more focused, patient and life-loving person.

Yoga taught me how to listen to my breath, which led to listening to my heart.

(The following list of benefits was taken from this page:
http://yogalutionstudio.com/about-the-studio/what-is-yoga/)

A disciplined pracitce of yoga brings transformative effects:

Strengthens the body
Focuses the mind
Boosts serotonin levels
Decreases anxiety, depression and fear
Improves sleep
Enhances the immune system
Stabilizes blood sugar levels
Releases muscle tension
Prevents premature aging and illnesses

Yoga is the portal to preventative healthcare and a long healthy fulfilling life.

Remember, you don’t have to be flexible to benefit from yoga. Yoga is not a religion and isn’t intended to replace your current spiritual path. Yoga is meant to supplement whatever path you are on.

Namaste!
~Paula

(image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/223420831486804355/)

The Intelligence of Anxiety

blow up

I love editing for Elephant Journal. It seems each and every article I am assigned somehow relates to this blog and everyone who follows it. The latest article I edited over the weekend relates to our anxieties.

I think you would all agree that understanding, recognizing and dealing with the anxieties in the toxic relationship really screwed with our minds.

Good news! That’s what anxiety is supposed to do. Our anxieties were a warning sign that something was not right! How we dealt with these anxieties is another story.

Below is a short intro to the article with a link to the rest of the story. Enjoy!


The Intelligence of Anxiety. ~ Ian Anderson for Elephant Journal

I recently read an article linking high levels of anxiety with a high IQ, which made me think, “What is the intelligence of our anxiety?”

To better explore this topic, it is essential to understand what anxiety is and how it works.

Understanding Our Anxiety

Dictionary.com defines anxiety as, “A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

This is a relatively good definition, and something that I am certain almost all of us can relate to. I would add that the frustrating aspect of anxiety is that it’s intrusive, preventing us from accomplishing what we want from our lives.

Not only does anxiety manifest highly undesirable emotional responses, we often respond in physical ways: we begin to sweat, our stomachs churn and suddenly we can’t think or speak clearly.

Our ability to feel this anxiety evolved for a reason. It kept us alive. The problem today is that our anxiety often occurs in the face of unrealistic, or in the absence of, true threats.

So what do we do about it? Let us first explore our negative coping patterns. Continue reading.

Brain machine

Changing Our Brains After the Toxic Relationship with the Sociopath @ElephantJournal

BrainmachineOur brains like balance. Even if the balance doesn’t produce positive results in our life, the brain fights to keep the balance.

Being in a relationship with a sociopath resulted in a brain balance that causes us to think and function in a non-desirabe way. We can attribute this non-desirable brain balance to any number of factors: trauma, cognitive dissonance, emotional, spiritual, sexual and physical abuse.

Once outside of the pathological love relationship, we find ourselves flailing and desperate to change and change quickly.

In our desperation, we fail to realize that it’s not our will to change that we’re battling; it’s our chemistry. Our bodies got comfortable and balanced even in our suffering and despair. Just because we want to change that, doesn’t mean our bodies will cooperate freely and instantly. On the contrary, our bodies desire to maintain whatever balance has been established.

Asking our minds to change is the same as asking our minds to be okay with being thrust into a period of imbalance. Our mind doesn’t like that idea and fights against that imbalance.

With lots of patience in our ability to fight this internal resistance, we can create a new and improved balance, one that allows us to feel peace and a renewed sense of self-love and hope.

*I edit and write for Elephant Journal Literary Magazine.  I was tasked with reviewing and posting the following story yesterday, which inspired this post.

Neuroscience & Why Changing Our Habits is Hard
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/05/neuroscience-why-changing-our-habits-is-hard-stephen-light/

The article provides some insight into why our desire to change and move beyond the pathological love relationship isn’t instant and requires time, dedication and persistent motivation.

It was like an addiction after all…

Namaste! Happy Monday! ~Paula

Sociopaths and psychopaths are not fascinating. People who survive them are.

20130513-152040.jpg

The behaviors of sociopaths, psychopaths and any pathological persons are not fascinating to me and should be collectively judged as bad by society. Why?

We judge everything. Judgement isn’t as bad as people are led to believe.

Judgment encompasses three categories: good, bad and indifferent.

When we revere something, we are judging it as good. When we are indifferent to something, we are judging it as unimportant.

To me, indifference is the same thing as ignorance, and if we keep perpetuating ignorance about the real harm sociopaths, psychopaths and other pathological individuals are capable of inflicting, the problem just gets bigger and more difficult to manage.

So, I guess, I am not really judging anyone as being bad, am I? I am simply providing awareness based on facts and real-world experience.

The American Psychological Association will soon release the updated and revised 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The DSM is basically a glossary of labels and behaviors related to mental health. It’s a glorified dictionary, in my opinion, but a necessary one. The DSM-IV is what I used to determine, once and for all, if the boy in my story was a narcissistic sociopath. That’s where the usefulness of the DSM ended for me.

The DSM stops at the diagnosis, the definition and label. And even the label isn’t easily justified.

Where are the blood tests? What about the standards for reading brain scans of those diagnosed? Are their genetic markers that support whether or not a patient was born that way or nurtured and conditioned to be that way? Or did other societal factors cause the disorder?

And there isn’t much in terms of how to treat the disorders, either.

The DSM does not provide personality disordered individuals with recommendations for healing and recovery. There are no treatment options to cure narcissists or sociopaths and other cluster B disordered individuals.

You laugh at the notion. So do I! We all know from experience that individuals who perpetually and instinctively repeat the behaviors characteristic of having a personality disorder or of being a sociopath or psychopath are, by their very nature, disordered and are not capable of change. Treatment for the personality disordered among us is a moot point.

To make matters worse for us lay persons (and for the inexperienced psychoanalysts and psychiatrists, for that matter), the DSM doesn’t even include a list of measurable effects that personality disordered behavior can have on non-disordered individuals and/or society.

And this is where the lines are blurred and the science behind psychiatry and neuroscience meet:

  1. There are sick people who are born sick and can’t be rewired or fixed. Psychiatry, as it is today, can not help these people. Neuroscience can help strengthen the definitions and classifications of these individuals but also can’t ethically help these people either.
  2. Then there are those individuals born with a healthy and productive mental capacity and balance who are acted upon and broken by individuals born sick and disordered. The people born healthy can be treated with psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Neuroscience can help pinpoint the areas of the brain that need “massaging,” so to say, and allow for complete and full recovery.

Therefore, why do we waste our time studying sociopaths like some newly discovered species of butterfly? The sociopath and the disordered have been around for centuries if not since the beginning of time. Why the fascination and investment?

They harm others. Period. End of story.

Who is going to have the guts to put personality disorders and pathology into a bucket outside of treatable mental health issues and disorders and classify these people instead as the cause of the majority of the harm inflicted upon others?

(Yes. Blame the monsters. Stop blaming the victims!)

Individuals acted upon by pathological people are the real patients who deserve more of our time and efforts. And the way we approach treating the real patients needs to change dramatically.

I don’t think I am alone on this one.

The following was pulled from an article published by The Guardian on Saturday, May 11, 2013: Psychiatrists under fire in mental health battle: British Psychological Society to launch attack on rival profession, casting doubt on biomedical model of mental illness

“There is no scientific evidence that psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are valid or useful, according to the leading body representing Britain’s clinical psychologists.”

“In a groundbreaking move that has already prompted a fierce backlash from psychiatrists, the British Psychological Society’s division of clinical psychology (DCP) will on Monday issue a statement declaring that, given the lack of evidence, it is time for a “paradigm shift” in how the issues of mental health are understood. The statement effectively casts doubt on psychiatry’s predominantly biomedical model of mental distress – the idea that people are suffering from illnesses that are treatable by doctors using drugs. The DCP said its decision to speak out “reflects fundamental concerns about the development, personal impact and core assumptions of the (diagnosis) systems”, used by psychiatry.”

“Dr. Lucy Johnstone, a consultant clinical psychologist who helped draw up the DCP’s statement, said it was unhelpful to see mental health issues as illnesses with biological causes.”

‘On the contrary, there is now overwhelming evidence that people break down as a result of a complex mix of social and psychological circumstances – bereavement and loss, poverty and discrimination, trauma and abuse,’ Johnstone said.”

Although Johnstone’s statement doesn’t specifically list “exposure to disordered people” as one of the circumstances behind another person’s breakdown, I can’t help not making that connection when I read trauma and abuse.

Bad people are born. People who are born bad hurt others. They inflict trauma and pain on others.

We have this false sense of hope that the bad people can be fixed with medication or a 30-day rehab stint. They can’t. Those born sick will stay sick.

Would you send a child born with Down’s syndrome to a hospital hoping upon the child’s return the child will be cured? Of course not. So why do we think people born with the propensity to inflict physical, emotional and spiritual harm on another can be fixed?

Gone should be the days of saying, “Oh, he can’t help it, he was born that way.” Or “His father beat him when he was young and that’s why he beats his wife and kids.”

We need to stop having pity on these disordered individuals. We need to stop dismissing rapists and child molesters and murderesses who claim childhood trauma and severe mental anguish as the reason behind their behavior.

There are many, many people who have been abused, molested and assaulted as children who do not grow into monsters who prey on others. Assuming such things is highly destructive and counter-productive to the healing and recovery process of victimized individuals born healthy and without pathology.

The reason a person repeatedly hurts another and then another and then another is because that person was born to hurt people–emotionally, mentally spiritually and physically. They have no empathy or conscience. They are not able to be rehabilitated.

Society desperately wants to be fair and reasonable with offenders. Why? Because we know we are all fallible and make mistakes and would want mercy if we screwed up, right?

When healthy people screw up, we don’t weasel our way out of punishment. We say, “Yes, I did that. I am sorry. What is my punishment?”

We don’t blame our past or someone else for our bad decisions. We own our mistakes. We are accountable. We assume everyone is like us: good, fair and accountable.

People born without the capacity to empathize and who lack a conscience are not good, fair or accountable. They have nothing positive to contribute to society and have only the ability to destroy–people, families, institutions, organizations and governments.

(You could probably list a few. I could too.)

As a society and community of mindful thinkers and change agents, we need to stop focusing on fixing the unfixable and instead focus on helping those the unfixables have broken. Trauma patients can survive and they can be healed and society should want to help.

We need to stop putting our time and efforts and our money into research, drugs and facilities focused on understanding, medicating and housing the disordered and unfixable. How absurd!

All of those resources should be put into helping and healing the good people who can be fixed and who can be helped and whose temporary imbalance can be adjusted through mindful and natural approaches.

Stop blaming the trauma patients for their trauma and stop trying to help the disordered who inflict the trauma in the first place.

Trauma patients can be fixed. They can recover. But they can’t do it without our collective understanding and encouragement. They can’t do it if the source of their trauma is getting treated with more care, attention and fascination than they are.

Be fascinated with the people who walked away from the sick and disordered. There must be a super power in them that science has overlooked. I’d like to find out what that is and replicate it, wouldn’t you? A vaccine against the effects of pathology perhaps.

Prevention rather than the preservation of the sick and disordered due to society’s constant fascination. After all, when you pay attention to something, it never goes away.

Namaste!

Receiving and Giving the Shine On Blog Award

shineonPaula’s Pontifications has been honored with the Shine On Award courtesy of Spread Information. Thank you Madelinelaughs!

Rules for accepting the award:

  • Link back to the person (or people) who nominated you. Check!
  • Add the award logo to your blog. Check!
  • Share seven things about yourself. Check!
  • Nominate 10 – 15 bloggers, and link to them, and tell them about their nomination. Check!

Seven things about Paula and Paula’s Pontifications:

1. This blog has been actively active for just over a year.

2. My day job is as a web editor and web analyst. (It sounds more interesting than it actually is.)

3. I write and edit for Elephant Journal. (It’s actually a lot more interesting than it sounds!)

4. I am in the process of writing a second book highly influenced by this blog and reader responses and feedback. The focus will be on healing and recovery techniques, motivation and encouragement for survivors based on my journey and the journey of others who have shared their stories with me. (No worries. I will not be using real names in the book unless you have a blog and I reach out to you for permission prior to publication.)

5. I am raising a son who wants to be a ninja doctor one day. (His grandfather is a highly dedicated cancer research scientist/physician.) My son’s other influences are shows like Avatar, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

6. I grew up in Appalachia, western Maryland specifically. My father is an old-school mechanic. I played in his junk yard as a kid. My mother is a bookkeeper. I went to church with her every Sunday growing up. I wouldn’t consider myself a redneck or wholesome. I have never witnessed anything like Wrong Turn until I watched that silly movie. I live in the D.C. area now but miss the relaxed environment of “home” almost every day.

7. I have 5 sisters. I also have 2 step brothers and 2 step sisters. I am next to the youngest. However, I am 6 years younger than the next oldest sister. I don’t know how my birth order has affected my personality. Some would say I am more like a firstborn-middle child mix. I can be orderly, organized, bossy and dominant. At the same time, I can be a good negotiator and unafraid of authority. (No kidding!!) I can tell you that I am and have always been very protective of my youngest sister (only a year younger) and have gotten myself into altercations protecting her. (Growing up in Appalachia will make you that way.) 

My picks for the Shine On Award!! (I’d like to pick every blog and blogger I follow.)
This is always the hardest part of accepting an award…choosing from the hundreds of bloggers I follow to receive the award, too. These bloggers have inspired me and brought me to tears. They have had an effect on me. Period. I thank them all for having the courage to write and share and hope they continue to Shine On! It’s not easy putting ourselves out here. We open many doors to criticisms and additional shame and blame. But hey, none of us on here really cares about the trolls in the end, do we? 🙂

Deliberate Donkey

Girl for Animal Liberation

Behind the Mask of Abuse

One Hot Mess(age)

The Eternal Victim

Grace for My Heart

Kimberly Harding – Soul Healing Art

I Survived a Murder Attack but My Family Didn’t

Roots to Blossom

Passive Aggressive Abuse

I Won’t Take It

Laura Susanne Yochelson

Who is Bert

Dating a Sociopath

Being a Beautiful Mess

Lady with a Truck

How to love a girl who writes. ~Kate Bartolotta

How to Love a Girl Who Writes #Elephant Journal

I love, love, love this article by one of my editors at Elephant Literary Journal and believe many of my fellow female blogger friends can probably relate. I highly recommend my male blogger friends to read it, too. I’m sure some of these character traits and quirks are interchangeable regardless of gender. Enjoy!

How to Love a Girl Who Writes. ~Kate Bartolotta for Elephant Journal

How to love a girl who writes. ~Kate Bartolotta

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/04/how-to-date-a-girl-who-writes/

Perspective – The upside to having lived in hell with a Sociopath

20130426-110343.jpgBefore the sociopath, I always feared criticism. I tried so desperately to be perfect and not to offend people intentionally or otherwise.

(Of course, there were people who got under my skin that I didn’t like. I rarely held back letting those people know I disliked them.)

But I always worried about what my close family and friends and co-workers thought of me. I wanted to be seen as a good person in their eyes. I didn’t want to offend my loved ones. I wanted them to be proud of me.

When any of them criticised me, I would get easily hurt. When I got easily hurt, I would do one of two things: 1) become ashamed and run away or 2) get mad and runaway. Sometimes I became ashamed and mad.

I was not good at accepting healthy criticism from people who loved me. I hated the fact I would get upset with them for pointing out one of my personal failings.

I was never really angry with them, though. I was more angry with myself for having done something against them that would make them ashamed of me.

In walks the sociopath. Within a few months of the relationship starting, everything I did was shameful to him.

From past relationships and old friends I still valued to how I disciplined my son or neglected to discipline my son — these were all areas in which I was shamed by the sociopath.

Needless to say, I felt ashamed of myself the majority of my relationship with him. I felt like I was worthless and that I honestly needed to change everything about myself in order to be worthy of anyone’s love and attention, especially the sociopath’s.

Once I was finally out of the relationship and able to focus on my behavior outside of the sociopath, I recognized more clearly that, yes, I had some work to do, but not nearly as much work as the sociopath had me brainwashed into thinking.

The work I had to do involved letting go of being and trying to be so damn perfect for everyone else. Once I let go of that (which took me over 18 months from the time I left the sociopath), I could relax and not worry so much about what others thought of me.

And you know what? I have discovered that when I am not worried about screwing up, I don’t screw up as much!

When we go from one extreme to the next, we are able to add perspective to our lives and live more gently and carefully.

The sociopath was an EXTREME shamer and blamer. Absolutely nothing I did was or could ever be good enough. There was always shame and blame connected to my actions. EVERY action.

It didn’t matter if I drank too much or quit drinking all together, I would be shamed.

  • If I drank, I was a poor excuse for a mother and not a good girlfriend.
  • If I didn’t drink, I better think about why I was such a bad mother and poor girlfriend now that I was sober.
  • If I exercised, I was doing it for someone else other than the sociopath.
  • If I didn’t exercise, I was taking time away from my relationship with the sociopath.
  • If I called my mother, I was a whining baby who couldn’t handle my own problems without mommy’s help.
  • If I didn’t call my mother, I was avoiding my responsibilities.

(Where the fuck does a person go when stuck in this mess!?!)

The only place to go is outside of it. Otherwise, you remain stuck, miserable and always wondering why you are such a failure.

You are not a failure! You might not be perfect, but who is?

We each make bad choices and don’t always say the right thing in every situation. Sometimes we hurt people’s feelings without realizing it.

All we can do when these things happen is apologize and recognize that a mistake was made, fix it but move on.

If we allow ourselves to marinate in shame and blame, we never grow from the act or circumstance that caused the shame and blame.

And the only thing worse than self-blame and self-shame, is being subjected to the shame and blame of a pathological person like the sociopath.

You are human. Embrace your humanity. Be gentle with yourself even when you screw up, and good people will be gentle with you, too.

Namaste!

Related articles – Letting Go of Perfect. ~Paula Carrasquillo for Elephant Journal

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