Consumed By You, Consumed by Me: Engulfment

Love vs. Obsession. This may be where I confuse the two. I didn’t have a term for it before, but Engulfment seems to fit with Borderline Personality Disorder, many Personality Disorders actually.
Engulfment – Engulfment is an unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on a spouse, partner or family member. It’s a distortion of reality in the mind, in which the status of a relationship takes an inappropriate level of priority over the every day, physical and emotional needs of those involved. A level of crisis is inferred on the status of the relationship and a “fix-it-at-all-costs” strategy is deployed to deal with any weaknesses in the relationship – real or imagined.
There is often immense pressure placed on those being engulfed to behave in ways that put them at the center of the PD’s world. They may demand time, resources, commitment and devotion beyond what is healthy. Relationships with outsiders, family and friends may be seen as threats and be frowned upon, resulting in Alienation. Even normal habits or routines, such as work, hobbies, interests which take a Non-PD’s attention and energy away from the PD-sufferer may appear threatening. Acts of independence by that person may be met with begging, argument, threats, even acts of retribution and violence.
People who are on the receiving end of engulfment may find themselves compromising other relationships or competing interests in order to “keep the peace” with a partner or family member who is embroiled in engulfment. They may fear the consequences of displaying independent thought or action. They may fear violence, intimidation or rage if they do not give the person what they want. They may long to leave the relationship but be afraid of the consequences if they do.
I’ve only really done this twice; with my high school best friend/boyfriend (whom I won’t talk about) and with Evil-Ex. With Evil-Ex it went both ways. In the ebb and flow of our dependence and counter dependence; the emotional highs and lows, it would be one or the other of us that tried to hold on. The more evasive and subversive he was, the harder I would hold on, trying to fix everything, trying to compensate for anything that I perceived as needing to be fixed; the more I would try to engage him in our relationship. When I had enough, or needed my own space to find myself, when I was my typical strong assertive self, in other words, when it appeared I didn’t need him, the tables would turn and he would try to engulf me. It was a game for him. For me it was like oxygen. I needed him to keep breathing normally. He needed me to assuage his own ego.
When things were rocky it was like someone clutching my heart in a death grip and drowning it in a bath of ice. My lungs would constrict and I couldn’t think of anything but making whatever wrong I had done, right. It was unendurable panic. All I wanted was for things to ‘be back to normal’. The more he would sneak around; the more he would try to make me feel crazy, jealous, worthless, the more I wanted to prove him wrong. To prove him wrong, I had to fix whatever little flaw I thought he saw. My self-worth rode on the approval I received for doing something that brought back the balance. What I couldn’t understand at the time was; there was never a balance in the first place. There was only him driving me to madness and me wrapping the insanity around me like a shroud.
That’s what being engulfed in someone feels like. It’s an obsession. A thick fog of madness clouding your mind where the rest of the world becomes occluded in the mist and you can only see the figure you focus on two feet in front of you. Nothing more, nothing less; nothing else matters. All the while trying to maintain a grip on who you are. Wanting more than life itself to have the person you love, love you back, treat you well, do you right, without having to lose who you are in the process. Except exerting who you are, who I was, was exactly the thing he did not want to see. He wanted me to be the ideal picture of a hot brainiac gamer chick that was utterly devoted to him. Anything other than that; having anything in my world other than him, was proof that I was out to do something against him. If I wanted to have my own friends, it was because I wanted to cheat on him. If I wanted to stay in and watch a movie, it was because I wanted to keep him from his friends. Just small examples of his logic. To be honest there were times I didn’t want him to go out without me. Though in my defense, often I knew when he went out he did it with the intention of cheating on me, or playing games with girls to boost his own ego. I should have left, but I couldn’t, so I went crazy instead.
Everything he did was ‘for’ the relationship or for tearing it apart. Or so it seemed to me. Even when they were simply everyday things that had nothing to do with anything. All actions felt like they had impact on ‘us’.
My world became filled with self doubt. I would compromise anything that I wanted simply to keep some stability and ward of retribution as he was a very vengeful person be the slight real or imagined. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t make him happy? What was wrong with me, that he would do these things, look for these things elsewhere, instead of with me? The honest answer: It was him, not me. Oh yes. I acted in ways to hold onto him that were less than acceptable and no, I couldn’t extricate him from any aspect of my life, but not until he had burrowed himself in and pushed my buttons so far inside of me that I didn’t know how to trip the switch to my own sanity.
Of course, my ex was a malignant narcissist. Not exactly the pinnacle of normalcy in his own right, which probably contributed to why our cycles of love and hate perpetuated as long as they did.
The real bitch of it all… I rarely felt so alive. All the craze, all the torture, all the heart pounding highs and crushing lows, I knew, without a doubt knew, what it was to be living again. He’d taken away the numbness I felt, the empty hollow life I had been living and filled that shell with something so devastatingly exhilarating that I was afraid to stop feeling again. Despite the fact that what I was feeling was making me fall freely to my own early grave.
I knew this and I would assert myself once more. This only worked to make him angry, worked against me. He couldn’t control me directly, so he worked to control me in other ways. Had I been a weaker person and allowed him to mold me into the placid plastic doll that he wanted me to be, I could have saved myself so much heartache. I wouldn’t allow it. I won’t allow it. No one will ever tell me who I am allowed to be, who I’m supposed to be. If I choose to change that’s one thing, but it will be my choice, or at least, doing by my own hand subconscious or otherwise. There are times I would be what he wanted me to be, but I wouldn’t give up myself completely. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had. I knew this. It would have ended things sooner had I given in, given up; he’d have gotten bored. So would I.
No matter the trauma and abuse, I fought. I fought for him, or I just plain fought him. That’s how consumed I was with our relationship. And nothing anyone could tell me could make me feel that this was not what I wanted, despite the fact that cognitively I knew, I TOLD myself, that things were not okay. When you’re engulfed by someone, with someone, there’s no logic, there’s only the feeling of utter consumption.
Engulfment is the loss of self through being controlled, consumed, invaded, suffocated, dominated, and swallowed up by another. Fortunately it is possible to extricate yourself. It’s not easy, but eventually there comes a point where you just can’t take anymore. One person or the other needs to take a stand.
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Threat of Intimacy

Acting on Impulse. Reckless Sex. Being Promiscuous.

It’s all the same right? Not quite.
Impulsive behavior, or acting without thinking about the consequences of a behavior, is one of the symptoms of BPD listed in the DSM-IV. Impulsive behavior can include many different types of acts (Spending Sprees, Shoplifting, Drinking&Drugging, Dangerous Situations, Stripping, and  yes, Sex), but reckless sexual behavior seems to be a more common one among people with BPD (and Histrionic PD).
“People with BPD are most at risk of engaging in impulsive acts when they are experiencing intense emotional responses, or when they are disinhibited by alcohol or substances. Intense sadness, fear, jealousy, or positive emotions may lead to impulsive sexuality.
Why might people with BPD be more promiscuous? One possibility is that people with BPD use sex to combat feelings of emptiness that are associated with the disorder. When feeling empty, numb, lonely, or bored, sex may generate positive emotional responses.”
I’d like some intense emotional response on top of my intense emotional response please. With a cherry on top. What? No cherry? Yeah, that’s gone. It’s almost like a drug. When you’re already so emotionally driven, adding a situation that is even more intense can push me into an almost emotional high. If it’s someone I have a strong attachment to, the world slips away in a rush of touch, sweat and sensation. As someone that longs to escape the mundane and boredom that often suffuses my life and drives me to depression, sex, is the ultimate escapism.
“These patients struggle with feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation; they’re caught in a spiral of self-destructive behavior that eventually sabotages their lives. Lacking a stable sense of self, they attempt to compensate by seeking satisfaction in material possessions, superficial friendships and impersonal sexual encounters. They substitute empty lifestyles for real lives and shy away from channeling their energies into personal growth and fulfillment.”
I wouldn’t say I channel my energy away from personal growth and fulfillment. I wouldn’t say it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t strictly true; at least in areas concerning healthy relationships. I have a lot of incredibly fulfilling hobbies and pursuits so I know this isn’t pervasive in my life but I can see the patterns of it in some aspects of me. The relationship aspects of me. Cognitively I know when I have a good thing going for me. Hell, cognitively I know when I have a bad thing going for me. But I get so swept up in not wanting to be alone, being bored, needing to fill the time, the space, the emptiness that I act without regard for the consequences that will inevitably follow. It’s not that my life is empty, it just feels so hollow some days and I’ll do anything to fill the void. Heh. I just don’t know what I want. Don’t know how to internalize what I should want. It’s easier to figure out what other people want.
I wonder if there’s an aspect of:  if I can give someone what they want, maybe I’ll have that feeling of satisfaction as well. I’ll understand what it means to have something I want, vicariously. I’m good at knowing what other people want. It’s very natural for me to quickly deduce what will make someone happy, make their life easier, turn them off or turn them on. It’s almost a game figuring out how to give that to them. It’s fun for me, for a while. Except it’s not really for me. I do things for other people, elsewhere, lock myself into some convoluted commitment and suddenly I’m trapped inside my own skin, clawing to get out of the situation I set myself up to fall from.  It’s like wearing a mask made from someone else’s desires. I forget what my own face looks like underneath.
A lot of people have occasional doubts about their identity and self-worth. There are times I’m not sure I even know what these things even are. Some days I am absolutely confident in my sense of worth. I do know I have value. Unfortunately it’s often after receiving validation from someone that I’ve done something for. Sex is the ultimate validation of desire isn’t it? It’s a very visceral display of approval for the things I can do. I wonder if I don’t seek this kind of attention to validate my own sense of worth. If I can get someone to want me enough to be with me, than I must be doing something worthy of their appreciation. Something, alright. In this manner it skews my tenuous sense of identity. I am who I am, and that’s whoever I need me to be. Or whomever I perceive that you want me to be. Ok, not to such an extreme. I’m not quite that kind of chameleon, but I can be. I just don’t want to be.
One psychologist postulates that adopting this sort of false Self is a way to cope.
“People dominated by false Self adopt an illusion of coping, which substitutes for genuine self-assertion. They depend on others to constantly provide them with a sense of internal security, a way of relieving feelings of worthlessness. The borderline personality is constantly on the defensive, guarding against intimacy out of a twin fear of being engulfed and abandoned. While it’s natural to feel anxious about a new relationship, most of us realize that we need love in our lives. The borderline, however, is incapable of handling closeness and substitutes inappropriate relationships with unavailable partners.
The threat of intimacy may lead a borderline patient to become promiscuous. Since her fears make her unable to make a lasting commitment to one person, she goes from one lover to another, acting out the fantasy of somebody taking care of her. Sex tends to be mechanical, in order to avoid the powerful drive to emotional intimacy that accompanies sex. What she seeks is not orgasm but being held, as if to compensate for her not having been held as a child.”
The threat of intimacy. This rings so true to me I can’t emphasize this point enough. I just like the phrase: the threat of intimacy.
“In addition to engaging in reckless or impulsive sex, there is evidence that people with BPD are more prone to being sexually promiscuous. This differs from impulsive sex in that promiscuity is the act of intentionally having multiple sexual partners (rather than having casual sex on a whim).”

So there’s the difference between just being sexually impulsive and being sexually promiscuous.

For example, as soon as Boring-Ex and I broke up, I was able to begin involvement with a girl I’d liked for years… and her girlfriend… and the misguided drama polygon with Friend… and my best female friend at the time. For the record, let me state that I operate in a group of people that view polyamory as almost the norm and no we’re not mormon. It’s not unusual for my friends to have open marriages and multiple partners so I don’t actually view this as being very deviant. My Therapist would disagree.  

I don’t mind being the secondary relationship of a poly couple. At least in the past I haven’t. It allows me to maintain my illusion of intimacy while not having the focus primarily upon me. When you’re involved in a polyamorous relationship and you’re not the primary significant other, there’s a safety from that threat of intimacy that arises. I was close, but not living with her. When I needed space it was fine because odds are her other girlfriend needed attention… and on it went. This works great, until it doesn’t, and I want more than I’m able to have. The question though: Do I want more because I really want more, or because I know I can’t have it? Hm.
I don’t necessarily want to have multiple partners. What I want is to be close, but not too close. I can’t figure out how to do this without pushing away and pulling closer. Allowing someone in, and then forcing them back out. I don’t set out to be promiscuous, I’m honestly not even sure it’s my fault. Or how it happens. I hermit away and I don’t have to worry about any of it. I’m secluded so I have no people to bother me. Really it’s as soon as I start putting myself out there that people begin to take an elevated interest in me. When I’m actively seeing someone though, it’s like a red cape is waved in front of the eyes of the bystanders that shouts at my potential unavailability and they begin to charge. My problem is, when faced with a fight or flight response, I tend to fight. I don’t run, I don’t stop, I don’t say no. I engage. With only vague thoughts that I could end up emotionally maimed, the act is practically impulsive. I don’t think about other people when they’re not in my immediate vicinity (people I’m not very attached to), because it’s like they’re no longer a part of my life. For as much as I hate to be alone, and want to have someone near, I do not attach easily. This is my problem with having a lack of object constancy. But when they are around…  Once I do finally attach my thoughts border on obsessive and I can’t extricate my mind. Once that happens there’s almost no thought or desire to allow anyone else near me and the problem of promiscuity disappears as quickly as it, came::grin:: What I’m getting at is, I don’t set out to be promiscuous, it just sort of falls in my lap. Or I fall into its lap. I don’t know. I blame the booze.
What I really want is to be close, and able to embrace that closeness without the terror of impending abandonment gripping my heart. That’s all I really want. My problem is I have no idea how to go about getting it. I’m trying. I’m actively focusing on things that are considered healthy in this new relationship with my Lady Friend. It’s so incredibly frustrating to know that what I’m doing, I have to do, because I’m simply incapable of being normal naturally. It shouldn’t be so hard to seek happiness. I know I really shouldn’t be seeking happiness in someone else. Everyone wants to be loved. It’s not really a matter of finding someone else to make me happy though, so much as finding someone that I can be happy with myself, with. If that makes any sense.

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Passive-Aggressive in Motion

Yesterday I started talking about the Passive-Aggressive characteristic often found in Borderline Personality Disorder. Though really it’s just a trait of personalities. I think everyone at some point has displayed passive aggressive tendencies. Most people just are not a master of tactfully direct confrontation.  So in researching passive-aggressiveness I came upon the Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. There are a lot of things that do not fit with Borderline. I want to make that clear, and you’re just going to have to trust me. There is definitely some over lap though and I want to touch on those things that I think are relateable. I just don’t want anyone to get confused and start to think that BPD is the same as PAPD or that they are generally co-morbid PDs. Millon (a noted psychiatrist) specifically cites a type of Passive-Aggressive personality type that he identifies as being inclusive to Borderline features; the  vacillating negativist.
Behavioral Features of PAPD Include (BPD**):
– sullen contrariness with little provocation;
– restlessness, unstable and erratic feelings;**
– inclination to be easily offended by trivial issues;
– low frustration tolerance and chronic impatience and irritability unless things go their way;**
– vacillation from being distraught and despondent to being petty, spiteful, stubborn, and contentious;
– short-lived enthusiasm and cheer with ready reversion to being disgruntled, critical, and envious;**
– begrudging the good fortune of others;
– quarrelsome reactions to indifference or minor slights from others;**
– emotions close to the surface; they may burst into tears at a small upset;**
– discharging anger or abuse at others with minimal provocation;**
– impulsivity and explosive unpredictability — making others uncomfortable;**
– ability to be pleasantly social with expression of warm affection but then easily provoked into hurt obstinacy and cruel, nasty interaction (Millon, 1981, p. 254). **
“Millon suggests that the most essential features of PAPD are irritable affect; behavioral contrariness, obstructiveness, and sulking; discontented self-image, e.g. feels unappreciated and misunderstood; deficient regulatory control, i.e. poorly modulated emotional expression; and interpersonal ambivalence. They are noted for their interpersonal conflict, verbal aggressiveness, and manipulative behavior. Suicidal gestures and a lack of attention to everyday responsibilities are common (Millon, 1996, p. 198).
PAPD resistance to external demands is manifested in oppositional and obstructive behaviors. These individuals resent having to conform to the standards set by others. On the other hand, they fear direct confrontation. The combination of resentment and fear leads to passive, provocative behavior (Beck & Freeman, 1990, p. 333) and defiant compliance (Benjamin, 1994, p. 276).”
If this doesn’t scream Borderline to you I don’t know what will. Clearly there are overlapping tendencies here.
“Individuals with OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive) and PAPD share a deeply rooted ambivalence about themselves and others. While people with OCPD resolve their ambivalence by compliant behavior and holding tension within, those with PAPD have virtually no resolution. As a result, they are characterized by vacillating behavior. They are indecisive; they fluctuate in their attitudes, oppositional behaviors, and emotions. They are generally erratic and unpredictable (Millon, 1981, p. 244).”
Someone with a Borderline personality Disorder is especially prone to those indecisive fluctuations. Hell, my psychiatrist wanted me on an anti-psychotic specifically to treat my personal ambivalence. When you flounder and waver so dramatically between two opposing points, it’s incredibly frustrating. In that frustration it can often be impossible to express what you need in order to resolve the problem. This leaves a person feeling completely misunderstood, because half the time they may not understand themselves. When you feel misunderstood constantly, it also brings about a general believe that people won’t even bother trying to understand you, so what’s the point? When you know you need something, don’t know exactly what, can’t ask for it, and can’t really express it; it’s no wonder that our moods seems to vacillate between passive and aggressive.
Self-Image
“Individuals with PAPD view themselves as self-sufficient but feel vulnerable to control and interference from others (Pretzer & Beck, Clarkin & Lenzenweger, eds., 1996, p. 60). They believe that they are misunderstood and unappreciated, a view that is exacerbated by the negative responses they receive from others for their consistent defeatist stance. They expect the worst in everything, even situations that are going well, and are inclined toward anger and irritability (Beck & Freeman, 1990, p. 339) (DSM-IV, 1994, p. 734).”
“Individuals with PAPD are often disgruntled and declare that they are not treated as they should be. On the other hand, they are just as likely to express feeling unworthy of good fortune. They have a basic conflict concerning their self-worth; they oscillate between self-loathing and entitlement or moral superiority. Either side of this oscillation can be projected onto the environment. The chaotic nature of this experience of self and others often leads to people beginning to avoid or minimize contact with people with PAPD out of self-protection (Richards, 1993, p. 259).”
I think this helps illustrate why people aren’t just aggressive. When you understand the inherent nature of constant flux you can begin to understand why reactions and responses are also in flux.
 View of Others
“Individuals with PAPD see others as intrusive, demanding, interfering, controlling, and dominating. They believe that other people interfere with their freedom. They experience control by others as intolerable; they have to do things their own way (Pretzer & Beck, Clarkin & Lenzenweger, eds., 1996, p. 60). These individuals are determined that they will not be subject to the rules of others (Beck & Freeman, 1990, p. 227). They resent, oppose, and resist demands to meet expectations from others in a behavioral pattern seen in both work and social settings (DSM-IV, 1994, p. 733). Their main coping strategies are passive resistance, surface submissiveness, evasion, and circumventing of rules (Pretzer & Beck, Clarkin & Lenzenweger, eds., 1996, p. 60).”
This ties into the Borderline Push-Pull. I’ll do so much for people, pull people close, meet their needs and demands, and then flip. I’ll be completely overwhelmed by what someone else wants  when it’s not what I want. I’ll feel like I’m losing my sense of Self to their needs, not my own, that what I’ve just been doing is now too much, being taken advantage of, a demand instead of a desire, expected not appreciated  and I’ll have to Push away to regain control of my own situation. It’s not quite the same, but the sentiments match up. It inspires feelings of resentment and resistance coupled with the borderline flipside desire to not be abandoned and needing approval. Can’t be too aggressive otherwise we’ll push people away irrevocably, can’t be too passive and just let things slide because then we’re just being taken advantage of and the resentment builds to explosion. This results in something of a dysfunctional balance being struck in the form of passive-aggressive behavior.  
Tomorrow I’ll get into a little bit of the affective issues of PAPD/BPD and the theory behind the origins of this behavior.

The Blame Game

Everything feels like a provocation. Something always creates a reaction. Or does it?  I recently talked about Blaming, but I want to get further into it with some other stuff I’ve found that I think provides a deeper understanding of where blame comes from for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.
The Blame Game
Dr. A.J. Mahari says that those with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to blame others for their problems and how they feel. Borderlines as a means of protecting themselves from the unrecognized and/or unconscious pain of the core wound of abandonment project their thoughts and feelings onto others. This makes everything seem to the borderline as if what is coming from or being done by him or her is actually coming from or being said or done by the loved one – the non-borderline. It can be confusing for those with BPD and crazy-making for loved ones of those with BPD. It leads to a relational dynamic that I refer to as the blame game – a game that nobody actually has a chance of winning. A game that hurts all involved in the dynamic of borderline relating that manifests in this borderline blame.
It is very typical for someone with BPD to honestly believe, while in the throes of a cognitively distorted thought process that everything they feel is someone else’s fault. So often, a person with BPD will take out their confusion and pain on those who try to care for them; on those who try to get close and try to stay close to them. What happens when someone tries to care or to be close for many with BPD is that once a certain line is crossed in closeness or familiarity the other person ceases to be who they are in the reality of the world of the borderline.

Borderline narcissism takes over. What is then experienced from the inside (usually unbeknownst to the borderline) is a very deep and intense transference. What the borderline feels deep inside (often this is a very large amount of pain) is projected out on to the close person (or caring person) who often then becomes a “parent figure” as a transference takes place – the closest loved one.

What this means is that instead of being in the here and now with someone who is trying to care about you and know you, if you have BPD, you somewhat dissociate from the here and now and re-play out an old relationship causing you to lose sight of both who the “other” is and who “you” are. This happens because many with BPD cannot meet their own needs and tend to look for others to do this for them. Needs and wants are often confused and left up to others. Borderlines are easily triggered when needs or wants aren’t met by people in their lives that have come to represent “object other”.
The borderline demands from the “object other”, who is being experienced as someone from their past. This other person, not knowing what is unfolding has no chance to be able to find the right response, or enough of any response that will please the borderline for long. The person with BPD then does the push-pull, in an effort to gain or maintain control. They feel out of control because they are re-experiencing painful feelings from their pasts. So unmet needs continue to escalate and the borderline gets angry – often to the point of rage, whether that rage is acted in or acted out – and demands more from the other person.
The other person, no doubt is confused, feeling attacked and like they can’t do anything “right” enough begins to pull away, in one form or another. This is the classic repeat of the borderline nightmare of abandonment.
But if you have BPD, and you haven’t worked through this you may not realize that you, yourself are causing your own re-abandonment. The abandonment is perceived abandonment. In reality they are not abandoning you they are taking care of themselves, which every human being has both the right and responsibility to do. 
The Blame Game: Person A feels blamed by the borderline. The borderline feels blamed and shamed and let down and abandoned by person A. Person A then feels attacked by the borderline. Person A may attack back. The borderline then feels like a helpless victim which will then precipitate either their further acting out or acting in. Acting out often means rage, punishment, and verbal abuse aimed at the loved one. Acting in by the person with BPD often means an inner-rage often not consciously connected to and punishing the loved one in the form of the silent treatment.
Person A then feels like they’re in a no-win situation. The borderline keeps upping the ante, demanding what he/she needs and wants in often less than direct and highly manipulative ways. At this point the borderline has regressed to a child-like state wherein, for them, they are the center of the universe (this is where the BPD narcissism comes in). This is their reality. The other person, person A, has no idea now what is going on. Loved ones need to learn how break free from what keeps them from living with healthier boundaries and find their own healing and recovery.
The blame game begins right here. The borderline blames the person A for (essentially whatever those close in childhood did to him/her) everything. Usually the borderline cannot see their role in this. (Not until a certain amount of healing has taken place.) Person A blames the borderline. Then both blame the borderline’s past. Others in their lives, jobs, therapists….etc may also be blamed. No one knows how to take responsibility here and usually at this point enmeshment is deep and intense. When any two people get enmeshed everything can seem foggy and unclear. From this clouded haze each party, like a blind bird flying in the wind seeks control in an effort to protect themselves and to try to regain some balance.
For person A in this scenario you cannot “win”. You are going to be blamed because often the borderline has lost total sight of you. (Or will for periods of time) You have become someone from their past that they could not trust.
The key to understanding what becomes the “blame game” is for the person with BPD to want to get better. To want to get better means be ready to face the pain. It is only when you face the pain that you will begin to gain a healthy perspective from which you can then think in less frequently-distorted ways to the point where you will be able to recognize when you are so triggered as to blur your past with someone in your present. The process of recovery from BPD requires that each person with BPD find ways to gain more awareness of what must be learned and accepted in order to take personal responsibility for in his or her life and for the regulation of his or her own triggered dysregulated emotions.
Personal responsibility is key here as well. You must take responsibility for your needs, your wants, your pain, your actions and you must learn that there is no excuse for abuse. Blaming anyone else, even someone who abused or hurt you in childhood is not going to help you heal now. It will not help you meet your needs. It will not help you learn how to maintain relationships. It will not help you to find yourself. It will only continue to support your staying stuck in borderline suffering due to what amounts to continuing to choose to abandon your pain.
Blame is a defense mechanism. The pain is real. The pain feels immediate. It can also feel very overwhelming. If you have BPD and you do not learn to catch the triggers and see the patterns and take responsibility you will continue to drive people who care about you away and do great emotional damage to yourself and to others in the process. Blaming others will only keep you stuck in the active throes of BPD and the suffering that means in your life.
Taking responsibility for yourself and your emotions now is the only way to end the blame game and get on and stay on the road to recovery. To unwind the clues that are no doubt there in your thinking before you get into this pattern over and over again it is important to discuss with your therapist what you feel and think just before you have “blow-ups” with others, or just before you lose your temper, or just before you begin to push and pull or manipulate, control or get physically intimidating and or abusive.
What happened in your past needs to be unwound today. Blaming anyone for the choices that you’ve made as to how to cope with your past up until now is not a healthy choice. It is often a very lonely and isolating choice to make.
It is important to stop blaming anyone or anything else. Look to yourself. The way you relate to others and the ways that you experience others are generated from your own past patterns of relational experience. Experience that for those with BPD included shame of abandonment. When you open up to understanding these patterns and the ways and reasons they trigger so much emotion that is difficult to regulate or cope with you will actively be engaging the process of recovery. When you can understand the blame game you will no longer have to go there. The result will be happier and healthier patterns of relating.
These are things I think are SO important. Personal Responsibility. Take responsibility for your own actions. Stop blaming other people. I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. But what is done is done. All there is now, is to move forward. Look to solutions. The past cannot be changed, so blaming the past only furthers to keep us stuck in a black hole of hurt and hindered healing. We do have a choice in how we choose to walk into our future.

Pulling Punches – Baiting and Picking Fights

  Baiting and Picking Fights – “Baiting is the practice of generating a provocative action or statement for the purpose of obtaining an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another person.”
This is what I associate with Pushing away and Pulling back. That back and forth feeling of being suffocated, needing to escape being hurt, fearing the loss, and desperately trying to get that person back, often by apologizing profusely and doing everything we can to be perfect for them again. Repeat.
That’s the resulting cycle anyways.
It starts with something small. Gradually growing into something else.  Baiting and Picking Fights is HOW this cycle is fed.
I know I have a very caustic tongue. I’m not physically violent towards anyone, but I know how to wound your pride, your ego, and your heart. It’s not necessarily a big explosion, though eventually it may get there. It’s small steps, little barbs. Small hurts, followed by tearful apologies about how we’re such bad people… For me the fear that’s generated turns my stomach and flips my heart. The person hurt is really wonderful, we don’t deserve them, we’re so sorry that we would even think to say such things, act that way. The thing you need to keep in mind is, we absolutely feel this way, at least I do. I don’t set out with this in mind. I don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘Gee, today seem s like a good day to fight with so-and-so to see if he/she’ll leave me.’ It just happens. It happens gradually as we get closer to someone. And it’s always with someone we’re close to. The fear of being hurt by staying, coupled with the fear of being abandoned by leaving. I’ve never figured out how to find a way past this. I don’t mean to be this way, and I can see myself doing these things, which is why I know I’m such a terrible person when I do it. I try to make up for it, but I can’t seem to stop myself from doing it again when something sets me off. It’s generally not out of the blue though it may seem that way to the other person. I know for me, I’ll be triggered by something, read more into something than was there, feel like I’m losing myself to them and need to get myself back.  I’ll bite back quick and hard and there’s really no thinking about what comes out next. Over the years I have learned to temper a lot of these reactions. I’ve learned to hold back, not be so quick to lash out. However this has the effect of allowing me to internalize the hurt I feel, bottle it up, ruminate on the things I want to say from it… it gives me time to tailor a harsher response when something bigger does set me off. I’m trying to fix this too. I’m trying to write down the responses I want to scream out. Release my anger onto paper. Come back to it. Find a better response, a calmer response, and then come back to it for discussion when I feel like I’m more in control.
There’s something else though. An element of, if the other person will allow me to push, stay with me through the hurtful things I do, it ‘proves’ that they won’t abandon me.  The more we can push away, the more baits and barbs we can throw, the more fights we can pick, the longer they show that they’ll tolerate it or try to work it out with us, the more we can believe that they mean what they say and aren’t trying to deceive us … If we can make someone we care for SO ANGRY, they’ll either prove us right, or prove us wrong. Either way we’ll know something for sure, and it stops (momentarily) the constant second guessing going on in our heads. Believing someone, trusting someone… I know I’ve been hurt so badly that I can never fully do this. That doesn’t mean I don’t want it. I just have to test the fences to be sure.

Get over it ~and~ Push Away-Pull Back: Controversy in Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 6

Previously I’ve talked about Controversy in Borderline Personality Disorder (starting here). I also said that I’d continue to update them as I stumbled upon more. Well, unsurprisingly I have found more so I’ll be adding to my previous blog series today. So, here are a couple more Controversies and Misconceptions about BPD:
Misconception: You can bring about recovery in a person with a Borderline Personality Disorder through your own actions.
Fact: Personality Disorders are Real Mental Illnesses – and they don’t depend on what anyone else does, or doesn’t do, said, or didn’t say. You can’t cure a personality disorder with love, anger, submission or ultimatums. That’s like trying to hit a puppy by throwing a live bee at it (points if you know where that line is from).
Man, if only this were true. Let a friend or loved one know you have a mental issue, let them wave their hand around your head and Poof! no more personality disorder.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends and family sit down with me, give me advice or tell me to just get over it. Growing up my dad did the latter very often. He invalidated my feels, told me suck it up and get over it. I don’t think he was intentionally trying to be mean, but he clearly wasn’t helping me develop a healthy emotional state. Granted, if I wasn’t predisposed to having such emotionally charged response to things I may not have elicited these response from him so often. They did make me afraid to show my emotions though. Like when my grandmother died, instead of allowing myself to grieve naturally I locked myself away in my closet to cry instead of voicing my hurt. I needed to suck it up and be strong for my brother and sister. Instead of processing my emotions in a situation that actually was very appropriate to be upset, I repressed how I felt because I believed that showing these feelings was bad and wrong.
My parents love me. They love me a lot. Even today my mom continues to send me holistic articles on releasing negative emotions and gaining a calmer state of mind, as if reading an article will help cure me. I know her intentions are good and she just wants me to get better. It’s her way of showing she cares, but it’s almost completely useless and makes me feel guilty for not being able to be better for them.
The point is, no matter how much you care, how guilty you feel, how much you talk about and give advice to someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder, you can’t magically make it go away. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be there when they need you (please don’t abandon us), give your love and support, just understand that it’s not your fault if it isn’t cured.
Controversy: People with BPD can get better if they just try harder.
Fact: Although management of symptoms is possible through a combination of medications, therapy and personal work, they can’t make the disorder disappear altogether. Personality disorders are mental illnesses based on neurological differences for which there is no known cure.
This goes right along with the previously mentioned myth. Sometimes I have doubts, sometimes I’m afraid to give up the familiar feelings, sometimes I fall to hopelessness, but I don’t think anyone really wants to deal with this. If we could get better by willing ourselves into a more normal state, of course we’d do it. Personality disorders are deeply ingrained disorders built up over a lifetime, biological dispositions, and/or a combination of both. They’re characterological, not a choice. They chose us, we didn’t choose them, and we can’t tell them to take a hike whenever we want. Hell, a huge, huge number of those with Borderline Personality Disorder are not diagnosed, will never be diagnosed, and have no idea what they are going through even has a name because they don’t have the help and support they need. How do you fix something that is so much a part of you when you don’t even know there is something to work on. Even when you do, it may take years of therapy and medicinal help and encouragement to learn better coping mechanisms to deal and heal wit BPD. It is not easy to change a lifetime of living in turmoil. I’m trying. I’m trying really damn hard. I think I’m seeing progress, but I have a long ways to go.
Controversy: People with BPD are basically just selfish.
Fact: Personality Disorders have been shown in some studies to be rooted in neurological differences in the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other. This isn’t suggesting that people with PDs shouldn’t be held accountable for their own behaviors – they absolutely should. But it would also be a mistake to regard people who suffer from PDs simply as mentally healthy people who are being selfish.
This one is tricky. Everyone is selfish. Everyone. Even those people that are seemingly altruistic derive a sense of well being from helping others that brings about a feeling that they are doing good. That feeling is for that person. People don’t generally do things that make them feel bad just because someone else needs something. That said, it’s not bad to be selfish, it’s just a byproduct of being human. So yes, someone with BPD can be selfish, but this isn’t our basic nature.
Someone with BPD though, can be very needy. Extremely needy. We often need validation that are feelings are real, that someone loves us, won’t leave us and therefore a lot of attention to ‘prove’ this. We covet this and don’t want to lose it. This isn’t something we set out to do though. We don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Gee, I think I want to monopolize someone else’s mental state, attention, and resources. Selfish powers activate!” Maybe some do, but there are plenty of ‘normal’ people that do this (maybe not the ‘selfish powers activate’ part). It’s not just a product of Borderline Personality Disorder. For the most part I think it’s a fear response. Fear that we will be left, that we aren’t worthy of being loved, that people are lying and trying to use us… an endless list of other things. We need reassurance and it takes a lot of energy to show us that. Unfortunately it’s a part of our nature to need this, feel smothered by it, push it away, fear the loss of it, frantically try to retrieve it, and repeat the cycle endlessly, for as long as someone will let us. So it does appear that we are acting mostly on our own behalf. This doesn’t negate the fact that we do care about the people in our lives, this doesn’t change the fact that we love the people in our lives and want to take care of those around us. That we do have so much to give. We just need to be shown this in return to a degree that many don’t require.

I do want to stress accountability. We are responsible for our own actions. Just because we feel incredibly out of control does not mean it’s ok to Act Out. I know it’s very, very difficult to reign this in sometimes, but we do need to try. Otherwise it just ends up hurting the people around us and acts to push them away.