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Ladeska - help me please
October 12, 2006
8:44 am
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2alone
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Ladeska - I read your insightful piece and I see so much of my ex-husband and current boyfriend in it. And it really makes sense. My problem is that with my current boyfriend I hope beyond hope that he can change. Is it possible to not allow a CA to control you? Is it possible that all of the charmer's wonderful qualities can stay and the bad be minimized?

I've been slowly pulling away from my boyfriend and he's chasing more. He constantly says he loves me - can't live without me. He talks about our "wonderful future" He says he wants to care for me and my daughters. He knows that I desire above all to have a great father for my girls - and he's done everything he can to be one. He tries to get me to commit to a future and talk about a wedding/honeymoon and house. After I start responding he tells me in a subtle way that all of our "problems" are my fault. I just keep thinking that the blame he shifts to me on almost everything is deserved. I feel like if I was just more caring or worked harder to be a good girlfriend he wouldn't say that things were all my fault.

I need some straight talk, good advice - please let me know what to do. I'm torn because of all the good things he presents to me and my low self esteem. I want to believe everyone is good and is made of love...

October 12, 2006
12:31 pm
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red blonde
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2alone

I printed out what Ladeska wrote and at first, I could only read alittle bit at a time. But now I am reading it over again.

As for my c/a xso, (I call him my "child") he will not change. He has discarded me as easily as garbage and has moved on to someone else. I would like to warn her, but I can not in my current situation financially. He was responsible for part of my situation and I am holding him accountable for it right now...hoping that he will grow up some and finally accept responsibility for some of his actions.

I DO NOT WANT HIM BACK, but I can not do NO CONTACT either. I will eventually cut him loose, but need his help with the financial mess that he helped create. Now he is telling everyone that he is SUPPORTING ME FINANCIALLY. Which is a lie..and it hurts that he can not own up to the fact that I supported HIM for 7 yrs...in EVERY WAY possible. Yes, it hurts and it hurt when I threw his a$$ out. But, I am slowly recovering and working through the pain with posting and reading threads on this site.

keep posting and reading here

Red

October 12, 2006
12:32 pm
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StronginHim77
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2alone -

Abusers do not change. If you see your boyfriend in Ladeska's posting, you know what you deserve better. Nursing false hope that he can change is going to prolong the pain.

I really feel for you. Many of us on these threads have been in the same position. It is so hard. We love them and will endure endless amounts of manipulation, mistreatment and abuse, hoping that they will finally see how much we mean to them and begin to change. They don't. A sociopath is a sociopath is a sociopath. And they are basically incurable, untreatable and unwilling to even admit they have a problem.

Keep posting. Read the other threads. I will be happy to post some material about emotional abuse, if you would like to read it.

Can you share some of the specific things your BF is doing to you that you recognized from Ladeska's posting?
Believe me, no one here will judge you and sometimes writing it out in black & white helps us to gain inner strength to make better choices for ourselves.

- Strong

October 12, 2006
1:22 pm
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2alone
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Thank you both.

The thing is my boyfriend is 100x times man my ex-husband is. He is a hard worker, very outgoing, seems to have his life in order... the things I see make me wonder if I'm being too picky or just hyper sensitive after living with a real narcissist.

Every time we talk my boyfriend has to tell me how great, smart or wonderful he is at work and to his children. He is and I tell him that frequently - but it seems draining to have to do it day after day. We live 8 hours apart - he'll call me but he'll be playing on-line poker while he's talking to me. He can never give me his full attention. He told me after only 4 dates that he wanted to marry me. He seems to say that to me a lot. Always painting a bright future for us. He tells me I'm a good mother but if I would only do it his way I could "make my life easier." He treats his ex-wife like a child. She's isn't a rocket scientist but some of the things he says about her and to her make me cringe. If he says something that hurts my feelings and I assert myself by telling him - he gets very defensive - never appologizes and turns the fault on me. After one disagreement he refused to talk to me for 3 days. He told me afterwards it was "punishment" and it was so I "could figure out how important" he was to me. We only have sex on his terms - if I try to initiate he says I'm being hyper sexual. This past weekend we did it and I didn't O and he said to me later that he's never had a problem with any other woman he's been with and that I must be too sexually uptight.

I guess I'm tired of feeling like everything is always my fault. Yet - he seems so kind to my children. He tells me he loves me. He's smart. Good looking. Social. He is very attentive... so is it me? Am I dwelling on the negatives too much?? I don't want to give up a man who loves me and my children because I had a horrible first marriage....

October 12, 2006
1:42 pm
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2alone

I am learning that first they suck you in and then they suck you dry.

What you wrote - minus the children -
sounds so familiar to me!

Just keep posting about your fears and thoughts.

"Red flags" are popping up everywhere, you are seeing them, so don't ignore those "red flags".

Red

October 12, 2006
5:30 pm
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hello 2 alone.
how long have you been with this man? the red flags are flashing, from my own experience not going to get any better. Either he will dump you suddenly OR the cycle of abuse will get stronger and stronger. The emotional abuse has already started.

There is a fantastic book that helped me a lot. It's called "Why does he do that"? by Dr. Lundsy Bradcroft. I hope you can buy it/borrow it from the library. It opened my eyes, together with the great support from StronginHim.

I hope you can get out before things get really bad. I hope you can read the book. It is never good when we start doubting our sanity, even for a minute.

another great site someone recommended:

http://www.youarenotcrazy.com

hope this helps. take care. double

October 12, 2006
5:39 pm
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I just went to that website and watched the intro. I got slapped in the face and i cannot breathe. I have to think on this for awhile.

October 12, 2006
6:01 pm
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Thank you for sharing the web link. I just checked it out and sent it to a friend.

October 12, 2006
10:29 pm
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Hi 2alone

You asked:

"Is it possible that all of the charmer's wonderful qualities can stay and the bad be minimized?"

It's pretty simple. First you have to check to see if you are in an abusive relationship or not.

People who display a pattern of intimate partner abuse do so because of deeply held convictions, beliefs and attitudes about themselves, others, and relationships.

It is darn near impossible for a person to change deeply held convictions, beliefs and attitudes. The only two ways I know of doing that are:

1) Decades of learning experiences that slowly teach you life's lessons.

2) Making up your mind and publicly declaring "my deeply held beliefs, etc. are sick and if I don't change I'm gonna die, or worse. Someone please help me!" Followed by yearss of learning experiences.

For an Abuser, the one thing that will definitely not help is simply being told by an intimate partner that they need to change.

October 13, 2006
9:43 am
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2alone
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Wow - I went to that web site and was blown away. Thanks for telling me about it. I haven't had the time to look at it fully - but I will definately take the time to do so.

He called last night when I was vulnerable and lonely. I told him I was lonely - and he said - should I get you your engagement ring - would that make you feel better and secure? I said a quick no because I know that would just get me into it deeper. It is just so tempting...

October 13, 2006
10:31 am
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2alone -

This is an excellent posting from Sam's Site. I was married to a narcissist. It is a serious, basically incurable, personality disorder. Personality disorders are serious, mental illnesses. Read this and see if it describes your BF. If it does, do some more homework about relationships with narcissists, before you make a commitment. And yes...my ex-N husband pushed me for a marriage. Dangled the ring, fancy house, etc. under my nose like "bait." He projected tremendous kindness and interest in my children. It all turned out to be bogus. He dropped the act, as soon as he had me "hooked." (P.S. My sons grew to hate him in short order.)

Here is the posting. Good luck and keep sharing with us here.

How to Spot an Abuser on Your First Date

First published on Verbal and Emotional Abuse on Suite101

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with? Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumb to shield you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?

Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be abuser. Here's how:

Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser's alloplastic defenses – his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume personal responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune for his predicament?

Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured, and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does he confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?

Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated you only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal autonomy)?

Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings while waiting for you to get ready?

Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return ("have you seen anyone interesting") – or make lewd "jokes" and remarks? Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family?

Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Is he wildly unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding relationship, and from life in general?

Does he tell you constantly that you "make him feel" good? Don't be impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you "make" him feel bad, or that you make him feel violent, or that you "provoke" him. "Look what you made me do!" is an abuser's ubiquitous catchphrase.

Does he find sadistic sex exciting? Does he have fantasies of rape or pedophilia? Is he too forceful with you in and out of the sexual intercourse? Does he like hurting you physically or finds it amusing? Does he abuse you verbally – does he curse you, demeans you, calls you ugly or inappropriately diminutive names, or persistently criticizes you? Does he then switch to being saccharine and "loving", apologizes profusely and buys you gifts?

If you have answered "yes" to any of the above – stay away! He is an abuser.

Many abusers have a specific body language. It comprises an unequivocal series of subtle – but discernible – warning signs. Pay attention to the way your date comports himself – and save yourself a lot of trouble!

Abusers are an elusive breed, hard to spot, harder to pinpoint, impossible to capture. Even an experienced mental health diagnostician with unmitigated access to the record and to the person examined would find it fiendishly difficult to determine with any degree of certainty whether someone is being abusive because he suffers from an impairment, i.e., a mental health disorder.

Some abusive behavior patterns are a result of the patient's cultural-social context. The offender seeks to conform to cultural and social morals and norms. Additionally, some people become abusive in reaction to severe life crises.

Still, most abusers master the art of deception. People often find themselves involved with a abuser (emotionally, in business, or otherwise) before they have a chance to discover his real nature. When the abuser reveals his true colors, it is usually far too late. His victims are unable to separate from him. They are frustrated by this acquired helplessness and angry that they failed to see through the abuser earlier on.

But abusers do emit subtle, almost subliminal, signals in his body language even in a first or casual encounter. These are:

"Haughty" body language – The abuser adopts a physical posture which implies and exudes an air of superiority, seniority, hidden powers, mysteriousness, amused indifference, etc. Though the abuser usually maintains sustained and piercing eye contact, he often refrains from physical proximity (he maintains his personal territory).

The abuser takes part in social interactions – even mere banter – condescendingly, from a position of supremacy and faux "magnanimity and largesse". But even when he feigns gregariousness, he rarely mingles socially and prefers to remain the "observer", or the "lone wolf".

Entitlement markers – The abuser immediately asks for "special treatment" of some kind. Not to wait his turn, to have a longer or a shorter therapeutic session, to talk directly to authority figures (and not to their assistants or secretaries), to be granted special payment terms, to enjoy custom tailored arrangements. This tallies well with the abuser's alloplastic defenses - his tendency to shift responsibility to others, or to the world at large, for his needs, failures, behavior, choices, and mishaps ("look what you made me do!").

The abuser is the one who – vocally and demonstratively – demands the undivided attention of the head waiter in a restaurant, or monopolizes the hostess, or latches on to celebrities in a party. The abuser reacts with rage and indignantly when denied his wishes and if treated the same as others whom he deems inferior. Abusers frequently and embarrassingly "dress down" service providers such as waiters or cab drivers.

Idealization or devaluation – The abuser instantly idealizes or devalues his interlocutor. He flatters, adores, admires and applauds the "target" in an embarrassingly exaggerated and profuse manner – or sulks, abuses, and humiliates her.

Abusers are polite only in the presence of a potential would-be victim – a "mate", or a "collaborator". But they are unable to sustain even perfunctory civility and fast deteriorate to barbs and thinly-veiled hostility, to verbal or other violent displays of abuse, rage attacks, or cold detachment.

The "membership" posture – The abuser always tries to "belong". Yet, at the very same time, he maintains his stance as an outsider. The abuser seeks to be admired for his ability to integrate and ingratiate himself without investing the efforts commensurate with such an undertaking.

For instance: if the abuser talks to a psychologist, the abuser first states emphatically that he never studied psychology. He then proceeds to make seemingly effortless use of obscure professional terms, thus demonstrating that he mastered the discipline all the same – which is supposed to prove that he is exceptionally intelligent or introspective.

In general, the abuser always prefers show-off to substance. One of the most effective methods of exposing a abuser is by trying to delve deeper. The abuser is shallow, a pond pretending to be an ocean. He likes to think of himself as a Renaissance man, a Jack of all trades, or a genius. Abusers never admit to ignorance or to failure in any field – yet, typically, they are ignorant and losers. It is surprisingly easy to penetrate the gloss and the veneer of the abuser's self-proclaimed omniscience, success, wealth, and omnipotence.

Bragging and false autobiography – The abuser brags incessantly. His speech is peppered with "I", "my", "myself", and "mine". He describes himself as intelligent, or rich, or modest, or intuitive, or creative – but always excessively, implausibly, and extraordinarily so.

The abuser's biography sounds unusually rich and complex. His achievements – incommensurate with his age, education, or renown. Yet, his actual condition is evidently and demonstrably incompatible with his claims. Very often, the abuser's lies or fantasies are easily discernible. He always name-drops and appropriates other people's experiences and accomplishments as his own.

Emotion-free language – The abuser likes to talk about himself and only about himself. He is not interested in others or what they have to say. He is never reciprocal. He acts disdainful, even angry, if he feels an intrusion on his precious time.

In general, the abuser is very impatient, easily bored, with strong attention deficits – unless and until he is the topic of discussion. One can dissect all aspects of the intimate life of a abuser, providing the discourse is not "emotionally tinted". If asked to relate directly to his emotions, the abuser intellectualizes, rationalizes, speaks about himself in the third person and in a detached "scientific" tone or composes a narrative with a fictitious character in it, suspiciously autobiographical.

Most abusers get enraged when required to delve deeper into their motives, fears, hopes, wishes, and needs. They use violence to cover up their perceived "weakness" and "sentimentality". They distance themselves from their own emotions and from their loved ones by alienating and hurting them.

Seriousness and sense of intrusion and coercion – The abuser is dead serious about himself. He may possess a fabulous sense of humor, scathing and cynical, but rarely is he self-deprecating. The abuser regards himself as being on a constant mission, whose importance is cosmic and whose consequences are global.

If a scientist – he is always in the throes of revolutionizing science. If a journalist – he is in the middle of the greatest story ever. If an aspiring businessman - he is on the way to concluding the deal of the century. Woe betide those who doubt his grandiose fantasies and impossible schemes.

This self-misperception is not amenable to light-headedness or self-effacement. The abuser is easily hurt and insulted (narcissistic injury). Even the most innocuous remarks or acts are interpreted by him as belittling, intruding, or coercive slights and demands. His time is more valuable than others' – therefore, it cannot be wasted on unimportant matters such as social intercourse, family obligations, or household chores. Inevitably, he feels constantly misunderstood.

Any suggested help, advice, or concerned inquiry are immediately cast by the abuser as intentional humiliation, implying that the abuser is in need of help and counsel and, thus, imperfect. Any attempt to set an agenda is, to the abuser, an intimidating act of enslavement. In this sense, the abuser is both schizoid and paranoid and often entertains ideas of reference.

Finally, abusers are sometimes sadistic and have inappropriate affect. In other words, they find the obnoxious, the heinous, and the shocking – funny or even gratifying. They are sexually sado-masochistic or deviant. They like to taunt, to torment, and to hurt people's feelings ("humorously" or with bruising "honesty").

While some abusers are "stable" and "conventional" – others are antisocial and their impulse control is flawed. These are very reckless (self-destructive and self-defeating) and just plain destructive: workaholism, alcoholism, drug abuse, pathological gambling, compulsory shopping, or reckless driving.

Yet, these – the lack of empathy, the aloofness, the disdain, the sense of entitlement, the restricted application of humor, the unequal treatment, the sadism, and the paranoia – do not render the abuser a social misfit. This is because the abuser mistreats only his closest – spouse, children, or (much more rarely) colleagues, friends, neighbours. To the rest of the world, he appears to be a composed, rational, and functioning person. Abusers are very adept at casting a veil of secrecy – often with the active aid of their victims – over their dysfunction and misbehavior.

October 14, 2006
12:35 am
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Ladeska
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Zalone - you have some "most excellent" help in these people, so I'm not sure what I can add here. Truth is all over the place, just in different flavors. Same theme, same drill, same truth.

Sometimes we ask a question but we're really not ready to hear the answer, which is what I call - the window isn't open. I don't see your window open, sweetie. I wish did. What that means to me is that you will probably have to learn via "lab time" instead of class time. Which results in more pain by way of making hope and wishful thinking - actions and you reap the whirlwind that follows.

There's nothing really wrong with this kind of "learning". It tesches. Pain is a wonderful teacher. Par none in my book. When I see someone "here" I usually say - then if you think you can break through that thick brick wall, then you give it all you got. Back up, summon ALL your strength and hit it hard. Back up and do it again. Back up and do it again, back up and do it again - until you are bloody.

Sound harsh? Actually isn't not because sometimes, even though it may be life threatening to us, it's our only hope of finally saving ourselves.

We have a ton of conditioning and brainwashing from the society around us from many different directions at once, so it's pretty overpowering - "that hope" that you can live with, or change or "make deals" with someone like this. You may see it in big bold print but your heart doens't believe it. So you really have to go and do what you think you can here. And the only way you learn that you can't - is by doing it and seeing, feeling the outcome with every fiber of your being. And then......."if" you are able, you can maybe have some years of left in your life, energy left, health enough to put action to words and ideas.

I'm so not beating you up here, I'm just telling you the real hard truth of the matter. We have vampires and food for vampires here, and then we have a few of us who are "wise warriors".

The thing you need to be actutely aware of is - our kind - in this world is really what turns the world. We are the ones with heart, with creativity, with soul, with empathy, with imagination, with courage, with honor and even though you make walk into any company or group you want to - you will always see the "ones" who really "do" most of the work and who are the anchor points to the whole tent of affairs and keep it from blowing away in a strong wind. The problem is these few usually do it because they get a good pat on the back. My, oh my, if they should ever stand tall and go - you know what here? I don't think I like the looks of things. I don't think I like it one bit. And I think that I will do the time, do the work, get healed, learn to stand tall and stare you right down.

The vampires make good use of us because they don't have what we have. The others, the sheep, the food, they mindlessly shift along, never questionning, factory workers, worker bees, robots, slaves.

So "you" are very valuable and at the same time very feared by vampires. But they don't fear you as long as you are crippled and within their easy reach and toying with their manipulative sparkly things. You don't come into your own right "of your power" until you really own who you are. That's what they would like to keep from you. Those who give life, sustain life and keep things flowing here are very important overall. There's one of us to - ten thousand worker bees who blindly follow.

I can't help you and these good people here can't help you if you don't first really "want" to help yourself. So I could tell you all day long, over and over what you already know and it would be just another song - being sung.

Itching ears will be scratched. If you really didn't like his flattery and his promises and distrusted him like your gut tells you to do, you wouldn't listen anymore and that would be it, but you are........listening.

You are entertaining him. You are wanting to be told one more time, one more way, read one more post, one more book, look at one more website. You have enough knowledge now to blow your world and make an escape as big as a 20 foot hole but you aren't doing that?

So you have to square with yourself as to what you are allowing here, and what you are thinking is real, and what really isn't.

It's that addiction to being lied to that the moth is drawn to and it's fire and it will consume you.

You want a good father for your girls? Don't look here. Sorry, you won't find it. I've heard enough here on very little information. That's your weakness and he's going right for it. Another weakness - your low self-esteem. He goes right for it. he's rushing you, spinning you, etc. You "know" on some level exactly what he is doing. You pretty much nailed it in a few words in your post here. So know what you know and do something about it, otherwise, follow the yellow brick road and take your daughters with you down a very destructive path. I can't want you severely enough about that one. You think you have experienced hell up to this point? You don't know anything until you feel the hell of your flesh and blood being prey because you opted to pony up with something you knew and sniffed out as illicit from the onset and yet - followed after anyways. Trust your gut.

October 14, 2006
1:00 am
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Worried_Dad
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"Abusers are an elusive breed, hard to spot, harder to pinpoint, impossible to capture. Even an experienced mental health diagnostician with unmitigated access to the record and to the person examined would find it fiendishly difficult to determine with any degree of certainty whether someone is being abusive because he suffers from an impairment, i.e., a mental health disorder. "

I used to believe that.

Now I believe that a pattern of abuse is pretty easy to discern. I also believe that many, maybe most "experienced mental health diagnosticians" are impaired by flawed mental models and flawed theories of relationship that make it hard for them to diagnose and abuser.

October 14, 2006
9:59 am
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Ladeska
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AHHHHHHHH Worried Dad, you make me SMILE!!! That brain of yours is compiling information and putting things together quite well!! Good for you! Interesting quote there. Heard it, read it often over the years in one form or the other. It's so blatant it's almost boring to me now.

Of course a pattern of abuse is easy to discern. One of the strongest things we deal with is our "need to deny" it.

Our denial system is incredibly strong and it's active in ways that we usually don't even realize. Alot of it is because it hurts our psyche to let the truth in, so we shield ourselves from it with stories, fables, myths, fairy tales, outright glaring lies because we very much "do" ask for a lie and it's provided.

That is the back alley "deal" here. And that's part of us wanting to just - be asleep. Consumers, but not awake, aware ones. If we are, then action is demanded of us. If we can make ourselves believe their is no real threat, then action isn't demanded of us. So the need for denial all boils right down to the two most deadly sins of mankind and that is - laziness and cowardice.

Once you really start becoming "awake" and just look around you, the hipocracy is astounding and very brutal. If you shine the light inside yourself, that will knock you on your butt, too.

But when you examine people like the tag-team - Freud & Bernaise for example, what they taught us, how they manipulated us has always been - requested. It's not that we're just victims. Knowing, seeing, being really aware - demands action. So please put us to sleep. Give us a reason or a theory, or a fairy tale or a way to explain things away...and they can and do. Then when alot of people believe that because they need the lies, then everyone feels all cozy because it's a "group think" thing now. The liars now have clout.

They don't have to be right. It doesn't have to have one thread of truth to it. But if enough people request a good lie and need the web of denial and it's provided - it's as good as rock solid gold. The crowd will get extremely angry, too, when you attempt to say...uhhhh, did uh, you realize that you are living in a paper house??? NOOOOOOOOOO and how DARE YOU say that!!!! It's granite and marble with precious gems set in everywhere!!! You're just jealous, and what a horrible person you are for saying that!

We weave a web - we get caught in. Backing out isn't fun. Takes the first or second layer of skin with it when we try, so most people don't.

And don't get me started on alot of people that flock to certain professions..... they hide very well, very neatly behind the facade and are our undoing.

They are very protected though, by the very people who request the lie to begin with, so they have no fear. They are paid and respected and honored very well.

I used to think the rabbit hole only went so far....but after closer examination, it goes alot farther than I originally thought and was too uncomfortable with the truth of it to see. It's hard to swallow.

Being awake - isn't fun. I sometimes wish I wasn't.

October 14, 2006
11:43 am
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Ladeska
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I posted this on my charmer/abuser thread and thought you guys might like to read it as well -

The Physiology of Insight

by Elissa Ely, M.D.

Psychiatric Times September 1995 Vol. XII Issue 9
A psychiatrist likes to know what's wrong with her patients. This is the function of diagnosis: it profits the patient in terms of treatment, and the doctor in terms of certitude and the satisfaction of a job firmly and correctly done. Years ago, I cared for (and cared not one bit for) a patient in a state hospital. P was a young man with a melting pot of diagnoses: schizophrenia, manic-depression, sociopathy, impulse dyscontrol, narcissistic and borderline personalities, attention-deficit disorder. He shuttled between prison and psychiatric hospitals, trading one form of locked-door treatment for another.

On the ward, he had fits of explosiveness and episodes of absurd generosity. Over and over again, he gave away his shirt, his pants, his money and his Michael Jordan Air Nikes to other patients. He also stole regularly (yet unpredictably) from his same friends, and was a nonsensical thief: cigarettes, women's makeup, crossword puzzle books.

In the outside world, he stole for bigger stakes and had been convicted of assault and battery, illegal weapon possession, drug sales and check forgery. On the rare occasions when he left the hospital or prison, he lived with his baffled grandmother, who had seen the rest of his siblings become teachers, accountants and members of the clergy. She appeared more defeated and disbelieving with each family meeting.

Medications-every class, every dose, every trial-did little to control P's explosiveness, his bursts of enigmatic generosity or his impulsivity. Neither did reward and punishment therapies. Once, he leaped from a hospital window, walked barefoot to town, partied wildly for two nights, then telephoned with his last dime and asked us to pick him up. I conceived of his diagnosis as Unpre-dictability NOS (Not Otherwise Specified), which is not listed in the code manual.

It did not occur to me until after we had parted ways that P's diagnosis might not have been psychiatric at all, but neurologic-a sly form of brain damage affecting judgment without injuring intelligence, speech or strength. I think P suffered from frontal lobe disease, and none of us recognized it.

Neurologic Explanations

All parts of the brain are concerned with simple behavior. Only the prefrontal lobes in the foremost section have been liberated from having to do with sensation and movement. They have the luxury of overseeing our most sophisticated functions-and this is all they do. When they are working correctly, they set us apart from less evolved forms of life by providing us with the substrate for mind as well as brain. They are responsible, in large part, for self-consciousness, self-control, curiosity, empathy, complex attention and motivation.

Medical journals of the 1800s documented examples of frontal lobe damage (the notorious Phineas Gage was diagnosed after a tamping iron exploded through the left lobe of his brain, leaving a permanent hole in the skull). But modern frontal lobe research began in 1949, when British neurologists S.S. Ackerly and Arthur Benton met a 20-year-old man-JP-they examined and discussed in a series of classic papers spanning the next two decades. His erratic behavior provoked confusion and frustration for everyone in his world, except himself.

JP distinguished himself early on. In grade school, he used to borrow a classmate's glove, defecate into it, then return it. He exposed himself to other children and lacked any sense of sportsmanship. With adults he displayed what the authors called "Chesterfieldian manners," but with peers, JP bullied remorselessly, stole and lied. He blamed his problems on the malevolence of others, yet appeared strangely satisfied with his life circumstances.

The two doctors were intrigued by the qualities JP was missing. They noted his absence of anxiety ("one of man's most important weapons in dealing with the frustrations that beset him in his upward ascent"); his incapacity for insight; his inability to modify behavior with punishment ("an unawareness of his total life situation involving todays and tomorrows"); his lack of concern for others.

Ackerly and Benton were also behavioral neurologists, interested in the connections between brain anatomy and complex behavior, connections that may not be apparent to other medical or psychological specialists. As part of their research, they returned to early hospital records to study JP's neurologic beginnings, long before social or psychological influences could have had effects.

JP was the product of a prolonged and difficult labor. After an accident at age 4, he suffered a seizure on the left side of his body. Sixteen years later, after repeated unsuccessful psychiatric hospitalizations, a pneu-moencephalogram was performed. Doctors injected air into the aqueducts of the brain in order to visualize tissue defects (a procedure now mercifully obsolete), and discovered that most of his left frontal lobe had been destroyed. Exploratory surgery found that the right lobe was missing altogether-probably a prenatal condition.

JP did not seem an obvious victim of brain damage. He had an average IQ. His academic performance was satisfactory. His memory was intact. His electroencephalogram was normal. Yet, in spite of his intelligence, he was unable to apply the lessons and mistakes of the past toward prevention in the future.

Ackerly and Benton followed him for three decades. His simple life strategies never changed. In a follow-up paper, written when JP was 50, the neurologists described their patient as "the same uncomplicated, straightforward, outrageously boastful little boy" they had first met at age 20. They diagnosed his amalgam of absences-the unpresent anxiety, insight, remorse, concern-as "a primary social defect." They concluded that their frontal lobe-less man was "a very simplified human organism with only rudimentary mechanisms for social adjustment...limited and lacking in the kind of potential needed for growth and self-realization." In language unusual for scientists, and sounding rather sad, they wrote, "JP has been a stranger in this world without knowing it."

Strangers in the World

The stranger suffered from a neurological condition whose symptoms were not seizures or paralysis, but social weakness. Bruce Price, M.D., a behavioral neurologist at Harvard Medical School and chief of neurology at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, said patients like this are missing "the physiology of insight."

In a 1990 paper published by the international journal Brain, Price and his colleagues in Boston described several patients whose perinatal injuries had left them with prefrontal damage. They were given a series of classic psychological tests designed to assess levels of moral development and reasoning. Early bilateral damage to the brain's prefrontal lobes, the authors concluded, leaves some children without obvious neurologic disease and without physical or mental defects. Instead, they are left with a unique and resistant disability: an inaptitude for moral development.

The damage is permanent and without compensation. These patients, often misdiagnosed and difficult to identify, don't suffer simply from bad genes or bad family; they are missing the physical material-cell to cell and synapse to synapse-responsible for the insight, foresight, judgment, empathy and abstraction ability necessary to become moral beings.

When I thought about P's case, it seemed to me that his disparate behaviors, like those of the Brain paper patients, had one similarity: they often appeared compelled. It was as if an open door demanded escape; unguarded goods-a pocketbook, a lipstick, a car-had to be taken. In frontal lobe disease, this phenomenon is called environmental dependency syndrome. The creative French neurologist Francois L'Hermitte (1986) who named it described it as a "powerlessness in the face of influences from the outside world."

L'Hermitte hypothesized that the frontal lobes act, in part, by exerting control over the parietal lobe of the brain, which is bombarded by signals from the external world. From within this chaos, frontal lobes select only those signals most important in a given circumstance. They act like a meaning-filter, trapping what is relevant and letting other information pass through. By this mechanism, they limit incoming stimuli and edit out extraneous noise. All of this allows normal people to respond with purpose and reason to a finite number of perceived messages.

Sometimes when the frontal lobes are damaged, this control ends. Patients are left at the mercy of all signals, relevant or irrelevant, useful or distracting. As a result, they become perpetually responsive and literally overstimulated. They have lost the capacity to ignore their environment, even when the response seems bizarre or inappropriate. For these frontal lobe patients, the very sight of an object seems to demand its use.

In a series of experiments as unusual as the condition he was examining, L'Hermitte exposed two patients with frontal lobectomies to a sequence of deliberately arranged environments. Most of them were outside the office; many were in his own home. Here is an example that occurred in L'Hermitte's bedroom, after the patient, without explanation, had been escorted in:

The bedspread had been taken off, and the top sheet turned back in the usual way. When (the patient) saw this, he immediately began to get undressed, including his toupee. He got into bed, pulled the sheet up to his neck, and prepared to go to sleep.

When the second patient, a woman, was brought into L'Hermitte's bedroom afterwards, she promptly and silently made the bed up. Not a word of instruction had been given to either.

In another example, L'Hermitte said in a neutral tone, "museum." Then he opened the door to his apartment. The patient went in, and immediately started to examine the paintings as if he were in a museum...He noticed a painting was missing from the wall. He showed his delight at seeing a hammer and nails on a table. He hammered a nail into the wall and hung the picture.

Environmental Autonomy

Autonomy, L'Hermitte mused eloquently at the end of his papers, is a condition whereby humans freely determine their laws based on the balance of two forces: the outer environment and the inner psychological state. When the frontal lobes are no longer in command, we cannot determine our laws in as balanced or adept a fashion. We are no longer autonomous. We do not live reflectively, but reflexively. Like JP, we drive strange cars thousands of miles-even when this requires stealing them-because it is a car's purpose to be driven. Like P, we see a window and must jump out of it. The world uses us.

In 1985, two neuropsychologists expanded on the idea of environmental autonomy. Their interest was in how frontal lobe interactions oversee judicious decision-making. "The process of an individual's education and maturation," Paul Eslinger and Antonio Damasio wrote, "can be seen as the establishment of plans of actions and responses that are influenced by basic drives, but...achieved through socially acceptable means. [Particular frontal areas] may be the structures in which most such patterns of behavior are inscribed and through which most of the pertinent information travels."

According to Kirk Daffner, M.D., a Harvard behavioral neurologist heading that department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and coauthor with Bruce Price on the Brain paper, "You can be fooled into thinking, 'the IQ is fine, the neurologic exam is fine.' Yet these patients are brain-damaged. We can say, look at the parts of the brain that have been injured; look at the behavioral outcomes. From these cases, it would appear that there is no other part of the brain (beside the frontal lobes) that takes over those crucial functions that allow for adequate social judgments, insight and foresight."

"It's a sudden collapse of behavioral control," said Marcel Mesulam, M.D., fourth author of the Brain paper and a professor at Northwestern University Medical School. "You can have a conversation with a man, a good and pleasant conversation. The next day, he steals his father's credit card, buys a luxury piece of equipment, and gives it away to the first person he meets."

For patients whose frontal damage manifests as a moral absenteeism (which is not every frontal patient) there is no recovery in the sense of rehabilitation. Nor, from their point of view, is there any need to change. Neither JP nor my patient, P, saw their behaviors as incompatible with communal living standards.

"Compensation depends on insight," said Daffner. "If patients don't have an awareness of their deficits, there's little to allay with."

Thus, most of the suffering is done by the bewildered families, the school systems, mental hospitals, prisons, and anyone else unlucky enough to embark on the difficult, unilateral relationship with JP, P and similarly undiagnosed patients. There are no statistics of prevalence. We don't know who most of these patients are, and the idea of CT scans all around for prisoners and inpatients is a generally impractical one-though perhaps no more so than the treatments that do not succeed.

But the majority, like P, will probably receive costly and doomed presumptive therapy for the wrong diagnoses. Ideal treatment might begin with families and community-relieving them of guilt and culpability, and offering freedom from the recriminations that not enough was done to immunize the strangers among them with values any small child learns to recite in Golden Rule prose. Ideal treatment would also supplement our diagnostic linguistic-the language of psychological cause and effect-with an adjunct dialect: a neurological foundation of one kind of amorality.

For the patients themselves, those who are diagnosed, there are medications to control impulsivity, to forestall explosiveness and to simplify the incoming environmental stimuli that bombard them. The medications work with varying success. At best, they control behavior. They cannot fill social or moral emptiness.

Dr. Ely is a psychiatrist practicing in Cambridge, Mass.

References

1. Ackerly SS. A case of perinatal bilateral frontal lobe defect observed for 30 years. In: Warren JM, Akert K, eds. The Frontal Granular Cortex and Behavior: A Symposium. New York and London: McGraw-Hill; 1964.

2. Ackerly SS, Benton AL. Report of a case of bilateral frontal lobe defect. Res Publ Assoc Res Nerv Ment Dis. 1948;27:479-504.

3. Eslinger PJ, Damasio AR. Severe disturbance of higher cognition after bilateral frontal lobe ablation: patient EVR. Neurology. 1985; 35(12):1731-1741.

4. L'Hermitte F. Human autonomy and the frontal lobes. Part II: Patient behavior in complex and social situations: the "environmental dependency syndrome." Ann Neurol. 1986;19(4):335-343.

5. L'Hermitte F, Pillon B, Serdaru M. Human autonomy and the frontal lobes. Part I: Imitation and utilization behavior: a neuropsychological study of 75 patients. Ann Neurol. 1986;19(4):326-334.

6. Price BH, Daffner KR, Stowe RM, Mesulam MM. The comportmental learning disabilities of early frontal lobe damage. Brain. 1990;113(Pt 5):1383-1393.

October 14, 2006
12:45 pm
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Ladeska
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Here's a website you might find informative -

http://groups.msn.com/PSYCHOPA.....sage=54657

October 15, 2006
1:47 pm
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2alone
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Ladeska
You are correct - I am dilligently reading what you wrote, a book on narcissim (Wizard of Oz) and analizing everything he says to me. I want to believe he loves me - I want to believe that I'm special. The truth is he's using me. My eyes are opening ever wider. I'm working on extracting myself. Its not easy to do.... a lot of it has to do with making me think more of myself and my abilities. I married Satan and found the strength to divorce him to save my children. I am fighting for custody for that same reason. Now I need to fight again - not to the same degree thank God - but its still a fight. Contrary to what you think - it does make a difference to have someone who studied these people tell me that what I've dealt with so far are classic signs of narcissim. It confirms my gut feelings and in a way makes it easier to see through his flattery.
Thanks to everyone. Its going to be rough as I go through this - tough staying strong and independent. tough believing I am worth saving.

October 15, 2006
2:10 pm
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Ladeska
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You are sooo worth it Zalone. When I read - People of the Lie by Dr. Scott Peck - his words and truth was my "validation". I read it and chills went up my spine and I thought someone else KNOWS!!! And he's very smart and a doctor, blah, blah. It was HUGE for me. No. 1 - because he put the illusive, scapegoating, disappearing act of evil up on the wall and nailed it there so I could "see it" and identify it instead of just thinking - geez, you're crazy, huh? Thought I saw it but now I don't...

No, I saw it, even as a child but since I lived around so many people who held hands with it and would do nothing about it, which helped my abuse along, and then looked at me like I was the bad guy, or would tell me to just forgive and forget, live and let go, blah, blah....yea, it was nice to read his words and go - well how bout them apples? Well, well, well......even as a child - I knew and saw it for exactly what it was. Felt real good, still does.

So you sqaure back your shoulders and own your good wisdom, ability to think critically and apply all that into follow-through action on your own behalf. Ramp that energy up. Make it brighter, stronger, feed it, take care of it. Direct it like a laser beam.

That's another thing - conserve your energy. Pick your battles, very, very well. Some things you slightly side-step. Some things you just hide in the shadows regarding, planning, pulling your energy back to yourself for the times when it's needed. Then when you use it - make it a very precise hit and zoom in and zoom out in your thinking. Don't always think out and beyond, learn how to pull back to up close and personal and then zoom out very quickly. Takes practice.

Big picture, little picture. Big picture, little picture.

Above all else, you can only blame yourself or think that you're worthless if you don't seek truth and don't apply it when you really understand it. Then you can feel whatever about that. But you're not listening to those tapes all that much anymore, are you? I can tell. (smile)

October 15, 2006
2:51 pm
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red blonde
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Ladeska,

Just reading Beyond Codependency by Melodie Beatty. I must be in a "recycling" stage. I was not prepared for this type of abuser, so I must have let my guard down.

During the time that I was in therapy for codependency and after, I was a "warrior". Now I feel weak as that "little girl".

Right now, I feel like I am back at stage 1. I feel like my self-esteem,
self-confidence, my routine, my schedule, my self worth, and every
thing has been destroyed. Maybe they have gone into hiding and are waiting for me to get stronger. I have PTSD and Panic attacks as well.
I know I am letting fears and worries overcome and overwhelm me, but I just can't seem to get back on track!

What would you suggest or recommend? I need help badly..my mind just keeps going in circles and I feel like I am not accomplishing a thing.
I read all that you posted, my mind just doesn't want to or seem to "GET IT" right now

Red

October 15, 2006
3:13 pm
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red blonde
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I just feel SO STUPID right now!

October 15, 2006
4:18 pm
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red blonde
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Where do I start? Back at step 1 again?

Red

October 15, 2006
5:28 pm
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Ladeska,

You have talked about "warriors", I guess I used to be one, before xh3 and xso. Saw the red flags for physical abuse in xh3, but was totally unprepared for C/A xso!

Feel like I have alot more to learn, and have gone back to stage one again. The little girl took control of driving and I am having trouble putting her the back seat again.

Red

October 15, 2006
8:12 pm
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Ladeska
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Go back to step one. It's no big huge shame thing, so don't even say that. Don't want to hear it. You don't need to hear it from yourself. Monitor your self talk. Just get back in the saddle. Cowgirl up.

It takes "time" to really learn things. It takes doing it long enough that it does become habit and our "default". That's not you being ignorant or anything that's just nature.

If you're living with the person who abuses you - get out of that situation. You can't think straight or heal with them around 24/7.

Shake things up. By that I mean, ask yourself questions like - what do I REALLY enjoy doing? What brings me peace? What kind of people do I enjoy being around? How is my diet? How is my sleep? Xanax is a good thing to have for nighttime. I take one a night and basically a benadryl, which doesn't have anything else in it but that. Helps me not to startle because I have fight or flight really bad.

Study your diet, tune into your own health. Abuse victims have a syndrome or myriad of the same kind of disorders. They often have migraines, fibromyalgia, stomach/bowel problems, back problems. Stretch, eat well, find out what's going on with yourself in this regard. Get bloodwork done. Particularly, get an adrenaline test done. Will usually be a saliva test that they send off.

What's your cholestrol like? How's your heart? Does it race alot? Do you crave carbos?

Is your life out of balance as far as what you do every day? Do you have time - for you?

Do you have substance abuse problems? MJ isn't something I'd be so concerned about, anything else, I would be.

Read, read, read. What kind of music do you like? What makes you feel calm and restful?

Who makes you feel safe and calm? Are you artistic, musical? If you are - do more of it.

I often suggest that someone do a physical act that is in line with what you are doing mentally and emotionally. So if you are trying to get fluidity back in your life, go swim. If you are trying to find balance, go take a dance class. If you are trying to activate your creative side, draw, paint, do something artistic.

If you need to release anger, save bottles, go find a place where you can pick up one and let it go against a rock or wall that will take the impact. Bring goggles or snug fitting sunglasses, a plastic bag and brush, gloves and dust pan and clean up after yourself afterwards. But find a place where you can pick up one bottle, focus on someone or a particular situation and let it go as hard as you can with a gutoral scream along with it. Don't just half-ass throw it. HURL it with all your anger/strength and scream from the bottom of your stomach. You'll be sore, you'll be hoarse but - it's worth it.

Pick a place where people won't be around and look at you like you've lost your mind.

Our physical body needs to be a good vessel and we wear it out with what we put it through. So be very aware of what's going on with - your vessel.

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