ASK DR. LEEDOM: “I am really sick, aren’t I?”

This week I received a letter from a woman asking, ”What is wrong with me, why would I feel bad and believe his twisted stories? I am really sick, aren’t I? I fell for him 2 times! After almost losing everything, including my life with the first one?”

I have answered this question before but the issues raised by these questions are so important that I’ll discuss them again.

The real question here is, what exactly is love? Love is the glue that binds us together as a social species. Without love, we would all live solitary lives, husbands and wives would not stay together, parents would not care for children and none of us would have any friends. Scientists have found that the social glue we call love has at lease four different ingredients.

Attachment is the first ingredient of love. Attachment is defined as a compulsion to seek proximity to a specific special other. Seeking proximity means trying to get near the other person, i.e., calling him/her on the phone, driving by his/her house, sending emails. A compulsion is something a person feels he has to do. It is an unconscious force that drives behavior. Typically, once a compulsion starts, it will produce a great deal of anxiety/fear until it is acted upon. For example, people with obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, have urges to do things and will feel overwhelmingly anxious until they do what those urges tell them to do.

Having sex with someone, sharing emotional intimacy and time, create attachment. This attachment means a compulsion to be with that person. Typically, people with an underlying tendency to have anxiety have stronger attachments because they experience a compulsion to be near the other that causes anxiety until it is acted upon. People who already have anxiety, have anxiety on top of anxiety, and feel more compelled to give in to the compulsion.

Generally speaking, it is good to be unconsciously compelled to be near loved ones. These compulsions remind me not to get too busy to call my dear parents. They also remind me to keep track of my teenaged daughter, even though she is more independent now. Problems only arise when one has the compulsion to be with a person with sociopathic personality traits. There is nothing worse than a compulsion to be near a psychopath!

Sociopaths and psychopaths are con artists. They entice others to form attachments to them through deception and trickery. The problem is that our unconscious minds do not distinguish between attachments made after deception and those made legitimately. Furthermore, the anxiety psychopaths create in their victims only serves to strengthen attachment!

The woman who wrote me asked, “What is wrong with me, why would I feel bad and believe his twisted stories?” When a person is under the influence of a compulsion, he has to adjust his view of reality to fit that compulsion. For example, people who feel a compulsion to repeatedly wash their hands see germs everywhere. If we feel the compulsion to seek proximity to someone, we automatically believe that person is good. In these instances our beliefs are caused by our actions, not the other way around. We may think we love someone because he/she is beautiful, when in reality he/she is beautiful because we love them. (There is a song from the musical Cinderella, Do I love you because you’re wonderful or are you wonderful because I love you?).

What I have written explains why attachment/love is like addiction. Really, it is addiction that highjacks the attachment pathways in the brain. All this explanation is of little value unless it can help us deal with ourselves better. So the real problem is, what does a person do when he/she discovers a compulsion to be with a sociopath/psychopath?

It is very important to recognize the role that anxiety plays in compulsions. Combat anxiety and you combat compulsions. Start by not drinking alcohol and avoiding excessive caffeine. Alcohol temporarily relieves anxiety, but the anxiety intensifies when the alcohol wears off. Next, get enough sleep. Will power is required to fight a compulsion; lack of sleep impairs will power. Fight anxiety by exercising and cultivating quality friendships. At least, have a dog to take walks with! (Louise Gallagher’s dog has helped her to recover; she wrote about this in Dandelion Spirit.)

Many people who are fighting compulsions to maintain proximity to a sociopath/psychopath become so self-absorbed that they fail to honor important obligations to self, work, friends and family. This reaction only magnifies the attachment compulsion, because guilt only increases anxiety. Furthermore, neglect of children makes genetically predisposed behavior worse, and children who behave badly are a source of stress/anxiety.

To all of you who are parents, your relationships with your children can either hurt you or help you when it comes to recovery. If you focus on loving your child and spending quality time with him/her, your anxiety will go down for three reasons. First, if you are emotionally distant from your child, your own unconscious mind knows this and makes you anxious. Second, quality time with your child will make your child easier to live with over time. Third, real intimacy with your child will relieve your anxiety. This is healthy, not unhealthy, you and your child need each other, especially during times of stress. Intimacy is what family is all about.

I bring up this issue of our children because what I find is that many parents, especially mothers, become preoccupied with their relationship anxiety and withdraw from their kids. This response only makes them more anxious. It only serves to create a more dysfunctional family for the children.

We are challenged in life to do the right thing for ourselves and our families in spite of anxiety and compulsions. Start today to get well by seeking your own true well-being.

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67 Comments on "ASK DR. LEEDOM: “I am really sick, aren’t I?”"

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“Tearing apart your family” is the same that “cutting out a cancer” would be with your body—it hurts to cut out the cancer, and leaves you sore, but to NOT CUT OUT THE CANCER from your body would eventually cause you to die…the same with cutting the CANCER out of your family—yes, it will remove a member of the family, but without removing that malignant member of your family there can only be more pain and more destruction from that member remaining in your family/life.

The family cancer I had was rather severe—my two biological sons and my egg donor, and I had no siblings and my step father (wonderful man) and my husband had both died in 2004, so you know, I cut out most of my family, leaving only my adopted son, and a FEW of my friends, but I am happier and more healthy now than I’ve been in my life. There are only a few people close to me iin my life now, but they are good people and they all love me. No more cancer. Plus I am reconstructing my “family” from people who do love me.

It takes a while to process all the knowledge you need, but KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and you can only survive this if you take back your own POWER. Good luck and God bless.

Ox-I hear you, knowledge is power. I’m learning. At first though I cursed at having learned the truth. I kept saying to myself, “ignorance is bliss”. At first it was impossibly hard and being still so brainwashed I tried to convience myself that the “reality” I use to know was bliss. I have a question for you. I have brothers (4) in another state whiich I am still pretty close to, do you think I should move back there?

Dear Justus5,

I think you need friends and relatives as a social support network, where ever that is.

Getting away from your psychopath and If I remember correctly you have children as well still at home…I think is the number one item. Being where you are safe and have support (physical and emotional as well) is important too.

Just the things (ordinary things) that happen that we need help with, a car breaks down, we need a kid taken to the dentist when we can’t possibly get off work that day, or a flat tire…having friends and family around to help you with these, or just to “be there” when you need to have someone listen, is a great help! I don’t know what your current situation is where you live, how much harassment your P will do to you once you leave him/kick him out or whatever the situation is.

I suggest that you play your cards close to your chest, and do not let him know you plans. I know that is difficult with kids and all the STUFF that goes with having kids (house, furniture, clothes etc) But these are all decisions that you are going to have to make for yourself. If you and he have co-mingled property and/or finances that will also complicate things, and if some of your kids are his kids as well…

Once you learn the truth it is difficult to continue living in denial, but some folks do it for a life time. Learning the truth though is PAINFUL…just like learning you have cancer and that you have to have an operation to remove the tumor, and radiation or chemo to poison any floating cells of cancer that may have spread. You end up making yourself “sicker” in order to “cure” the problem. Same with divorcing or leaving a psychopath….sometimes we have to cut off our arms or legs in order to be free of the diseased parts of our lives.

The Bible talks about “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, if they hand offend thee, cut it off”—and I actually think this is a description of just how IMPORTANT IT IS to get rid of whatever is holding us back from living a good life, and a psychopath will do that. We have relationships that are so OFFENSIVE to a good life that they will keep us living in HELL ON EARTH if we don’t “cut them off.” But it is painful to do so, but it beats the alternative I think.

Ox-All 4 are ours together. One reason I haven’t run to get a divorce is because I told him I wanted to move back home and he promptly replied, “I’m not going to let you do that.” His wonderful excuse was that homes where to expensive there because of taxes. I said rent then. I know people whose rent is lower then here. He said, “I’m not the apartment kind of guy.”‘ lol What kind of guy is an apartment kind of guy? His job would allow him to live anywhere so that isn’t an issue. He is only TRYING to make it hard on me, while telling me and everyone else he is trying to work with me and I won’t cooperate. So, I put off filing for a divorce because once a divorce is final I can’t move the children without his ok.

I do have one really good friend here that would step up and help me where need be but when I am around my brothers I feel safe. Also I feel as if he would go pee on himself before messing with me if I were by my brothers. The delima I have though is this is children’s home, they all are under 16.

Dear Justus5,

I suggest that you contact an attorney and get the “poop” on what your state laws will allow and what they won’t. Some places WILL allow you to move if you have a job in another area, etc. so it isn’t just an absolute “No” until you check it out with an attorney.

I would start getting paper work together, copies of house deed, social security cards for kids and you, tax records and bank records for at least 3-5 years back, copies of the mortgage, retirement funds for you and for him, titles to the vehicles, health insurance policies, life insurance, and any credit card etc. Accumulate a cash nest egg if possible. Then talk to the attorney. Do all this quietly. Some states are “no fault” divorce and some there has to be a “reason” for a divorce..find out about that. If he is abusing you verbally or physically, then get a digital tape recording of that or a secret nanny cam video.

Document, document, document!

Ox-I have started to gather some of the papers you have said but I guess I have more to get. Our state is a no fault state. I have managed with some fancy foot work to put aside cash even though he only gives me 1/2 of what I need to pay the bills.

I have thought to get a nanny cam but then fear of him finding it stops me. As far as documenting, I know I need to but I did for years and got just so worn out doing it. Yeah, I know get back to it.

Justus, it is tiring to stay on this and do what we need to do to free ourselves from the slavery of their control…just hang in there and take it one step at a time! Stop and rest along the way if you can safely do so.

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