Is fear of abandonment one of the criteria of Borderline Personality Disorder that affects your most important relationships? If you experienced abandonment or rejection early in life and went on to develop BPD, it's no wonder that this fear would be present and amplified as a concern and worry. But, we do not have to continue in the cycle of fear and unknowingly (or even knowingly) repeating unskillful interpersonal behaviors that can create a self-fulfilling prophecy and keep the pain going.
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Facts, Assumptions, and Missing Pieces in Seth Meyers, Psy.D.'s "Price of Loving Someone...Borderline..."
Ok. Wow. Lots of emotions have been activated in response to an article that Psychology Today reshared today on their Facebook page, entitled, "The Price of Loving Someone Narcissistic or Borderline...and why it can take so long to recover." Before I even began to read the (mostly insightful) comments and feedback left for the author, I had my own visceral reaction. In the pit of my stomach, I dreaded, "What I was about to read?"
Why? Because there are many incredibly sensitive, passionate, intelligent, creative, people with Borderline Personality Disorder or who have BPD traits on this planet, and when an article comes out that harshly, or even unfairly, criticizes who they are...that makes sweeping generalizations that ALL people with BPD traits are vindictive manipulative, or drama seekers, I know those beating hearts are hurting behind their screens as they are reading it.
In fact, that's why, in part, I started this blog (Healing From BPD) back in 2010. To give a new face to the "Borderline," and to put out encouraging, hopeful materials on how those of us with this disorder can and do get better. (I'm in recovery and no longer meet the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. If you're interested in learning more, you can read about my story by clicking HERE after you finish this article.)
So, there I was, looking at this headline on my news feed and thinking. What is Seth Meyers, Psy.D. going to say? Is he going to be fair? Is he going to be responsible? Or is he going to perpetuate stigma and make those sweeping generalizations? Well, read on...
First off, the article's title lumps together those with Narcissistic tendencies and those with Borderline tendencies. It's important to note off the bat that not all people who are narcissistic have BPD, and not all people with BPD are narcissistic. The diagnoses are not one and the same. Meyers does make the distinction in the article.
The first paragraph, where Meyers says that he has found in his clinical practice that those who have relationships with people with narcissistic or borderline personalities "often leads to one of the most upsetting relationship experiences a person can have...the closer you are to someone with one of these personalities, the worse the emotional injury," really stings; In part, it stings because I know that when I was in the thick of BPD illness, that statement was probably true. I was a mess, and my relationships, or lack thereof, were a reflection of that.
But, keep in mind that not ALL people with BPD behave this way. In fact, those who are in treatment, learning DBT Skills, and working hard to manage their emotions and improve their interpersonal effectiveness may have his type of personality but are not (or no longer) acting in self-destructive, hurtful ways. So, let's cast aside that sweeping generalization.
I was relieved to read on and find that Meyers does not paint a picture of someone with BPD as intentionally seeking to hurt and connive. He acknowledges that BPD is something that develops over time, and the possible reasons he cited for its development did resonate with me personally. We often wind up with distorted views and maladaptive behaviors to try to get our needs met, and in a word, they unfortunately don't work in healthy relationships.
He also touches upon the fears that are at the core of many of the bewildering behaviors those with BPD traits may exhibit in a relationship, including the classic fear of abandonment and issues with emotional connection and intensity, bringing, hopefully, a compassionate perspective as far as the "why" of such behaviors.
When I read his comments that those with BPD "don't fight fairly or consistently. [They] get nasty in a way you may have never seen before...[using] words as bullets, intended to hit you where you're most vulnerable" and that we will sometimes start arguments and then blame the whole argument on the other person, again, when I didn't have the skills to manage my intense emotions, take a step back, be mindful of my experience, and make the choice to respond in a way that would not damage the relationship or hurt he other person, yes, I did behave this way.
But, people don't choose to be "borderline." It doesn't mean someone doesn't love you if they have trait-related outbursts and say hurtful things. I'm not justifying the behavior, and at the same time, let's see it for what it is: behavior. Behavior that can change. Behavior coming from a place of doing the best you can with what you know, until you know better. There is a hurting person underneath those behaviors. Emotionally terrified at times. You're dealing with someone who, emotionally at times, is as fearful as a wounded animal who lashes out in protection mode. Keep that in mind. It's most often not malicious. It's an attempt at survival.
What I wish, and what would be nice to see in general when professionals write articles on what nightmares "borderlines" can be, is that they close with something a bit hopeful, such as "the good news is, over time, those with this disorder, with the right treatment and determination, can get better. Realizing this doesn't help you in the now if your loved ones is lashing out, so be sure to seek support for yourself regarding setting limits and boundaries and guidance in suggesting resources that may help your loved one."
Yes, in an ideal world.
I hope this helped you in some way.
Thanks for reading.
PS You might enjoy my articles:
Myth: Never Date a Girl Who Has BPD
Obsessive Love and Borderline Personality Disorder
If you suffer from borderline personality disorder, BPD traits, or emotional sensitivity, you likely relate to having incredibly intense emotions. What people who do not have these issues have difficulty understanding is how we can go from sadness to despair (and even having suicidal thoughts) or from anger to rage (and even lashing out and getting in trouble with the law) so quickly.
I'm now in recovery from BPD (I no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis, which is actually possible with this disorder! You can learn more about my story by clicking here after you finish this article.) But, you know what? I remember those times. I remember when something made me sad, and that sadness, untamed, would become unbearable because I didn't yet know DBT skills, which would ultimately save me and move me into recovery.
Sure, in those moments I could remember times when I didn't feel sad in the past, but I couldn't really tap into and feel anything else. To make matters worse, it was difficult to imagine that I would feel any better ever again. Yes, those of us with BPD often go through this, and it is a very real experience, even if it doesn't makes sense to us, our family, friends, co-workers, bosses, and even some of the professionals who treat us. We don't choose it, and we wish it weren't so.
The problem with having the fearful thought that a feeling, such as deep sadness or despair, may not end, is that it is very difficult to then access our inner wisdom in order to make skillful, healthy choices to get through those difficult episodes. Instead, we often seek quick fixes, usually in the form of unhealthy, impulsive behaviors that give us temporary relief but ultimately cause us more pain, suffering, and consequences in the long run.
And, we don't do this because we're stupid or because we don't care. We've learned to behave this way. Somehow, over the years, these maladaptive coping strategies have helped us to get by and survive. But we do want more than that for ourselves. We really do.
So, when someone with BPD traits is experiencing a painful emotion such as sadness, the natural tendency is to want to push away and reject that emotion. It's uncomfortable, makes us feel badly, and doesn't seem to serve a purpose. Another component, which is one that I struggled with for a long time and still notice arise in my thoughts when I'm feeling sadness, is this fear that sadness won't just stay sadness. That it will spiral into despair and worse, as it did many years ago.
So, on my own personal journey and in my role as a DBT skills peer educator, I've realized:
- In DBT, we learn about a concept called Radical Acceptance. This means radically and fully embracing reality as it is, without trying to change it. This doesn't mean we lie down and give up. It means that the paradox is, if I want to change something, I have to first accept (acknowledge) the truth of what is present in this moment with that situation or issue. In this case, "I am sad."
- We also learn in DBT that there is "cause" for everything, meaning that this moment is the result of every moment that came before it. Every thought, decision, choice...by us, those around us, humanity, etc. Even when we can't pinpoint why something is happening in a particular moment, i.e. "I don't even know why I feel this sad right now!" , this theory of cause says that there is a reason. (The great news is that we don't have to pinpoint it in order to move forward with taking care of ourselves and making skillful healthy choices.)
- It's important to validate our feelings and experiences. If we have some awareness about the cause, we might say, "Well, of course I feel sad. Most people would be upset under these circumstances." If we don't know the cause, we might say, "I am not sure why I am feeling so sad right now, but the fact is that I am. There's some cause, and I am going to love myself through this with kindness and compassion. Here's what I'm going to do to take extra good care of myself today. This too shall pass."
- I like to then remind myself of two things: One, that I am not the same person I was back in the days when sadness would go untamed and unchecked with skills, and two, that no two situations are exactly alike. There are new variables at play. The past is the past. Just because sadness led to deep despair in the past, doesn't mean it will or needs to this time.
I've plugged in other emotions, such as anger, as well, and found this line of thinking to be helpful.
So, we've got our work cut out for us explaining to others why we're afraid to feel certain emotions and how quickly our emotions become more intense than they do for the average person, but there's hope. We can learn skills, work hard with our therapists, and take good care of ourselves in order to get better at accepting emotions, feeling them, and letting them pass. We don't have to spiral or fear the spiral. We can reach out to our clinical support when we have concerns about this, and then get right back on track with skills.
I hope this was helpful to you in some way.
If you're looking for encouraging posts on borderline personality disorder and dialectical behavior therapy skills (DBT), you're in the right place!
Check out some of our most popular blog posts (updated from time to time on our HOME page):
The Open Letter to Those Who Do Not Have BPD (from those of us who do)
Goodbye Norma Jean: Did Marilyn Monroe have Borderline Personality Disorder?
Obsessive Love and BPD: When It's Difficult to Let Go and Move On
Anxiety and Appetite: How I Fell Back in Love With Food
My Wife is Not her Borderline Personality Disorder
Watch the Short Documentary: Border _: A Compassionate Look at Borderline Personality Disorder
Learn the skills that helped the author of this blog (Debbie Corso) overcome Borderline Personality Disorder and learn to THRIVE as an emotionally sensitive person. Visit DBT Path to learn more!
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