March 31, 2014
Faithful readers know that I recently broke up with someone. And that person then blocked all contact. Not cool. The amusing part was that she accused me of not being able to handle rejection. Whaaaat?
Ummm, I seem to recall that I was the one that broke up with her. Anyways, there was no point arguing who broke up with whom. I just laughed.
I laughed because the same thing happened years ago when I told my borderline ex I would not move to LA with her. And she told me the same exact thing. LOL. She got everyone else to believe her too.
Who has a problem dealing with rejection? Who has a problem with intimacy? Who pushes people away when they get too close? Who blocks and runs at the first sign of rejection? Who loves the attention and the drama? Who has a problem with just being friends?
Are you sure it’s me?
March 30, 2014
Part-time wedding blogger, Stephanie Hallett claims she is a feminist. But when you look at the feminist topics she has chosen to write (of which there are many), she has chosen to place her focus solely on rape.
We can all agree rape is a terrible crime. But why would someone devote their whole career to writing about rape? Is there something Stephanie Hallett is trying to tell us? Is there a dark past that has yet to be revealed?
Instead of writing about women who have risen above their circumstances, she has decided to put her laser-like focus on women who have been victimized. Rather than write about female empowerment she is obsessed with tales of victimization. Is this what feminism is about?
Everything this woman writes at Ms Magazine is designed to instill fear/hatred of men in women. The irony is she writes for wedding blogs as well. Love and Hate. All in one package. Where have we seen this kind of ambivalence? This is a very confused woman.
Rape Culture is a hot topic amongst “feminists” like Hallett. It’s the theory that we live in a rapey world full of rapists. They claim society is teaching their male offspring that it’s ok to rape. They would have you believe all women are in danger of being raped.
It’s a pretty wild theory as theories go. One should know that these theories were put forth by women with doctorates. But these are not doctorates in Psychology or Sociology. These are doctorates in Women Studies and Feminist Theories. Women who have doctorates in legitimizing misandry.
The only women I know who have claimed to be raped are ones who have a family history of sexual abuse and alcoholism. Mental health professionals have also observed this tendency. Do they know something we don’t?
Other studies have shown that alleged rapists and women who claimed to be raped come from similar families. Families mired in chaos and childhood abuse. Families that have a history of personality disorders and alcoholism.
But Stephanie Hallett doesn’t write about such topics. And Ms Magazine chooses to delete comments regarding such topics. What are these “feminists” hiding?
Amongst the many topics they are uncomfortable with is the topic of Cluster B personality disorders, especially the kind that causes a woman to be obsessed with victimhood. The kind that creates attention-seeking behaviors.
We’re not talking about normal attention-seeking behaviors like putting on a pretty dress. We’re talking about the scary kind- like flirting with every guy at a college party and then claiming some asshole raped you in your drunken stupor.
I’ve known my fair share of troubled women. I know they will do anything to get attention and sympathy. I’ve known women who swallow a whole bottle of painkillers just to get attention. I’ve known women who tell stories of child abuse to lure unsuspecting white knights.
One has to wonder why a wedding blogger would write about rape. But if you think about it, there is a common thread. Both satisfy a narcissistic/histrionic thirst for attention. Both give the narcissist a FALSE sense of importance. The kind that comes with playing a martyr and a bride.
There is a darker story here. One that Stephanie Hallett has yet to write. It didn’t happen at a college beer fest. It happened in their childhood… in their own household.
It involved acts that you would think would never happen to a child in their own home… by people you would think would never commit such a heinous crime. But Stephanie Hallett is not yet ready to write about such things. Those stories are under lock and key.
One can only hope these women get the help they need to unlock those dark stories. Because women obsessed with victimhood are stuck in a prison. And the only way they can be free is to unlock their past.
They need to learn that true freedom comes from honesty. Not denial. Not tales of delusion and deception. And it certainly doesn’t come from making a public spectacle of ones self or masquerading as some warrior for social justice.
March 28, 2014
Assuming you’ve made the break (if you haven’t, you’ll be stuck in stage four indefinitely…or worse), you will quickly be catapulted into stage five. Once your Cluster B realises you’ve gained the strength to walk away, he/she will cut you loose…completely. You will find this both shocking and possibly even hurtful at first, but believe me, it’s by far the best thing.
Once you have rejected a Cluster B (you always reject them, they never do anything to drive you away…remember, they are always the wronged party), there is no going back. You will be dropped, and left high and dry. This is the stage when it becomes clear that you were never loved.
You realise during the release stage that your Cluster B is not capable of feeling love. He/she lacks empathy and emotion. If there are children involved, it becomes painfully apparent during this stage that they too are just objects to a Cluster B. It’s a devastating realisation, and it will send you into free-fall for a while, but you MUST accept it as the truth.
The person you fell in love with never existed, it was all an illusion. There’s no easy way to deal with the release stage. You may feel elated one minute, then terrified the next. Again, get support from wherever you can. Look back over your time together and try to pin-point and acknowledge the different phases. This will help you to come to terms with what has happened, and accept the role you played in your Cluster B’s life. Don’t turn the anger in on yourself. It was NOT your fault.
Your Cluster B had this problem before you met, and he/she will continue to have this problem long after you’re gone. Cluster B’s rarely go to get help for themselves. They cannot acknowledge that they have a problem.
Psychologists treat the Cluster B’s victims, rarely the Cluster B’s themselves. I strongly recommend that you get professional psychological support during the release stage. The only way you can let it go, is to understand it. And to do this you need expert guidance. Draw comfort from the fact that you are not in this alone……and be proud that you managed to escape. Many don’t.
March 26, 2014
Lest you think ACOA is some obscure made-up disorder, here is Huffington’s own resident expert, Dr. Tian Dayton, on the topic:
Old pain that gets imported into new relationships is the hallmark of the ACoA trauma syndrome. The past we thought we’d neatly left behind once we got tall enough, old enough or smart enough intrudes onto our present and we are returned, in the blink of an eye, to childhood states of emotion and along with them floods of feelings and images that we “forgot” were there.
Confronted with an angry spouse, a critical boss or a tantrumy child, the ACoA may overreact to a present-day circumstance that somehow mirrors one from the past. Unaware that hidden childhood wounds may be causing us to react more intensely than is right-sized for what’s going on, we get caught in a mind/body combustion in which pain from the past is potentizing pain in the present. We get tight guts, we hold our breath and we wait “for the other shoe to drop.” We brace ourselves and wait for something bad to happen, just they way we did when we were kids. But we don’t know that’s what’s happening. Then we swing into defensive strategies, we explode or implode, we get aggressive and defensive or we disappear and withdraw. We stand at our full adult height, but on the inside, we’re that freaked out little kid all over again. In this manner pain from the past bleeds into the present. Seamlessly old hurt, anger and fear move from one generation to the next, because unresolved pain, anger and confusion don’t really disappear; they live within us, in a quivering silence that longs to make itself heard and known.
Where does it all begin?
Picture the child in the alcoholic home. There is a fundamental power imbalance. The child is small, the parent is big. The parent is the one who holds the keys to the house, the car, the refrigerator and the bank account. And everyone knows it. The parent has the authority. If a parent is yelling at a child, telling him that he is the problem, that if he would only change everything would be better, the child tends to believe him. Children look into their parent’s eyes to see a reflection of themselves, of who they are and whether or not they matter. When the parent is the one who is causing the stress, it’s a double whammy for the child. Not only is the child scared and hurt, but the person they would normally go to for comfort and solace is the one who is scaring and hurting them. They are disempowered by the very nature of their youth and dependency.
Kids are trapped in a world run and paid for by their parents.
If their parents are drunk or preoccupied with hiding ever-growing problems from themselves and the rest of the world, home can become a real pot boiler of emotions that are hard to untangle. The emphasis on the family moves from cooperation to hunkering down and staying safe. When the yelling comes, the child knows that if he fights back, he risks getting the family problems, that are running rampant through the house, focused onto him, or getting sent to his room, grounded, hit, punished or having his allowance taken away. Then he will be more trapped. So kids often take the path of least resistance: They comply, withdraw or shut down. Or they stand there and take it, but on the inside they flee, they dissociate, they disappear. Because the child is limited in their ability to access outside support, they have no one to tell them that they are after all not a terrible and troublemaking little person or to reassure them that everything will be all right and return to normal soon. Rather, they have to relay on their own, often immature ability to create meaning, but all too often, the meaning that they create casts themselves in a negative light. Their ability to understand, process and manage this situation is dictated by their very dependency and their limited intellectual equipment at any given point of development. The combination of these factors, the power imbalance, length of time spent in a dissociated state, the inability escape and their lack of mature, intellectual development, are factors that can contribute to childhood trauma having long impact. Years after the CoA has left home, they may carry anxieties about themselves and relationships that they do not fully understand. This is how the ACoA imports their past into their present. And because of the way the brain processes frightening or overwhelming experiences, none of this gets talked about. Or even thought about.
Our natural response when experiencing frightening or overwhelming situations is to self-protect. We do this by running away, retaliating in some way or, when neither are possible, by shutting down, by becoming “invisible”. FIght, flight, freeze. As children or adults these defensive strategies can result in our warding off or hiding from the very pain we need to face in order to remain aware of what is happening around us. If, when a frightening situation like being yelled at by a drunk parent occurs, we process it with someone who cares and make intellectual sense of it, we can return to normal or even learn a little something and be more resilient when problems come again. We get better at handling or avoiding them. But when this doesn’t happen, as is so often the case with stress and trauma in the home, that is being caused by parents erratic or irresponsible behavior, that pain goes underground, it sinks down inside, forming a little pool of unprocessed emotion that sits in our inner world. But out of sight is not out of mind. Unprocessed pain does not disappear; it lays dormant, waiting for some similar memory cue to return it to the surface waiting, in other words, to be remembered. Even loud voices, a raised eyebrow or a change in mood can send the ACoA sailing back into a place inside of them where they shiver inside and wait, just as they did as kids, for something bad to happen.
When We’re Very, Very Scared…
The thinking, or language part of the brain shuts down so that the human organism has no interference in it’s powerful urge to either fight and defend itself or flee from danger. Therefore, it’s our most frightening experiences that often times don’t get translated into words, thought about and put into a context. They live instead within us as fragmented and un-integrated “pieces” of personal experience, they dance on the edges of our conscious awareness or they lay below the surface, submerged in the deep waters of our unconscious. Even loving and well-meaning parents can be frightening to a small child who is tracing every movement of their face for signs of anger. Kids are so small vis a vis their parents, so subject to the mood of the household and the state of mind of those in charge of their young lives. Add parental alcohol or drug abuse, depression or anxiety to this family equation and you have a potent cocktail for kids feeling scared and even traumatized by what’s going on in the home.
Some of the factors that sear trauma in place and make it more likely that a child of addiction (or family dysfunction) will develop PTSD are:
• Whether or not escape is possible. Can the kids get away from stressful, painful family scenes?
• Whether or not there is a power imbalance (which of course, there is).
• Did the child have access to outside support? Were there caring, concerned adults who could provide “safe haven” or a place the child could feel, if only momentarily, out of harm’s way? A place that could provide a “reality check” or model a different way of being in a family?
• The length of time that the COA spends in a numbed out or dissociated state. Trauma in the home tends to be cumulative — it occurs incrementally and over a significant period of time.
• The developmental level of the child. How old were they when trauma in the home occurred and what age-related capacities did they have to make sense of confusing, painful or frightening experiences?
• Whether or not it’s the parents, who they would normally go to for comfort and reassurance who are causing the stress?
These are some of the factors that give trauma in the home such traction. Intense feeling states get wired into kids, and rather than absorb skills of emotional calm and regulation from their homes they absorb states of emotional chaos and extremes. (You might say they get skilled at over- or under-reacting.) Then as adults when they are in the midst of intense emotions, which are after all simply a part of life and relationships for anyone, they have trouble keeping their emotional reactions right-sized. And often times they feel somehow defective in their reactions so they try to hide them and put on a false face to others and even to themselves.
But this sort of beginning need not be a life sentence. No one needs to feel alone or crazy because their past pain is leaking into their present. Twelve-step programs like alanon, CODA and ACOA meetings are filled to the brim with people “who know because they’ve been there” and will quietly nod their heads in recognition and identification as these stories unfold and are told. Twelve-step programs are essentially free and by their tradition are not connected with any sort of commercial enterprise. Many who enter “program” feel that they “no longer regret no wish to close the door on their past” because they have found such positive support and life direction by joining with others on a healing journey. The ACoA trauma syndrome, in other words, can as easily open a door to the soul as close it. As a member of my group recently said, “I saw you do your psychodrama tonight. I saw you struggle to let yourself feel, to let yourself say what you wanted to say. I saw you start to feel. It was like a door inside you opened up. I remembered that moment when I started group and had that feeling. When it came to me… when that door… I mean, I had been waiting so long for something to happen… when that door inside me opened and I finally realized… I saw… that the person who was holding it closed all along, was me.”
March 25, 2014
Found this thread on ACOA.
My relationships with ACOAs never lasted longer than a year, but I can relate to the insanity… especially the part about projection and “checking out”.
I Am Living With An Adult Child of An Alcoholic.
The Fog is lifting for all those out there that come from functional healthy family backgrounds but unfortunately got involved with or married an ACOA/Codependent, this is my rollercoaster ride of dysfunction, disease, confusion and pain.
Trying to have a functional relationship with a dysfunctional person is a lesson in insanity. When your spouse has “emotional dyslexia”, it is nearly impossible to make any sense of their choices, behaviors, words and actions.
The projection of all their difficult and negative feelings onto you is distressing to put it mildly. Blaming you for their deep seated issues and attempting to make you responsible for their behaviors is one of the most disturbing traits of ACOA’s.
I have two young children and her systematic and successful “check out” from our relationship and our family has left me, the children, and my extended family the monumental task of picking up the pieces of a broken life.
Her operant conditioning, defense mechanisms, and coping skills led her down a road of betrayal, abandonment, abuse and neglect. That is what she comes from so it should be no surprise.
My family and I tried to show her what a functional healthy genuinely loving family looks, acts, behaves, and speaks like but her arrogant, stubborn, grandiose, haughty ego kept her from learning a thing.
In her mind she thought she was perfect and we were the ones with the problems. Textbook trait of an inability to look within to see the depth of your own pathology.
The post goes on and there are posts by other contributers, so I encourage you to read the entire thread. It always feels good to know that you did not imagine the whole thing.
(Not all of the ACOA relationships I’ve had were bad. Some just didn’t work out. I don’t want to give the impression that all ACOAs are like this.)
March 23, 2014
I saw Silver Linings Playbook yesterday. I know. I’m lagging. Great movie. Superb cast and uplifting storyline. But I’m a little troubled by how the movie deals with mental illness.
I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that Hollywood has airbrushed mental illness. They’ve done it before with movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
One Harvard professor praised Silver Linings for reducing the stigma attached to mental illness. I give the movie credit for bringing the topic into the public conversation.
Bradley Cooper plays a bipolar man. Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who is traumatized by her husband’s death. But also shows signs of BPD. Another borderline whose past is filled with tragedy. She is a woman who is known in the neighborhood for being crazy and sleeping around.
Lawrence’s character is clearly unstable and lonely. She deals with her loneliness and rejection the way many borderline women deal with it, they jump in the sack with any guy who is willing. Anything for attention.
When I told my borderline ex that I would not be moving in with her, she proceeded to sleep with every guy in town. Or at least tried. Sex, for her, was a weapon to punish those who would dare reject her. In the absence of love, sex is a convenient substitute. And then she wonders why men take advantage of her.
In the movie, these sexcapades are portrayed in a light-hearted way, which makes for a funny movie. But in real life, it’s not so funny.
Lawrence’s character basically manipulates Cooper’s character, using his estranged wife as bait. She uses the sympathy card (her husband’s death) to lower Cooper’s defenses. Once again, funny in the movie. Not so funny in real life.
Cooper’s character has a restraining order placed on him by his soon-to-be ex-wife, because he beat the snot out of the guy who was sleeping with his wife. Actually, he caught them screwing in the shower. The drama makes me wonder if his wife had borderline tendencies of her own.
But the most troubling part of the movie is the idea that True Love can cure mental illness. The Hollywood notion that codependency is really two damaged people finding their soulmate (two broken people makes a whole) is why there are so many crazy people/addicts in Hollywood.
Removing the stigma is one thing. Promising mental illness paradise is quite another. It’s the illusion that all the meltdowns and panic attacks suddenly disappear once the mentally ill have found the ONE. Perhaps, that is also why divorce is so prevalent in Hollywood.
I also saw Leaving Las Vegas this weekend. I’m really behind. I found that to be a more realistic portrayal of damaged souls. There was no uplifting ending. It was actually really depressing.
Nicholas Cage plays a raging alcoholic who is determined to kill himself with booze. And Elisabeth Shue plays the co-dependent hooker with a heart of gold. Once again, we find the notion that these are two soul mates. And the notion that true love is accepting a person, flaws and all.
Nicholas Cage’s character refuses to give up alcohol and seek help. Shue’s character accepts his bad decisions. That’s real love. Right? I’m sure you can guess how the movie ends.
Am I over-reacting? Or is this the wrong message to be putting out in the world?
March 20, 2014
“But the witch hunter believes that she has little or no black heart. She assumes to some degree a particular air of righteousness. It isn’t that she lacks a little black heart, as she would like to believe and like to have you believe, but that she is extremely uncomfortable with her little black heart.
She resists it in herself, tries to deny it, attempts to cast it out. But it remains, as it must, and it remains hers, persistently clamoring for some attention. The more she resists it, the more strength it acquires, and the more it demands her awareness.
Finally, because she can deny it no longer, she does start to see it. But she sees it in the only way she can–as residing in other people. She knows somebody has a little black heart, but since it just can’t be her, it must be someone else.
All she has to do now is find this somebody else, and this becomes an extremely important task, because if she can’t find someone onto whom she can project her shadow, she will be left holding it herself.
It is here that we see the resistance playing its crucial role. For just as the person once hated and resisted her own shadow with unbridled passion, and sought to eradicate it by any means, she now despises, with the very same passion, those onto whom she casts her own shadow.”
Ken Wilber, No Boundary
Courtesy of Yana
March 17, 2014
As predicted, Charlie is now claiming victimhood. After launching a lengthy and childish attack on this blog, she claims we have nothing better to do than pick on poor defenseless Charlie. Where have we seen this “attacker turned victim” maneuver before?
Oh but this just in: After deleting her abusive comments, she told me I should kill myself. And she is glad that a borderline woman fucked me over.
As you can see, when a borderline feels slighted (victimized), they can justify saying and doing just about anything. So much for being the model borderline.
Our encounter with Charlie has got me thinking about my last relationship. And how difficult it was to deal with someone who was so determined to play the victim in any given scenario. Even after a fight she started. It’s exhausting. Is it not?
Every argument was a broken record. When emotions were high, I could have left the room and she would have continued blaming and shaming. She was fighting demons from her past and I was her punching bag. Like Charlie, she had a deep reservoir of pain and she was looking to unload.
Our last fight was the last straw. That night, she was determined to push all my buttons until she got the reaction she wanted. She was picking a fight. This is what borderlines do when they want to sabotage a relationship… When feelings of unworthiness overwhelm them.
The words she chose were remarkably similar to the words Charlie chose and the words my last borderline ex chose. A silent abuser knows how to inflict pain without leaving a mark. They choose their words very carefully. They choose the ones they know will cause maximum pain.
I had already tolerated too many of her tirades and forgiven her for too many things she later regretted saying. But this night, I had enough. It was only after she punched below the belt that I threw her emotional and physical baggage out.
She used this last fight as an opportunity to tell everyone (including her therapist) how abusive I was for not tolerating her tantrums. In her troubled mind, not putting up with her abusive tendencies and calling her out made me the abuser. A borderline splits you black when they realize you will not put up with anymore bullshit.
Needless to say, that was the last I saw of her. When a borderline realizes you will not put up with her bullshit anymore, she runs off to find someone who will… Someone who is more easily manipulated.
You will be surprised how quickly you are replaced. This was not our first break up. On a few occasions, I would find out she had called another man on the very day I broke up with her. For them, it is not about love. It is about survival. It’s about filling the emotional void left by childhood abuse.
To be honest, I miss the tenderness we shared and the good times. But I do not miss the drama and the endless victimhood. I do not miss the manipulative mind games. You can not separate the good from the bad. I had to end it, because my sanity was at stake.
How do you contain a nuclear blast? You don’t. Once it starts, destruction is inevitable. She claims she hit rock bottom when I broke up with her, but she was at rock bottom long before I met her. She just needed someone to blame for the constant misery. I was a convenient receptacle for a lifetime’s worth of pain.
She will deny that pain. But the evidence is there. Years earlier, she ran away from home. She left an alcoholic father and a brother who was struggling with drug addiction. She left a mother who denied it all.
Like the borderline before her, running away was her way of escaping pain. If you want to know when they first became addicted to victimhood, look no further. The answer always lies in their past.
Pain was always present in her life, so it was absurd for her to suggest that I was the cause of it. Even her own friends said they had never seen her happier than the time she spent with me. But once I shut down the relationship, she denied that she was ever happy. Typical borderline devaluation.
Her whole family is eager to put the past in the past. Denial is a family affair. It’s a rich tradition that goes back for generations. Playing the victim is hard evidence of a traumatic childhood, one they had to suppress to survive- to move the fuck on.
She surmised that, because she was not an alcoholic or a drug addict, she was good-to-go. She believed that she was the only one in her family that didn’t have issues. Just like Charlie believed that, because she was neither in prison or dead, she had already beat the system.
How do you argue with someone whose expectations and standards are so low? How do you convince this person that they have not even begun to turn the tides of fate? How do you get these people to see that their anger is deeply rooted in the past?
There are different depths of denial. As we have learned from recent encounters, even someone who is in treatment can be in denial. The fact is they are not well. They are just really good at thinking they are.
They will insist they are on the path to well-being while throwing screaming cats at people… while blaming and shaming… while dragging everyone down to their level.
But this is the art of distraction. If they throw the white-hot spotlight on you, they can hide in darkness. If they claim you are crazy, they can slip out the back door.
Nobody in denial is going to admit they are in denial. That’s the very definition of denial. You can not convince someone in denial that they are in denial. Believe me. I’ve tried.
It is an elaborate web of lies that can only be untangled by the person who wove it. And by now, you see the impossibility of a person in denial unweaving what has taken a lifetime to weave.
The mirage of recovery is a deceptive one. It makes people think they have only a couple blocks to go. When in actuality, they have oceans to cross and mountains to climb.
To accept that means to accept heartbreak. Don’t let the angry survivalist image fool you, these women are far too sensitive to accept heartbreak.
It’s easier to twist the Truth than it is to accept it. It’s easier to cling onto victimhood than to acknowledge the pain you have caused others.
March 16, 2014
Charlie is looking for a fight. She came here to fight for the rights of the emotionally unstable. She thinks we have inaccurately portrayed her kind.
So let’s give credit where credit is due. She got diagnosed and is in DBT treatment. That is certainly a good start.
Even so, she has a long way to go. DBT can not perform miracles, especially on someone who is so far gone.
Despite her insistence that she is the model borderline, Charlie is no different than the other angry women who claim this blog is unfair to their kind.
It is no coincidence that most of these hot tempered women are young. BPD hits its peak in the teen years, continuing it’s terrible effects through adulthood.
Ironic because I gave her a chance to present herself in the best possible light, so she could prove that she was indeed the exception.
But instead of proving me wrong, she proceeded to attack the blog and everyone who tried to kindly reason with her.
Charlie says all her friends are either dead or in prison. So, yeah, I guess you could say she has done better than expected.
But she seems to have missed the point. The point being that her whole life was one big traumatic event filled with tragedy and death. But she insists that she’s not traumatized at all. Uh, ok.
It’s hard to point out the obvious to someone that deep in denial. It’s like talking to a brick wall. All defenses are up. Reason goes through one ear and out the other.
Charlie is under the illusion that being in treatment makes her as good as cured. But she doesn’t realize she has a lot of growing up to do. Arrested development is very much a part of BPD.
I guess she is no different than the college graduate who thinks she knows everything about the world. But there is something about BPD that makes denial a matter of survival. It is as if viewing themselves honestly might kill them.
You can be diagnosed and still be in denial. You can accept your disease and still deny how much pain you cause people.
All you have to do is notice how little compassion Charlie has for the people here to know that BPs deny the pain they cause others all the time. That sort of knowledge is too much to bear.
A borderline who attacks people in hopes of changing their opinion about her is a borderline covering up the evidence. This is a woman who will fight anyone who doesn’t drink her Kool Aid.
March 13, 2014
“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consistent with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true.”
― Carl Sagan
Courtesy of Laura