March 5, 2014
(Notice the similarities to BPD)
Fear of Losing Control – ACoA maintain control of their feelings and their behaviour and they try to control the feelings and behaviour of others. They do not do this to hurt themselves or others, but out of fear. They fear that their lives will get worse if they let go of their control and they get uncomfortably anxious when control is not possible.
Fear of Conflict – ACoA are frightened by people in authority, angry people, and personal criticism. Common assertiveness, displayed by others, is often misinterpreted as anger. As a result of their fear of conflict, ACoA may have a need to constantly seek approval from others.
An Overdeveloped Sense of Responsibility – ACoA are hypersensitive to the needs of others. Their self-esteem often comes from how others view them, and thus they may have an excessive need to be perfect.
Feelings of Guilt when they stand up for themselves instead of giving in to others – ACoA sacrifice their own needs in an effort to be responsible and avoid guilt.
Harsh Self Criticism – ACoA are frequently burdened by a very low sense of self-esteem; no matter how competent they may be in many areas.
Difficulties with Intimate Relationships – Intimacy gives ACoA a feeling of being out of control. It requires comfort with expressing one’s own needs. As a result, ACoA frequently have difficulty with sexuality. They may often repeat unhealthy relationship patterns.
Living Life from the Viewpoint of a Victim – ACoA may be either aggressive or passive victims, and they are often attracted to other “victims” in their life including friendships, partners and career relationships.
Compulsive Behaviour – ACoA may work compulsively, eat compulsively, become addicted to a relationship, or behave in other compulsive ways. Most tragically, ACoA may drink compulsively, and become alcoholics themselves.
The Tendency to be more Comfortable with Chaos than with Security – ACoA become addicted to excitement and drama, which can give them their fix of adrenalin and the feeling of power which accompanies it.
Fear of Abandonment – ACoA will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order not to experience the pain of abandonment.
The Tendency to Assume a Black and White Perspective Under Pressure – The gray areas of life disappear, and ACoA see themselves facing an endless series of either/or alternatives.
A Tendency Toward Physical Complaints – ACoA suffer higher rates of stress related medical illnesses.
Suffering from a Backlog of Delayed Grief – Losses experienced during childhood were often never grieved for, since the alcoholic family does not tolerate such intensely uncomfortable feelings. Current losses cannot be felt without calling up these past feelings. As a result, ACoA are frequently depressed.
A Tendency to React Rather Than to Act – ACoA remain hyper – vigilant, constantly scanning the environment for potential catastrophes.
These characteristics will obviously not apply to everyone. And there are still other characteristics which are not on this list. But if any of these sound all too familiar, you may benefit by speaking to someone about your particular situation.
March 5, 2014
If any of you were following the comment section under the posting, Being Shut Out, you would have read my exchange with Salty Poems.
I’ve had a few days to process the experience, and it has left me thinking about denial. Salty was raped at age 7. A horrible horrible story. But Salty remembers it as a mere “one off”, no biggie.
It reminds me that denial isn’t always about denying that the traumatic event happened. Usually, it’s about denying how significant the event was, diminishing it’s impact to the point where it becomes a distant memory.
Salty claims she loves men. She says they’re “beautiful and magnificent”. But she said it after I accused her of being a Man-Hater. I suspected that she was a rape survivor when she first showed up, based on the man-hating words she chose. They all speak the same language. They read the same books and the same blogs.
Following the confession that she was indeed a rape survivor, she goes on a rant about how she thinks all men are basically rapists at heart. Yikes. And for a moment, she forgets that she loves men.
I asked her if she had sought treatment, because that would be the logical step after being raped at 7. But she went on a rant about how she thinks therapy is rubbish. And somehow she has recovered all by herself. A miracle? Or a mirage?
She has taken on this alter-ego, a new age hippie who is filled with love and peaceful thoughts. But occasionally, she has thoughts of being raped by men. It was clear at this point, that she was in complete denial.
Anyone (in their right mind) reading her comments, could see all was not well. In one week, she went through a range of emotions from obsessive outrage to peaceful exit.
We tried and we tried to get her to see the light. Because underneath it all, she seemed like a decent person. But we could also see she was deeply troubled and too deep in denial to see clearly. Every time we put forth an irrefutable truth, she found some way to slip around it, ignore it or accuse us of being unwell aka gaslighting/projection.
It is clear that she fears the Truth and fears her past. She avoids it like she avoids treatment. The fear of the Truth and her past is why she avoids treatment. Because confronting her past means opening up a world of hurt. A world she has worked very hard to suppress and compartmentalize.
This is what denial looks like. It is why it has been impossible to get any of the traumatized people in my life to see how traumatized they are or how traumatic they have been to me.
I have said goodbye to so many people who just don’t want to talk about the elephant in the room. People who think that the elephant is me, when it is actually the unresolved trauma in their life. Because the Truth is the elephant was there long before they even met me. I was just the first person in their life to point it out.
March 4, 2014
The last time I posted on this topic, a woman (working on her doctorate in psychology) gave us this little factoid:
An NIH study found borderlines had 2 to 3 x more alcoholism in their families of origin than other BH disorders.
This explained why so many of my broken relationships were with people who had alcoholism in their families. And also explained why so many of them showed signs of BPD.
Then I stumbled upon a site for ACOAs that provided a laundry list of ACOA traits. I share them with you:
We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
We are frightened of angry people and any personal criticism.
We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
We became addicted to excitement.
We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.
February 22, 2014
Readers frequently ask why borderlines inexplicably shut loved ones out of their life. They are particularly confused when they did nothing to cause such a fearful reaction. In fact, many of these kind souls tried to help and support the borderline despite the never-ending drama. But their kind nature is exactly why the borderline has shut them out and (in many cases) turned on them. It doesn’t make sense because that is the nature of PDs. They defy logic. If you were to ask borderlines, themselves, they might also wonder why they behave this way. The following was a confession by a borderline who was struck with the fear that she might be discovered:
Hi All,I think I am selfish. My BPD is underlined by some selfishness. Do you have similar feelings?
For fear of my BF abandonning me once he sees me in the light, I left him before he left me. It was inconceivable for me to see that he might accept me after all. I started concealing myself, then lying frequently, then hiding my friends from whom he may learn things about me, then demanding things from him, finally leaving him. ALL THIS IS ABOUT ME ONLY, WHAT i WANT
Now that he left, I am suffering. Why? because again of how he could bring balance and happiness in my life: AGAIN ABOUT ME = MY SELFISHNESS.
I am not saying that BPD are selfish, but with me I see a deep underlying selfishness.
A frequent contributor named Zan found this article which further clears the fog:
But consider, for a moment, that you have been deceived and because you do not understand that the ambiguous behaviors so well hidden by a family system that enables Borderline behaviors to go on undetected and that you have become the unwitting accomplice of something that holds the potential to destroy the family system that protects it.
It is common for the borderline personality to be relatively unnoticed by most people in the family, friends, and acquaintances circle– while at the same time a inflicting personal damage to family members. A common trait of the borderline is to utilize attention seekingbehaviors that are used to gather a supportive network of understanding, enablers to rescue the Borderline from her worst fear from every crisis. Some would call her a “Drama Queen” who “acts out” to gain the sympathy and support and to keep the worst fear from being realized. As a result, she is constantly burdened with a lifestyle that demonstrates a constant sense of “faking it,” and with the continual threat that sooner or later she will be “found out.” So, what you are seeing is the great effort going into continually managing people, information, and perception– to hide who she really is from the public eye.
The danger in a family system is being found out and rejected or abandoned. The very idea of someone exposing the borderline behavior is the trigger that it evokes (for her) the fear of being exposed. This stress triggers the core issue– fear of abandonment. What you will witness is her intense feeling of rejection, pain, and the anger that triggers defensive mechanisms bringing rage, acting out, and acting in behaviors. Unfortunately, if you are the person who identifies the deception of the borderline, you should be prepared to be subjected to becoming the object of rage motivated by an irrational belief of abandonment, social isolation, and rejection. For the borderline, the loss of control, coupled with the fear of abandonment triggers a heightened level of stress that is unmanageable for her resulting in dysregulated emotions . Consequently, splitting occurs in her mind and what or was one good has suddenly become all bad.
A pattern among Borderlines, threatened with a feeling of lack of control or being found out, is to turn their anger to the person who knows their secret and threatens the myth that they have created. This person is endangering their ability to exert control which triggers dysregulation, anger, rage focused on the internalized threat. The pattern of the the borderline which demonstrates the intense fear of being found out is rooted in an irrational belief that she/he will be abandoned if found out. Her behavior presents in striking– outbursts of anger– out using innuendo, accusation that vilifies the person who threatens her total control , while painting a picture of her own victimization. As the borderline expresses rage, they build a circle of supporters around them, who feed the ego-need– people, who are largely undiscerning, unaware, co-dependent, and capable of being duped through the coercive manipulation and deception that she demonstrates.
If you are not willing to join the company of enablers and participate in their plan, then expect your life to become very difficult. Borderline behavior toward the person who recognizes the deception will be skewed by rage, distorted reason, and perception and fueled by the belief that her behavior is justified, correct, and characterized by intense and cruel actions hidden beneath the innocent image being projected- the victim, so innocent. For the borderline, her control takes on the form of isolating support mechanisms that she believe that you depend upon– family relationships, children, grandchildren, friends, relationships, and financial resources. It is common for Borderlines to destroy your personal property, assault your credibility privately, passive-aggressive anger, projecting behaviors that demonstrate the intense rage and fear felt, an internalized feeling of a loss of control The goal of theses behaviors is to deflect any belief that they are indeed suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder and to paint the picture that you are the crazy one with a problem. Borderlines are constantly putting others in “no win” situations in order to reinforce the myth they have created.
Make no mistake – This is abusive behavior. The psychological scars inflicted by a person who pretends to be your soul mate one minute and then stabs you in the back the next will last for years, if not a lifetime. Consider treatment for yourself and stay away from these people like the plague.
February 21, 2014
It seems like blocking phone numbers and de-friending people on Facebook is all the rage. It was probably just a coincidence that I was going through the same situation as Mitch at the same moment. But this was not my first experience of being shut out.
Last year, I had to say good-bye to a friend who had a drinking problem (and probably a mood problem). And sure enough, when I confronted him with his problems, he unfolded a story of childhood abuse- an alcoholic father who tormented his family. Sound familiar?
I was the only one in his life empathic enough to signal the alarm. He was shocked but also seemed relieved that I had picked up on it. He even thanked me for my “intervention”. That is, until I suggested that he quit drinking and get help. That’s when the shit hit the fan.
I told him I would support him if he sought help, but I would not watch him self-destruct. This is what it means to be a good friend. He disagreed and was insulted that I would no longer be his drinking buddy. That day, he de-friended me on Facebook. I guess I saw it coming. In the back of my head, I knew what his response would be.
Damaged people who are in a state of denial are fair weather friends. They only want you around if you enable their dysfunctional behavior… if you accept their abusive tendencies. Unfortunately, I have a strict No Asshole policy.
Damaged people can be your best friend and your most loving lovers. But that is only when you play along with their illusions. If you point out that the Emperor is naked, you will see the other side, the darker side.
And almost immediately, they will show you out the door. And slam it for dramatic effect. It is easier for them to stay in denial. It is also less painful. Self-awareness brings back memories of the past. A past they would prefer to keep well-hidden.
The day you force them to acknowledge their past and snap out of denial (or god forbid, seek treatment), is the day they will stop being your friend.
February 21, 2014
Here’s an article that might interest some of my readers:
Let me be clear- I am not saying borderlines are sociopaths. One is guilty of being too sensitive and the other one is insensitive. One is Machiavellian and the other is merely over-reacting to the world.
That being said, I think they both gravitate towards empathic people. While we are the person most likely to sense something is terribly wrong, we are also the most susceptible to their charms.
The author speaks at length about being gaslighted- the process by which the abuser gets you to doubt your own instincts (aka “You’re crazy. Not me”):
Psychotherapist Christine Louise de Canonville describes different phases that the abuser leads the relationship through:
- the idealisation stage, where the sociopath shows herself in the best possible light – but this phase is an illusion, to draw her target in
- the devaluation stage begins gradually so the target is not alert to the sociopath’s transformation to being cold and unfeeling, but will begin to feel devalued at every turn; the more distressed the target becomes, the more the sociopath enjoys her power, and her abuse can become more extreme
- the discarding stage – the target is reduced to an object to which the sociopath is indifferent, seeing the game as won; the sociopath rejects any connection, moving on to the next target.
Gaslighting does not happen all at once so, if you suspect in the early stages of a relationship that you are being gaslighted, you can protect yourself by walking away.
And while I don’t believe a borderline should be confused with a sociopath, I do think they can be “cold and unfeeling” in the devaluation and discarding stage. The difference lies in the motivation.
That is, why do they run and block your phone number? A sociopath gets sick pleasure in manipulating someone. But a borderline most likely does it because she can not handle the intense feelings that come with intimacy. The fear of losing that which they so desperately want is too much.
They draw you in only to kick you out. And then they cry endlessly about it because they don’t understand why they would do such a thing. She cries because deep down she knows she is her worst enemy.
February 19, 2014
Even though I find myself in the familiar place of being shut out by someone I used to love, I am better prepared this time around. Last time, I knew nothing about BPD or ACOA. But I am a quick study.
This time, I was emotionally prepared for the fall out. I knew if I broke up with her, she would want nothing to do with me. When you reject someone like this, they will try to convince you that they rejected you.
All those wonderful things she said about me would vaporize into thin air, and then be replaced by devaluation. All the good will you continue to give them, will be met with hostility. I knew it would come down to this.
I knew if I told her she was emotionally unstable, she would say I’m crazy. If I suggested she needed help, she would come back and say I need help. I knew if I got her to go see a therapist, she would spend the whole time telling her therapist what an awful person I was.
It seems I was so awful she spent a whole year with me. I was so awful, all her friends told her that they have never seen her happier. But yet, she insists I made her life hell which doesn’t really explain why she kept coming back to me.
A few years ago, I would have been devastated and dumbfounded. I would be lost and confused like Mitch. But lessons have been learned, experiences have forced me to come back stronger and wiser.
I gave her the benefit of the doubt, because there is always the danger of being trigger happy when looking for BPD-types. When you spend a good part of 2 years studying BPD, you are in danger of seeing BPD everywhere.
If you obsess about something too much you are more likely to attract it then repel it.
All we have is our sense of self. If you have a strong sense of self, they can not take it away. Even after a year of involvement.
I knew she was a runner from the very beginning so I just waited and watched. Without jumping to conclusions. I had nothing to lose.
The truth is that I enjoyed her company… when she wasn’t acting out. And when she did act out I just went back to life as usual. I gave her ample time to prove me wrong. I was waiting for enough evidence to pull the plug.
And when I finally did. She flipped 180 on me. But this time I knew it was coming. I was prepared.
The devaluation is still hard to take. Because it always comes after the period of idealization. It leaves you wondering if she meant any of it… if she really loved you. But if you have a strong sense of self, no one can take that away.
When you love yourself, that’s all that matters. And so you brush yourself off, and keep on looking.
February 19, 2014
Like Mitch, I was recently shut out. She too blocked my number and blocked me on Facebook. This after she found out I was writing about her in my blog. Never mind that they were truthful accounts or that I had been pleasant to her even after I broke up with her.
This was not the first time she had shut me out. This was a repeated pattern in our relationship. We had many fights. She would lash out at me irrationally. And when I fought back, she would accuse me of being abusive and block me.
And after a few days passed by, she would start to miss me and would act like nothing happened. She would unblock me only to block me again and again. And then she wondered why I didn’t take the relationship seriously.
According to her, suggesting that she was emotionally unstable and needed help was abusive. Suggesting that her father had traumatized her was abusive. It was ok for her to complain about him. But if I suggested that was an explanation for her hyper-sensitivity and irrational behavior, then I was being abusive.
She accused me of using personal info against her. Maybe I was. Or maybe I was just trying to explain her fight/flight responses and her constant over-reactions.
Every time she would cool down and unblock me, I would foolishly take her back. I even took her out for her birthday (this was after I broke up with her) as an act of good will. No such good will from her. She didn’t bother to remember my birthday.
It is interesting to note that she has never blocked out her father. Despite being a mean drunk and kicking her out of the house for dating a man he did not approve of.
She also did not block out her last ex. Even though he was a raging alcoholic and cheated on her twice (with his ex-wife).
She only blocked me out, because I would not play along with her denial. Had I been as abusive as her last ex and her father, we might still be good friends. But apparently, speaking honestly makes me an asshole. And she prefers the company of enablers.
February 18, 2014
Recently, I broke up with someone who was showing signs of BPD. More specifically, she is someone who was traumatized by an alcoholic parent. Severely so. Some of you may know this condition as ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics).
And while she remains unaware of her own condition, she is very aware of this blog and has made many attempts to shut it down. She doesn’t like what she reads, which is common for people who are in denial. That is a huge reason why I broke up with her. This blog serves as a litmus test.
She claims I am using the blog to talk trash about all my exes. But there would be no trash to talk about had I not had to endure the roller coaster ride she and many others have put me through. She refuses to see the common link between her and so many others I have had to say good-bye to. She was not my first ACOA. I fear she will not be my last.
She fails to accept responsibility for her uncontrolled rage and her abusive shut outs. She alternates between fight and flight. This is her idea of conflict resolution.
I was dealing with an angry child. Drama and chaos were at every corner. Always when things were going too well. I bent over backwards to play nice and mend broken bridges. But she was always looking to smash everything to bits and pieces.
So desperate was she to shut down this blog, she contacted my father and begged for his intervention. I regret having introduced her to my family. I am saddened by her desperate attempts.
But you will be happy to know that this blog will continue. I was playing around with the idea of shutting it down, but then a person like this comes around and reminds me why it needs to stay up. If not to warn others, to remind myself.
Her attempts at shutting the blog down remind me how desperate they are to stay in denial and to cover up their tracks. How desperate they are to pin the blame on other people. It reminds me of how little they care about us.
A father who suffers from alcoholism does terrible things to his children. But these children go on to do terrible things to people who make the mistake of loving them. And so the cycle of abuse continues. And so my blog continues.