When Fear Rules !

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by on Dec.22, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

It Takes Awareness, Personal Strength and a Courageous Support Team to Take-on a Narcissist, Sociopath or Psychopath: Based on Meagan’s Story


The Benhaven Group, LLC, aka Benhaven Publishing

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Loved to Death : Copyright

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

Copyright © 2020 by Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/ Emeritus aka The Benhaven Group/Benhaven Publishing, LLC

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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Loved to Death: Acknowledgements

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

The Author wishes to express gratitude to all who have contributed and supported  the endeavor to write this first of a series of books: Maria Beessing, Robert Nogosek and Patrick H. O’Leary for the inspiration from their book, “The Enneagram, A Journey of Self-Discovery”. 

A very special thank you to Meagan’s Actual Support Team, Mary her counselor, our detective Georgio, our Attorney Adam, and Meagan’s co-victims, Mr. Julius,  Dr. Olivia, and of course, Aunt Ann, who conjured up enough strength to take down a sociopath.

The Benhaven Group, LLC / Benhaven Publishing is proud to  offer Support for those individuals who are or have experienced verbal, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse at the hands of controlling and manipualtive persons or groups of persons who are commonly Narcissistic, Sociopathic, or Psychopathic. A warning: there are more persons in our society that have the lack of conscience and moral compass than we would like to admit. 

I would offer my Blog, www.WhenFearRules.com as an opportunity for free support

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Loved to Death: Dedication

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death


This Book,  Loved to Death, while painful to write at times, was inspired by the many clients that I have worked with over my forty-two years as a Psychologist in private practice. So many faced their demons and conquered them, and that is what fueled my passion in my work and gave my life added reward. This book is dedicated to you ! You know who you are….

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Loved to Death: Prologue …He Slithers Through the Halls of Justice

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

As he slithers through The Halls of Justice and comes upon the Security Checkpoint, he felt some compulsion to lean over to whisper to one of the guards he had assisted at one time. His victim in this case was a retired cop and detective on disability. He was not being friendly, as he was not a true friend to any man or woman.  He had a purpose as usual, as it was time for another payback. He had no conscience and he used people. “ I need for you to do a favor for me, see me at noon at the coffee shop,” he dictated.

The guard in question was Steven, and he was quietly seething as he had to wait and waste his entire lunch hour when he had planned to use the time to pick up needed medication for his wife. He was very anxious because when this man, known as the Prosecutor, asked for a favor, it was always something he knew would be putting himself at risk. Steven also knew he had no choice.  

Although a half-hour late, the Prosecutor appeared and got right to the point. “ Steven, I am so pleased I was able to secure this job for you. I know your wife’s health due to her pancreatic cancer treatment has brought expenses that are staggering. We may have had to bend the rules a little but I got you what you wanted, this full-time job with excellent benefits which you are not suppose to have with your disability. But I am always here to help more if you need it.” 

Then came the veiled threat. “We don’t ever want the monies to stop flowing for any reason now do we ?  Now I need you to get something for me in the police files on this gentleman.”

The Prosecutor slipped Steven a piece of paper with a man’s name and birthdate scribbled on it. “ Really, as quickly as possible and focus on anything mentioning drugs or prostitution that you can find. Now, can you do that for me ? I know you still have friends in the department. I need this ASAP !”  

Steven was upset but tried not to show it, but knew not to cross the Prosecutor. He  again felt he had no choice. One call from the Prosecutor could screw up his job or disability or both. 

Then the cold-hearted Prosecutor sauntered up the oak steps to where the courtrooms were located, and saw Judge Jacobs removing his overcoat  as he was just about ready to enter his private chambers leading to his courtroom. “ Good afternoon Your Honor, I will have the pleasure to begin prosecuting a case before you this afternoon. And I have good news about your son that I will tell you about later.”

Two hours later  the Prosecutor was indeed beginning the trial in Judge Jacobs’ Courtroom. The case was against an oriental young man, who recently became a citizen of the U.S. and had been through his arraignment and pre-trial hearing and chose a Jury Trial at the recommendation of his Public Defender. He had pled not-guilty for a supposed  ‘criminal hit and run’ charge, which ended in death for the other person. There were many mitigating circumstances. The accident occurred on an unfamiliar, sparsely travelled country road, at dusk. Dodging potholes and being lost, trying to get directions on his Map Quest to no avail, his car veered left of center and collided with the victims car that had also veered left of center, apparently trying to dodge the same series of potholes. It was , admittedly, a terrible tragedy.

The defendant tried  to get a signal on his cell phone to call for help, but he was out of range. He said he checked  the  victim he hit who was unresponsive but alive and needed medical attention quickly. After fifteen or twenty agonizingly long minutes and not seeing another car on the road, he checked again for a pulse on the injured man. He was still breathing. There was an ugly gash on the man’s forehead  but the bleeding seemed to have stopped.  He could not see any other obvious wounds.  He was afraid to move the injured man as he expected there were internal injuries. The defendant drove away in a panic to find a town with a police station or hospital to get help but was picked up by a rural Deputy for speeding when the report of the accident came over his police radio. The Deputy saw the damage to the defendant’s car and figured it was the hit and run perpetrator that had just been reported, and he had caught him leaving the scene.  The Deputy was further agitated by the fact that he could not understand anything of the broken-english the defendant was speaking and so he thought the young man was high on something.  

The Prosecutor muddied the waters and cast his spell on the jury by badgering the accused and embellishing on  the many things he did as a juvenile from a father-less home, petty things really. But the Prosecutor knew how to make anything sound worse. The defendant, upon reaching the age of twenty-one, immigrated to the United States and had become a Citizen. He was working nights as a janitor and trying to attend school during the day. He was using marijuana to help him relax and sleep when he could.  Aha, drugs, the Prosecutor argued.  

Being alone with no family or support system of friends here in the States, it did not help his cause that he was a loner by nature and so there were no character witnesses to shine a light on all he had done to improve his life since being in America. The defendant became so agitated and over-whelmed at the ambush of exaggerated accusations made by the Prosecutor, that it made him look even more guilty.  He began having panic attacks in court, and the Prosecutor tried successfully to cause that to make him look like he was using anxiety to plead for mercy or that the defendant was prone to panicking and should not be driving.

“ Isn’t it  true that after you hit and killed the victim, you panicked like you are now and just ran, leaving the victim to bleed-out !” 

Although the defendant pleaded it was not a hit and run, and that he was going for help, the Prosecutor was  effectively molding thoughts in the minds of the jury. The Prosecutor could read their faces, and he focused on the few he could tell were more sympathetic to the accused. He used his skills to shame, blame and guilt anyone who would possibly feel sorry for the accused. “ You must find this drug user guilty of criminal hit and run so you can sleep at night knowing you did the right thing !”

While the Public Defender objected repeatedly, he appeared to be weak and threatened by the Prosecutor. The Judge allowed the badgering to continue even though anyone could see how mesmerized the jury was by the Prosecutor’s convincing words and contrived emotional pleas for the victim and his family. After two court appearances and the show put on  by the Prosecutor, the trial was over and the young man was sentenced for hit and run, manslaughter. Another masterful performance by the well-known, but very disliked Prosecutor. 

After sentencing, the court cleared and the Prosecutor took the opportunity to slide into the Judge’s Chambers. He reported to the Judge that he was able to indeed,  “Squelch any story and follow-up of the Judge’s son using cocaine and his rape of a minor.  The accuser had a history of drug abuse herself and she and the family had been convinced that things would not go well for her if she was to proceed. Furthermore, the accuser’s father had been rumored to have abused his wife and although repentant, did not want to face scrutiny as he had other issues on his record that were never prosecuted. ”  

The Judge smiled nervously but he knew he was owned by the Prosecutor.

When he left Judge Jacobs’ chambers, out of the corner of his eye he saw the Public Defender whose  client was just sentenced so unfairly. So never passing up a chance to boast of yet another successful joust, he walked up to the opposing attorney and whispered, “ I understand you are having an affair with one of the stenographers, hope she is worth it ! Your career and marriage would be in ruins if you were to be exposed. I would be more careful ! ” 

After a full day of patting himself on the back and feeding off the  self-pride and sense of control he felt for his manipulative prowess, he left for home to run with his daughter, make a quick dinner for the two of them, and then enjoy an evening of being the Lord of the Flies* at a special Men Only Club, snubbing entirely his wife who was hiding away in their bedroom. He would deal with her later. 

The Prosecutor’s name was Lucius B. and he was the epitome of  a controlling, manipulative man without conscience, a sociopath. Lucius B. was not without his faults, but he did not care. He made a point of researching and knowing each potential adversary’s weaknesses and had no moral compass. He felt invulnerable. All of us who are mere mortals  and have a conscience are potential victims to a person like Lucius B.

 * A Reference to William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies” which tells the story of a group of young boys who find themselves alone on a deserted island. They develop rules and a system of organization, but without any adults to serve as a civilizing impulse, the children eventually become violent and brutal.

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Loved to Death: Introduction

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

Before I tell this true story, I feel the need to set the stage for you. I am a Psychologist, now retired after forty-two years in private practice, which I thoroughly enjoyed. That said, I am about to fulfill a promise made to twenty year old girl who called herself Meagan. That promise was to share her story in hopes that it would save someone else, anybody else, from the pain of what she went through…the pain resulting from her avoidance of a conflict due to fear.

Her Conflict ?  She did not want to face the reality that she was in a mind-numbing and self-destructive relationship with a man she thought was the most important person in her life, so she allowed his control and manipulation over her day by day, year after year, to destroy her self-esteem and the will to fight the battle to take back her life. She wanted so much to help others and she felt this was the only way to redeem herself.

I want to make clear, I believe there are degrees to which a person may attempt to control or manipulate another person’s life and well-being. Many may actually have the thought that, yes, I can see that a certain person that touches my life is controlling and/or manipulating, but “ I can handle it and it does not give that person any power over my thoughts and actions.” I would respond, “Are you sure or are you just avoiding the issue.”

But before I go there, let me define some terms.

Controlling Persons:

I know some clients and friends who have the personality trait of being very adept at taking control as in being able to create and build a successful business or venture. Everything they touch seems to turn to gold. Many of these individuals, although able to exert control in business were able at the same time be very sensitive and caring with persons in their personal life. 

Yet I have met others who were ALL business, and so into control that they were totally ineffective at recognizing or dealing with feelings in relationships, and did not have a clue as to what it meant to be intimate, in a loving way. I can say from my professional experience that it is a real challenge to teach intimacy to this type of personality. If they are in a relationship, it may serve other purposes for either party, but it is far from a loving intimate relationship.

Then, there were those whose intent was to restrain, dominate and control others both in their business and personal lives. They were obsessed with being in control and did not realize or care about other peoples’ needs or boundaries, seeing those feelings and needs as weaknesses that made them potential victims.

Manipulating Persons:

Manipulation tends to have a negative connotation, for sure. A manipulative person may tend to dominate and skillfully influence or use others, and most often in an unfair manner. They are able to adapt or change to suite their advantage or purpose, but they are not going to relinquish their needs or wants in any significant manner.

Degree of Control or Manipulation:

Not unlike first, second and third degree murder charges, there are degrees to which a person may be controlling or manipulative. 

I would see cases where I would consider an offender’s goal  as first degree control or manipulation,  in that there is Premeditation ( to meditate, consider, or plan beforehand ) and Intent [or purpose} in order to control and manipulate another. 

Second degree control and manipulation may not be premeditated, but is intentional at the time. 

Third degree is not premeditated or intentional, but may still cause harm to the potential victim’s self-esteem and well- being. This offender may realize, after the fact, and if it is brought to their attention, that their behavior was inappropriate and hurtful.

Now to bring a more psychological or medical picture into your mind, let me briefly talk about Personality Disorders I have known,  unfortunately !

Now there are a few personality disorders who may frequently cross the line when it comes to control and manipulation.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder may present as a personality characterized by extreme self-centeredness and self-absorption, fantasies involving unrealistic goals, an excessive need for attention and admiration, and disturbed interpersonal relationships, with a noticeable lack of empathy. Narcissists, in my opinion, usually display second or third degree control and manipulation and limited  consciences.

Sociopathic Personality Disorder  may have all the characteristics of a Narcissist, but there is a greater chance for control and manipulation of the first degree. They are anti-social schemers and need to win against all odds, but they can be charmers. Their behaviors often reach the level of criminal. The sociopath lacks a sense of moral responsibility and has a very limited degree of conscience, if at all. They do not form loving relationships, but ones that serve their more basic needs. However, they can drown themselves in their lust for power, and make mistakes that are costly. 

The Psychopathic Personality Disorder  may have many of  the characteristics of the Sociopath, but there is no moral compass or conscience, and no remorse. However they are so cunning, such plotters, planners and schemers, that they are seldom caught as they make few mistakes.

Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths do exist all around us, not just in the movies. Now that is something I hope you can accept and learn to protect yourself  from, and which I pray, Meagan’s story will teach you how to do.

Now, let’s talk about trauma. As a Psychologist, I have seen many clients struggling with what they expressed as an overwhelming amount of stress, anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior as a result of conflicts or traumas that were draining the energy out of their lives.

Trauma may be defined as a  deeply distressing or disturbing experience or an emotional shock following a stressful event or injury. We all might expect a person experiencing physical, in-your-face traumas to have symptoms. Coming home to a house burnt to the ground, finding out one of your children has been kidnapped, being robbed at gunpoint, experiencing a home invasion or a tragic auto accident, would all be traumas to most of us, and symptoms would be expected as the person’s sense of safety, security and feelings of control of their lives would have been threatened.

However, many of my clients had no idea why they were experiencing their anxiety symptoms. They had not experienced any of the in-your-face traumas, but had the symptoms nonetheless, which made it all the more anxiety producing and frightening for them, but fascinating to me. Most were experiencing full-blown panic attacks, obsessive worry or just a constant anxiety and a reasonable amount of depression.

Can you imagine having these symptoms and not consciously having any idea where they are coming from, why they are happening, not being able to pinpoint the reason ? These clients would often express not feeling in control, but again, could not explain it. I would consult with their primary care physician or one of our staff psychiatrists, but if that turned up no medical reasons for the symptoms, we would turn to uncovering emotional issues or conflicts in their lives. Often I would find that the clients had numbed themselves to the real people or issues that might be causing their symptoms because they did not want to deal with the true antagonist[s] in their lives. In reality, their lives had become impacted by some emotional trauma, but since there were no physical traumas with physical evidence, they did not allow themselves to explore them further.

I might suggest here that they were avoiding the source of their symptoms due to fear of rejection, failure, abandonment or somehow being blamed, shamed or guilted, or not believed.

I would express to them as I do here to you, that there are often times that significant emotional conflicts are playing out in one’s life but you subconsciously might not want to face them and then have to deal with the source , the need to take some action, or make some uncomfortable changes. So, we would work together to uncover the covert issues you might be avoiding that could be creating emotional stress and develop a step by step plan for the you to take control of that issue in your life. That means you would have to choose whether you wanted to deal with the source, continue to avoid or just rely on medications. If you choose to deal with the conflict, I would then be a part of your Support Team where there is no shame, blame or guilt to be had, only frank and honest discussion of all feelings and options. I would ask if there is anyone else in your life that you have talked to about the issue or conflict and whom you trusted just to know how strong your support team is, because a support system is important when we are about to make potential changes.

I would want to help you find what emotional needs { approval, respect, acceptance, sense of control, sense of belonging , etc.} or fears { failure, rejection, not being in control, etc.} you have that, while mostly shared by many others, may make you a target or potential victim of controlling and manipulative people. 

I did not enjoy seeing my clients in pain, but I was able to establish a professional and yet personal relationship with them that truly enhanced our therapy together. A therapist must be trusted by the client, and I needed to trust that my clients were being honest and open with me. That mutual respect allowed for some truly fulfilling, gratifying and successful therapeutic relationships. The end game was to discover the sources of whatever emotional turmoil they were experiencing as we uncovered the conscious, subconscious or unconscious issues causing their emotional pain, and then develop a game plan to take control and to build and support a healthier, more rewarding and less conflicted life.

Beyond that, we established a web-site and Chat Room where clients, even after therapy, could come for support. Being on the internet, we were open to non-clients who would stop by after doing a search for terms like anxiety attacks, panic attacks, self esteem, obsessive compulsive, Ruled by Fear, etc., which are all terms that would often be related to what many people go through after experiencing trauma. Our website was OneStepataTime.com.

Meagan was of one of those non-clients, someone I never met face-to-face, with whom I took on the role of a “Coach” for almost two years, and it was a life-changing experience for me. Meagan was the name she signed into the Chat Room with, so I respected her boundaries and will use that name throughout this story, based on her life, her challenges, her strengths and weaknesses, as she gradually realized she was being controlled and manipulated, not loved, by the person she trusted most in her life.

So, why tell this story  ?

Most importantly, as I mentioned above, I promised Meagan I would ! 

Even after my forty-two years in the helping profession, dealing with so many clients, so many emotional traumas, Meagan’s story has taken me two years to put any words on paper. Every day that I would sit down to write, I would re-live the whole ordeal. And even as I wrote, the real story was still unfolding through the courageous efforts of her Support Team we established with her and for her. I cannot possibly tell you how exhausting and emotionally painful but meaningful and life-changing this experience was for me and to others on the Support Team.

Meagan wanted this story told and shared because she wanted others, maybe even you, to learn from her journey, successes and failures.

Bare with me while I attempt to create pictures in your mind with this intense, powerful and for me emotionally draining psychodrama based on a true story of a young lady, who loved her father to death and theSupport Team who although also victims of her father, came to her assistancein the end.

Meagan was a beautiful, sensitive, caring but terribly naive daughter who allowed her need to be loved to create a dependency on her daddy, Lucius. She was an avoider of conflict, a Peacekeeper. That dependency blinded her to the truth and morphed her precious life into one of a victim of a controlling, manipulative and I believe sociopathic father. She just wanted to know she was loved and had a plan for her life. She believed and trusted that her daddy had nothing but love in his heart and that he would guide her in developing and carrying-out that plan. 

She avoided or numbed herself to any thoughts that her daddy could have any negative or malicious intent.

In the following pages you will see a narcissistic and sociopathic father systematically take control of his supposedly beloved daughter without a suspicion on her part, or at least not one that she would allow herself to see and believe. The term that comes to mind is Narcotization, a numbing of thoughts and feelings that are in conflict with what she desperately wanted and needed to believe. Her dependency on her daddy made her weak and needy. This was, in the end, her Peacekeeping Personality in full bloom, as you will see.

The villain, of course, does not have to be a father. He or she could be a boss, a supposedly dear friend, a mother-in-law, a spouse, the minister, a primary care physician or anyone who has gained your trust. I have seen them all !

As I have alluded to, it takes Support Team to go up against a person with little or no conscience and so the sociopaths always attempt to isolate their victims from any support persons in their life. Remember this as you turn the pages.

As she very painfully faced the reality of who her father was, she began to open up to her Coach, and that would be me. Upon her Coach’s insistence that he would not abandon her but that she needed to see a Psychologist or Therapist, face to face, she began her a dark and arduous journey.

You might feel overwhelmed at the power this evil man possessed, as he attempted to  shame, blame and guilt Meagan and each witness into submission. I was personally a witness to his attempts to silence me. It was an experience I will never forget.

You may also be moved as to which family members and witnesses, after experiencing grave consequences, gathered the strength to band together to bring Meagan’s daddy to justice. Too late for Meagan, but not for anyone who reads this book and realizes that just maybe, to a lesser or greater degree, you might be a potential victim. This is especially the case for co-dependent, adapting personalities. 

Again, you might think this story is unique and rare, and that narcissistic, sociopathic or psychopathic personalities are mostly depicted in the movies. I am here to warn you, this is not the case. Carry this thought with you as you read the story of Meagan.

Potential Victims

In my private practice, my clients were more of the adapting, approval-seeking and caring personalities and time proved they were more often the potential victims of the controlling, manipulative narcissists, sociopaths or psychopaths. I came to know of the manipulators in my clients lives as I worked with their anxiety and depression. 

To be more specific, my clients were mostly Caregivers, Conformists, Peacekeepers and Perfectionists. The common personality trait of these four personality types is that they really cared about people, needed people in their lives to feel fulfilled, and had a strong emotional and feeling side. I would estimate that four out of ten persons are one of these adapting personalities.

The Caregivers would get much of their self-respect and sense of worth and value through their efforts of helping and taking care of others, they liked to be needed.

The Conformists attempted to blend in and conform to what they saw others wanted or expected of them in order to be accepted and appreciated. 

The Peacekeepers sometimes were numb to their own needs and desires as they went out of their way to avoid any type of conflict, and therefore increased, in their minds at least, a fantasy of a conflict-free relationship or friendship.

The Perfectionists worked very hard to please by doing more than their share and to be perfect at whatever they did because of wanting to be liked, respected and appreciated. It gave them a sense of value and purpose.

Yes, I became indirectly acquainted with hundreds of controlling, manipulative, narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic demons who were in many ways as dark as Meagan’s father because so often my clients, while again unaware, were suffering from anxiety and depression because there were individuals who were making efforts to take advantage of, or manipulate them. They were totally focused on their anxiety symptoms or depression and were most often looking for medications to magically relieve their symptoms. Not until we began digging into the dynamics of their lives did I hear about deeply conflicting issues that were in fact creating havoc, and emotional pain.

Not all abusive situations are equal in severity and not all controlling, manipulative or even sociopathic individuals are as heinous as others. Remember what I described above as the first, second and third degree cases of controlling and manipulating. However, if the comments or actions of one human being are such that they create significant level of emotional hurt or pain for another, and most importantly, if those words or actions are not addressed or are avoided by the person on the receiving end, there is harm being done. There is a way to express opposing thoughts or views without attacking someone’s self-esteem and character

Names and identifying information have been changed because at one point I was repeatedly warned and threatened about telling this story by a very well-connected sociopath, Meagan’s daddy.

But then something unexpected and remarkable happened !!!

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Loved to Death: Chapter 1 Meeting Meagan

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

So, it was another Sunday evening and I  took a few minutes to prepare for our On-Line Support Group, at OneStepataTime.com. I admit, it can be a bit tedious to run such groups every Sunday night, as I would have to rush home from whatever I was doing or have a computer and a strong Internet signal wherever I was at the time. However, as a therapist I realized that having a support group of people behind you, egging you on and offering suggestions and kudos for your efforts really makes a difference. 

As I have implied earlier, one of the tools that controlling, manipulative and sociopathic persons use against their victims is to isolate or separate him or her from anyone who would offer support. To that point, many will try  to shame their victims to the point that  the person does  not want to appear weak, or foolish, so they will not say anything to the very people who care about them. I know it is very important that the members of our support group, or anyone who is a potential victim, are challenging themselves and making strides in recognizing and taking control of manipulative people in their lives. They need to talk about their latest endeavors and successes because that offers support for the rest who have reached a plateau and cannot bring themselves to take the somewhat daunting task of standing up against bullies, or imagine their lives as in anyway different than it has been.  I realize and respect the fears that often hold them back. It is not easy to muster the courage to challenge someone who enjoys manipulating and controlling the life of another, and has no qualms or little to no conscience.

 I turned on the computer and loaded up the Chat Room software and almost immediately a few of the regular support group members started showing up.

The first to show up seem to be the ones who have made the most progress and are understandably anxious to share, because they feel empowered by the situations and people they have dealt with which they would have avoided before. It was a shot of adrenaline to their self esteem that they were taking control, and they wanted to spew out all  the details. Of course, I was excited to hear from them and to praise their efforts and be part of their support system.

As other members came into the room, they engaged with each other, getting all the details and wishing they were as strong as the ones who were reporting successes. I reminded them all that there day would come. One Step at a Time, I repeated over and over.  I pressed on the value of a Support Team of caring family and friends around them,  including this Support Group. They each needed to understand the qualities that made them special, and begin doing things in their lives that magnified those qualities.  They too would be able to release themselves from the shackles that came with avoiding conflicts and people who negated their self-esteem. 

Giving Progress Reports at this Support Group meeting were:

Joanne, who  announced that she was finally leaving her husband who was prone to having affairs, and worse, had the uncanny “gift” of making her feel that it was her fault. It took getting a job and losing some weight for her to realize some respect from others she worked with, and more critically, realizing that the medications she was taking for anxiety had been altered by her husband. He had taken seizure medication from one of his girlfriends and mixed it in her capsules which made her loopy and unable to see things clearly. I am rejoicing in the part I played when she was in therapy, especially when we invited the husband into a session with us. He, being full of himself,  thought he was there to expound on his wife’s  bad behavior that sabotaged their marriage. However, when he sat down and we unloaded  the facts that first, we had alerted the City Prosecutor that her ‘looniness’  was actually a side effect of his altering her meds; that his company knew of his behavior; and that she had talked to her attorney, and her soon to be ex-husband would be paying for his wife to be retrained as a legal secretary. It took a lot of support from our Support Group, family and friends, and major self-esteem therapy to make this happen, but she did it. Now she was there to help others.

Then there was Fran, who was a teacher at a private school run by a controlling and manipulative Principal. She would come into work in the mornings and find her lesson plans had been significantly altered by her boss, the Principal. She felt abused emotionally by this man, and knew he enjoyed playing these kind on control games, as he did it with other staff  members. But no one would say anything as he ruled the roost and had garnered so much power. Teaching jobs in the area were not easy to find as many teachers were holding on to their jobs longer, especially for the benefits. The Principal had a habit of blaming, shaming and guilting each member of the staff when he caught them alone. The owners of the private school would not call him on the carpet because they were afraid of this man as he had dug up dirt on each of them that would be severely damage the school’s reputation. It wasn’t until some un-named person who possessed dirt on the Principal and presented it to Fran, that she threatened to expose the whole lot of them. Fran had the strength to take a rumor she heard about the Principal and explore it cautiously, but thoroughly. Then , with the help of a female attorney she knew, support from her therapist and other members from our Support Group, as well as others at the school who joined ranks with her, approached the owners. The owners had cause to fire  the Principal that they could not ignore\. The previous charge that he thought he had evaded blew up his world.  The Principal had evaded a covered-up charge from years past of having sex with a minor because the parents at the time did not want their teenager to go through all this embarrassment. In the end, he  lost his Administrative License and found himself on the National Registry of Sex Offenders and is awaiting further legal action.

Frank was excited to share that he was making progress expressing himself tactfully and more consistently with his overbearing wife. His wife had to be right all of the time and had a history of berating Frank, and if he said anything, she would say he was just too sensitive. Frank always hoped for emotional closeness in his marriage, intimacy and sharing, not as common for the male species. He would hold back his feelings and not express himself as he was a very caring guy. But Frank’s anger with himself was growing as he felt abused when she made fun of him in public. She never experienced any consequences for her comments because Frank had become dependent on any dribble of positive emotion from her, and he did not want to be alone. With the Support Groups help and therapy, he began to very consistently but respectfully express himself, and he was seeing a change in his wife’s behavior. He finally found his voice ! He became strong enough that he was willing to leave his wife and find someone worthy of his energies.

And then Meagan showed up ! She signed in but said nothing, which was not so strange for a newcomer just checking us out. So I welcomed her, mentioned that she was free to listen or ask questions, and when she was ready, share what brought her to OneStepataTime.com.  She did not say a word for the rest of the ninety minute session, and then signed out.

The next week, she signed in again. I welcomed everyone, and a discussion began between a few members. When there was a break in the discussion, Meagan commented that she had no anxiety or issues but was working on a paper for her Freshman class at the State University on abuse, and that she was nineteen.  

 I responded that I hoped the group would help her with her paper and repeated that she was free to ask any questions. She listened to the other members express some of their successes and frustrations in dealing with controlling persons in their life, and  made  a few short, supportive comments, then signed off.

I had a suspicion that there was no paper to be written, but I knew to give her time , if she returned. And she did return, week after week. My curiosity was at a peak, but little did I know  or expect what was to unfold.

She did not say anything other than make supportive comments to other members like, “ you should be proud of what you have accomplished” or  “you seem so strong to me”. No mention of a paper or questions, just support and a genuine sign of truly caring. No one in the group pressed her as I think they knew from their experiences how difficult it is to reach out for help.

Then about the sixth or seventh week she sent me a Private Message asking if there was a way to speak with me privately  after Group. I was excited at her reaching out and certainly my curiosity was peaked. I agreed. When I suggested we could do so right  after Group in our private chat space, she quickly responded with a “No, daddy will be coming home.”  So we  set up a time to meet during the week.

My thoughts: Why is that a problem? She is nineteen, almost twenty. I sensed fear in her words, but let it pass for now. I do not want to scare her away.

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Loved to Death: Chapter 2 A Fairy Tale Life

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

“ So what can I do for you Meagan, are you enjoying the the on-line Support Group ?”

Meagan responded somewhat cautiously. “ I don’t know how long I can continue coming to group. My daddy would be furious if he knew I was talking to anyone without his approval. Daddy wants so much to protect me !”

This still concerns me. Why would he be furious ? Does daddy have control issues ?

“Well, Meagan, you are here now, so how can I help you ?  If it feels like too much for you, you can stop at any time. But I do have a request that I make to each member of Group.”

“ What is it Coach ? ”

“ Well, Meagan, I have my picture and bio on the web site to hopefully make everyone comfortable in talking to me. It makes me more of a real person instead of just words on a computer screen. I ask that you send me a recent picture of you. The quality doesn’t’ matter. It just helps me relate. Now, if that makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. I won’t be angry and it will not cause me to refuse to listen and “coach” you if that is what you want. 

“ I guess I don’t mind sending you a picture. Let me think about it because, really, you can’t help me. I mean, I don’t need help with anything.”

Then Meagan began a long explanation, that seemed to be very curious, defensive  and bothersome to me.

“ I mean I do not need any help, I am good and safe. I just wanted you to know that daddy and I have a great relationship and he is helping me plan my future. Daddy wakes me gently every morning at five-thirty sharp so we can go running together. Then when we return from our run, I shower and he weighs me.

   Then Daddy fixes me breakfast and we eat together, he packs me a lunch and drops me off at the University. Most days he picks me up at the Library and we go home to run again. Then the shower and weigh-in and “daddy” fixes us dinner and we talk about my future.  Daddy is a very successful attorney, and he never loses cases. He says he is creating me  in his own image and likeness, whatever that means. He just cares so much ! My life is all planned out. Then I study while he goes to some Men’s Club downtown. Whenever he returns he brings me my vitamin to take to help me to sleep, even when I am already sleeping. He cares so much, see ! ”

My mind is starting to spin  !  I am hearing things that concern me. 

She did not express any emergency or conflict. In fact it appeared to me quite the opposite. She was painting this glorious picture of the trusting, caring and loving relationship with her “daddy” !   I read her words, but my suspicious mind thinks she was creating this fairy tale relationship for me, but mostly for herself. But I did not question her, rather I tried to make her as comfortable as  possible so she would expose the reality of what was going on in between her glowing adoration of her “daddy” and her reality. I gently expressed that obviously she and her daddy shared an inter-twined relationship that most young ladies of nineteen do not have with their fathers.

I am thinking that Meagan’s father is a bit too involved, but I need more information. Who takes vitamins before sleep ? Even after she falls to sleep, the vitamins were important enough to wake her ?  There was no mention of the mother, and that seems odd, but certainly has me thinking. What about these weigh-ins ? What is this ‘daddy’ thing anyway ?  Although, since she lives in a Southern part of the U.S., this may be more of a custom. Is the father, I mean daddy, just an obsessive-compulsive controlling type ? I bit my tongue as I did not want to overwhelm her.

I mentioned to Meagan that it was all very interesting, and I would be happy to talk some more. She took the bait,  and I wonder why. We set up the next time to talk. 

I left the Private Chat Room hoping my intuitions were wrong. I think she is being smothered and controlled. In any case, I would have to work hard but with all due sensitivity to her very apparent dependency on her daddy.   In time, I would hope to convince her that she might have a female counselor to work with on occasion, since for now, she has not mentioned her mother. I think she will fight me on this. But again, any of this is conjecture on my part, and my suspicious mind at work. As a Caregiver,  I have an obsession with people taking control of their own lives, rather than becoming dependent on the approval of others.

The next day, I was surprised to get an e-mail attachment that was a picture of five family members, apparently together for Easter, unless Meagan has a habit of wearing bunny ears at other times. She had their names printed neatly under each person. There was her daddy, Lucius and her mother, Becky. Meagan was in the middle with her Uncle Larry and Aunt Ann to the other side. She also sent a picture of her labeled, me at five, holding a stuffed animal sitting on the edge of a canopy bed.

Meagan appeared to be pale, with reddish-blond hair, greenish-blue eyes, but looked very thin and fragile, not what I expected for a runner. Her nose was slightly turned up and she had what appeared to be some freckles. For some reason, her picture reminded me of Little Orphan Annie from the old comic strips.

Her mother Becky looked very much like Meagan, a pretty woman, slim figured but at the same time looking worn. Same reddish-blond hair and what appeared to be green or blue eyes but with a pasty complexion and dark circles under her eyes. She had a tight-lipped smile. But reminded me of the actress, Nicole Kidman, at the end of the movie Moulin Rouge, when she was ill and dying. 

Then there was daddy. Lucius looked intense. Dark, but graying hair, slicked back, with dark penetrating eyes that could look right through you. In good shape, around five foot ten,  reminded me of the actor Robert De Niro in one of his gangster movies. He seemed to be distracted, even irritated at his brother staring at Meagan.

Uncle Larry was taller, looked to be over six foot-two, dark hair, gray at the temples with brown eyes, a nice smile, and approachable, friendly. He didn’t look to be in as good of shape as his brother Lucius. He was looking warmly at Meagan with her bunny ears. He seriously could play  Brad Garrett’s role as Robert from  the ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’  T.V. series.

Then there was dear Aunt Ann. Much shorter than Larry, about five-seven, a little over-weight and appearing troubled or sad looking at her husband looking at Meagan. Brought to mind the Edith Bunker character in the ‘All in the Family’  TV series, a middle aged Jean Stapleton.

Meagan continued to come to the Support Group not mentioning anything about herself but only being supportive of others. Then she again asked for another Private Chat session.

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Loved to Death: Chapter 3 Evidence of Abuse?

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

Hello Meagan, I want you to know how much I appreciate your positive comments of support that you offer to the Group members. They are working so hard to make changes in their lives to rid themselves of controlling and manipulative people that it can be exhausting, and some just want to give up. You seem like a very caregiving and yet peacekeeping personality and it benefits the Group to have you there.”

“Coach, thank you !  I don’t know what to say, but I can sometimes feel their pain and want to help so much. You are such a  good listener, so easy to talk to, and not judgmental. I can understand why the Group feels safe with you. Even when one of the members has not made progress, you don’t get angry or upset.”

“Meagan, I care about each one of them as I do you, I use to be one of them. May I ask you a question ? You have not mentioned your mother at all so I was curious.”

“Coach, my mother is “Jello”, at least that is what daddy calls her. He says she is weak and needs to get a life, whatever that means. She stays mostly in their bedroom when I am here. I don’t really understand it all and I don’t ask questions so I don’t make daddy angry.” 

Meagan’s fear of her daddy seems very real, although she doesn’t realize it yet. I need to go slow with this !

“So Meagan, your mother does not interact with you ? If that is too personal don’t feel you have to answer.”

“ Coach, I feel sad about it but there is nothing I can say or do. Mother and I were very close until I was twelve. She and I dressed alike, went to social events together. It was like she was showing  me off to the people who were her best friends. We went to the Operas, and went to listen to the Orchestra….and that was all very wonderful. But mother and daddy were arguing more and more, and I would hear them from my bedroom. I did not understand what they were saying except one time when I heard daddy and mother arguing and I heard him strapping her. I hated hearing them argue and yell at each other. I heard my daddy say that if my mother could not give him a son, he would take over raising me. That was two weeks after my twelfth birthday, and from that day to this, he takes care of everything about me. But it is all for my own good, as daddy says. Mother was all about beautiful gowns and concerts and going to all the best places. Daddy is about helping me become successful. “

“ Meagan, you mentioned your father straps your mother, can you tell me about this and does he strap you ?” 

“ Coach, oh, ….how I wish I had not said that. As soon as I typed those words I knew you were going to ask me more.  I do not like talking about it ! If he finds out I told you, he will get so angry and punish me more. What if he punishes me,  like he punishes mother ? She gets it much more than I do !”

“ Meagan, I know that this is hard for you to talk about and face the truth, but would you tell me how does he punish you ?”

“ It is not so bad, not as bad as with mother. Daddy demands that I lay  across my bed naked and he uses a belt across my butt until I get all red. He has punished me this way since, well, since I was twelve. I hate it, hate it, hate it. This so hard to say, but I do not deserve it. I just could never say stop ! But daddy says he is just trying to make me a stronger person. He does not want me to be ‘Jello’ like my mother. I don’t want to be jello, but it hurts. I promise him I won’t be like mother. He does not listen.”

“ Meagan, first, you said it was not that bad, but then expressed how much you hate it. Then you try to justify the punishment by saying your father is trying to make you stronger. What do YOU really think and feel? ”

“ I do hate it. But daddy loves me ! ”

Her daddy’s pattern of punishing her, and the fact that she is lying naked across her bed receiving his discipline at the age of nineteen is very inappropriate. I cannot help but sense there is a sexual component to all this, but this is definitely abuse.  He has so much control over Meagan, a sick kind of control.

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Loved to Death: Chapter 4 Finding Her Voice

by on Dec.16, 2020, under First Book : Loved to Death

“ I missed talking to you last week Meagan, but I got your note about changing the date we could chat.”

“ Coach, I think daddy knows I have been talking to you and I am scared ! ”

“ Why Meagan, what did he say or do to give you that idea ?”

“Well, I like the running and stuff we do, but I sort of was thinking, I am not really comfortable with the showers and weigh-ins. Actually, I feel really uncomfortable and embarrassed.   I do not like that daddy is in the bathroom when I shower, and then there I am dripping wet standing on the scale and he is writing down my weight.”

“Meagan, you are a very smart and perceptive young lady. I had a feeling that is what was happening and hoped telling me about it would help you realize how truly uncomfortable it was for you, and I would say inappropriate  for your father to still be in the bathroom with you at nineteen.”

“It was ok when I was twelve, but not really now. It feels creepy, and I feel shame as if I am doing something wrong or bad. I have wanted to say something so many times, but I know he means well and has no bad thoughts, but I am nineteen. When I was telling you about it and saw my words on the computer screen, they looked and felt so different from when I kept them in my head. It really feels very, very creepy and sick. So I told him how I felt, and that I could shower, weigh myself and record my weight myself.”

This is most assuredly the first time Meagan has ever expressed her thoughts or opinions to her daddy. This had to take a great deal of courage on her part, but it will most assuredly bring a significant negative response from him, which could easily shut her down.

“Meagan, what did he say ?”

“ Coach, he asked who I was talking to, as if I don’t have my own thoughts and feelings… maybe I don’t !  Could that be ?”

“ Meagan, through no fault of your own, you may have become dependent on your father’s thoughts, opinions and choices for you. It happens to many of my clients. You may have never been exposed to other ways of thinking, feeling and doing something meaningful with your life. Maybe your desire to please your father, which probably became more intense when your mother dropped out of your life, caused you to become even more  dependent on him. So you latched onto your father’s game plan for your life without any questions. Maybe you never thought there was an option because you were never given the chance to express yourself as to how you felt about much of anything. Maybe you just went  along with what appeared to be safe and secure. This happens to many of us !”

“That’s a horrible thought Coach, but I am thinking maybe  it is true. How do I know what I think or feel ? Is that what he meant when he told mother he was going to raise me in his own image and likeness ? Am I just his puppet like mother is ? I don’t want to be jello ! I think I was not saying anything because sometimes I am afraid of him and his punishments, afraid of this rejection,  but  too scared to live my life without him. God help me, could this be true ?  But how do I know what I feel and want? I said no one was telling me to say this, it was just the way I felt, but how do I know ?” 

“Meagan, this was a very big step for you. You see, you felt safe enough talking to me that you could discuss something without fearing rejection or an angry response. That is the way it should be, and I would hope it could be with your father.  If you really want to exercise every day to the level you do, you will probably be healthier than most. If you really want to be an attorney, you will do well and be a great one. But this is also the time to explore other options. You care about people, which tells me you would do well in many occupations where you offer caring services. You do not have to make that decision now, but have to continue learning you have a voice. One Step at a time ! This can be very overwhelming and I would like to suggest, that we find a counselor at school to help you with this along with me.”

“Coach, please, no one else, not yet. It is just so hard to realize and accept that things may be different than I was taught to think. It feels so scary. I feel crazy.”

“ OK Meagan, I want you to breathe and repeat One Step at a Time, over and over. I will be here for you. I just think, in the future, we need another professional you can trust to be part of our team, you know, the Support Team I keep mentioning. Most good people cannot successfully go against the wishes of a controlling person by themselves. But we will work on this together. OK ? This was a big step for you! You are right Meagan, and you have a right to your privacy and your father needs to respect that !”

“ I have to go Coach, daddy just opened the garage door. Can we meet again tomorrow Coach, please ?”

“ Yes Meagan, tomorrow night ! Goodnight.”

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