The Troubled Princess

August 31, 2010

Once upon a time, there was a princess who felt like her relationship was a prison. She was a Beauty married to a Beast. At least, that was her side of the story. Turns out that princess might have suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. Is it possible the beast and the prison were all in her troubled mind? The author below seems to think so.

excerpt from Publisher’s Weekly review of Diana in Search of Herself : Portrait of a Troubled Princess by Sally Bedell Smith:

Devotees who remember Princess Diana as a beautiful, warm-hearted mother dedicated to good works, whom an adulterous husband and the British Royal family unfairly victimized, will find little comfort in this treatment of her life. Smith relentlessly but convincingly portrays Diana as a woman with severe psychological problems (characterized here as a “”borderline personality””) who never overcame a serious eating disorder and was unable to sustain relationships. Based on research and interviews with Diana’s friends, Smith (Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Harriman) carefully presents Diana’s childhood as darkened by divorce and neglect, leaving Diana with deep feelings of unworthiness; by the time of her marriage she was, Smith contends, not only a bulimic but also a pathological liar. According to Smith, Prince Charles had completely severed relations with Camilla Parker-Bowles out of determination to make his marriage work, and did not revive his affair with her until the relationship with his wife fell apart. Diana, certain that Charles was still seeing Camilla from the date of their wedding, retaliated with a series of tawdry romances, and also engaged in self-mutilation, binge eating and other erratic behaviors that alienated Charles. Though Smith acknowledges that the princess dearly loved her sons, she also describes occasions when Diana placed emotional demands on them that they were too young to handle. This is a sharply etched and engrossing study of an insecure and emotionally damaged woman coming apart at the seams.

With borderlines (even famous ones), any meaningful relationship will eventually feel like a prison.  They blame the relationship. They blame their partners. But rarely do they blame themselves. In this state of mind, no serious relationship is worth “sticking out”. When BPs run from relationships, they are actually running from their own insecurities and their past demons.

The Way We Were

August 30, 2010

One of the more popular topics on forums about Borderline Personality Disorder is the process of devaluation (splitting black). More specifically, after a BP has decided you were a mistake, does this process reverse itself? Do they ever return to idealizing you again? One forum poster believes it is a one time deal:

Hi….In my experience with my bpdex…..devaluation does reverse, but only for a little while. Once the honeymoon period is over, it is a downward spiral…..all that you believe you “had” between you, was not what you thought. The honeymoon period was not about you as a person, rather more about what he needed you to be for him ( if that makes sense ) After the first devaluation… gets much much worse. When he needs you again for a while he will be back, when he doesn’t he will discard you, its not about you at all, its about what he needs. That’s not meant to sound bad, its just in my experience….that’s the way it is ! There is no going back to what it was, because he can’t sustain it or cope with it…..the honeymoon period isn’t real ……I know that it feels real…………..but it isn’t… have to try and remember that. I found out that my ex had been seeing somebody ( for just 5 weeks ) when I met him ( I vaguely know this person). Apparently he had already told her that he loved her and had found his soulmate. When he met me he said I was the best thing that had ever happened to him……And now that he is with somebody new he tells me that she is ” really special ” Do you see what I mean….in someway people are interchangeable, they are desperately looking for love, think they have found it ( without really getting to know somebody) …

Sadly, BPs do seem to replace people quickly and without mercy, leaving exes feeling used and tossed aside. Many exes try to recapture that “special” feeling, only to find it only comes back for a little moment (when they need you). But most find it never goes back to the way it was.

Why So Angry?

August 29, 2010

Someone you know and care about has been treating you very badly. To add insult to injury, they get angry when you criticize them. You think this monster has no conscience, but it may be quite the opposite- it may be a case of a guilty conscience:

Another form of unhealthy type is anger that comes up when you refuse to take responsibility for what you have done wrong. This is anger based on trying to avoid feeling guilt and shame. Shame is a fear-based internal state of feeling unprotected, vulnerable and defenseless. Shame holds the horrifying beliefs of being unworthy and unlovable. Shame conjures up intense painful feelings of mortification due to a fear of being seen as inadequate.

Shame feelings are a threat to the integrity of the self. Unbearable feelings of shame keep you caught in fear of being found out by others. When you are held prisoner by shame, the perceived deficits within yourself are so humiliating that you will go to extreme lengths to hide the flawed self. Like screaming in rage at another person to get them to back off!

Anger can be substituted when you feel guilty and cannot own up to what you have done. Anger can be substituted to avoid the more painful feelings of embarrassment and humiliation. Anger can be “used” to shut down the internal bad feelings of vulnerability and helplessness, as anger is a more comfortable emotion to feel. And it works! Anger can also be “used” to intimidate and force the other person to back off and stop their criticism.

Anger then becomes the prevalent emotion used to avoid feeling bad inside. The habit of shielding your self with the anger defense becomes a learned behavior of self-protection. Anger becomes entrenched as a protective device and you have trouble giving it up. Anger can work to protect you against threat temporarily. But it creates more shame because on some level you recognize that what you are doing is unacceptable. The guilt and shame of habitually angry people keeps growing because they circumvent the bad feelings instead of dealing with them honestly.

Sometimes anger can take the form of blame aka projection:

Anger, and the need to look good to protect the fragile self-esteem, is the basis of macho behavior, bullying and aggression. Denial, repression, projection, and blaming others are defense mechanisms, which help you try to avoid feeling guilt and shame. Blaming another person instead of looking at your own part of the problem is called projection: you spot it, you got it…

… Projections are a defensive mechanism where we ignore what we do not like about ourselves and become upset about that same trait in another. They are the disowned aspect of our personality. Blaming others protect us through distractions and help keep a lid on the terror that knowledge of our dark side might provoke

Projections are warning signals that something is unresolved in your self.

The misuse of anger can originate from something as seemingly harmless as an over-critical parent or as traumatic as sexual abuse/assault. Such experiences create a core feeling of guilt and shame that can last a lifetime if untreated. Feelings that can be exacerbated with further acts of indiscretion, inappropriate anger or potentially self-humiliating behavior. It then becomes a vicious cycle that perpetuates itself. The only way out of this cycle is to release all these negative feelings:

Forgiveness and the firm resolution to stop harmful behavior is the answer to releasing guilt and shame.

The author

The author

The Untreated Borderline

August 25, 2010

A guy asks this question about his borderline girlfriend at PsychCentral:

I was engaged about 7 months ago. My ex fiance started having really bad anxiety attacks. She was failing college and all of a sudden decided it was my fault. She started calling me a month ago. Asking to see me and she has changed, so I agreed. We were together for about a week. She had told me in the beginning she has been with no one since me. After that week she told me the truth. She was with 6 guys in that time. The sad thing is these guys use her for one night and dump her the next day. When she informed me of this she also told me some God aweful stuff to just plain tear me down. My question is what happens to people that have this disorder and never get help?

This is what Dr. Kristina Randal had to say:

It is hard to say what exactly will happen to someone with untreated borderline personality disorder. That answer depends on many factors. I think you are seeing first hand what could potentially happen to someone with this disorder who is not in treatment, failing school, anxiety attacks, engaging in unstable and unhealthy relationships, and so forth. I hope that your ex does get help and if you are still in touch with her, you should encourage her to get help. It is likely that without help, her self destructive behavior will continue and may even get worse. Encourage her to get help; that is all that you can do. Good luck and please take care.

Untreated, Borderline Personality Disorder can wreak havoc on a relationship. Partners of BPs often beat themselves up after a relationship has ended abruptly. But in most cases, there was probably nothing they could have done to prevent the inevitable self-destruction. The old metaphor of “a candle that burns twice as bright, burns twice as fast” applies here. These are some reasons why a borderline relationship is destined for failure:

Kiss of Death BPs work so hard to get a commitment out of their partner. A BP relationship moves fast. They live to hear the words “I Love You”. But once they hear it, it’s all downhill.  Once a lover drops their defenses and gives into a BP’s wishes, the relationship kill-switch is flipped. BPs want what they can’t have. Once they get it, they feel suffocated.  Subconsciously, they sabotage it and push their partners away.

Living in the Future Another kiss of death is when a BP says they can see a future with their partner. They are basically fooling themselves and their partner into believing they can sustain a long-term relationship. It is an act of desperation to pull a partner further into the relationship. Ironically, they are most likely to say things like this when they know the relationship is in serious trouble. The more insecure they feel, the more they try to lasso-in their partner. But it also places undue pressure on a relationship. Pressure BPs are not equipped to handle.

The Bottomless Void BPs use relationships to give themselves a sense of worth. Unfortunately, it’s a void that can’t be filled, which is why the relationship is destined to end in disappointment.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places To BPs- abuse, dysfunction, and emotional unavailability are aphrodisiacs. From childhood, they have been programmed to associate intimacy with being treated badly. These are the dead-end relationships they keep running back to. Conversely, when they finally meet someone who is attentive and cares for them, they run away. Their warped sense of reality makes them believe someone, who actually wants to be with them, must be flawed.

Hot Pot Because BPs feel their emotions so intensely, they often feel obligated to keep a lid on their anger and sadness. But emotions can only be ignored for so long before it bubbles over. And then you can forget about putting the lid back on.

Serial Honeymooner BPs are new love junkies. They have become addicted to the biochemical high that comes with falling in love. The problem is that feeling only lasts for so long, and BPs are not very good at dealing with reality after the honeymoon is over. So it’s on to the next victim.

Poor Communication Skills For whatever reason, BPs lack the ability to communicate with their partners. They are either passive-aggressive or over-the-top hostile. Either tactic only ensures their message will not be heard and they will not be taken seriously. This can only lead to resentment and bitter feelings.

Power Play For BPs, love is a power struggle. BPs must battle for control or they feel out of control. And nothing makes them feel more out of control than dependency. When they are confronted with the fear of abandonment/rejection, their partner suddenly becomes an adversary.

Green-Eyed Monster Once a BP falls for someone, they are overcome with the fear of losing them. They become suspicious of other people encroaching upon their territory. They become suspicious that their partner is cheating on them. However this might just be a case of projection as BPs tend to have a weak sense of boundaries. It would not be out of character for a BP to cheat in retaliation for some perceived infidelity.

Cold Feet BPs will create a laundry list of reasons for leaving a relationship, but the only true reason is the fear of abandonment. BPs are tuned in to pick up subtle cues that their mate may be slipping away. Eventually the feeling of insecurity becomes too much to bear and BPs push the eject button for safety.

Emotional Baggage Everybody has baggage from previous relationships, but BPs have king-size baggage. Most BPs are carrying the ill-effects of abuse and years of bad relationships. Which means years of unresolved and repressed emotions stored up inside of them, waiting to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting partner. If a past partner made them feel bad about their eating habits, they may develop an eating disorder. They may even falsely accuse you for making them feel self-conscious about their body. You then become the dumping ground for all their past troubles. Intimacy is a trigger for all the negative emotions they have accumulated. For a partner, walking around emotional triggers is like walking through a minefield.

Too Much Drama for Your Mama BPs love drama. Their relationships are either hot or cold. They are either madly in love or on the war path. They are either filled with euphoria or overcome by hysteria. They struggle to operate at an even keel. If there is no drama, they will find a way to create it.

Splitting Black In the beginning, a BP relationship is a dream come true. But it’s only a matter of time when the BP turns this dream love into a nightmare. In the beginning, a lover can do no wrong. In the end, everything they do rubs a BP the wrong way.  When a BP splits a loved one, sweet nothings turn into vicious threats and outlandish accusations.

Touchy Touchy BPs experience emotions more intensely than others, but they also react to them in extreme ways. A casual conversation about current events can easily turn into a heated debate, ending with the BP hurling personal attacks. Needless to say, BPs do not take well to criticisms and the vindictive nature of BPs makes them lash out in wildly inappropriate ways. Ways they might not even be aware of.

Self-Centered When someone has to attend to their emotional needs as much as BPs do, they can not help but be self-centered. They are always looking out for their own interests. Sometimes at the expense of your feelings.

Inferiority-Complex The sum of all these ailments takes its toll on a person’s self-esteem. BPs often feel insecure and unworthy of another person’s love. To compensate, they belittle their partners to level the playing ground. After a while, it feels less like love and more like war.

Protecting the Heart The more serious a relationship gets, the more a BP needs to protect their heart. They distance themselves with hostility, emotional outbursts, and unending drama. In return, this forces their partner to protect their heart. The downward cycle eventually leads BPs to completely shut off their heart. When a BP’s heart turns cold, they are capable of great cruelty.

Trust Issues Trust is a huge issue for BPs. They can’t even trust therapists, let alone themselves. So how are they going to trust their partners? BPs are constantly suspicious of other people’s motives and misinterpreting the words/actions of their lovers. This, alone, is a recipe for disaster.

The problem is every time they achieve intimacy, BPs find a way to push it away. Consequently, they are unable to develop the emotional depth in a relationship needed to sustain it. Until BPs seek out help, they will most likely continue their self-destructive patterns. They will continue hurting one person after another. A relationship with an untreated BP rarely ends well.

City of Broken Dreams

August 24, 2010

As I look upon this star, I wonder how many star-filled eyes came to this city of lights and glamour thinking they could escape their past demons. Why do so many people fool themselves into believing that all their lifelong problems will magically disappear if they just move away and re-invent themselves?

I think about all the failed marriages and the affair with JFK, and I wonder what Marilyn was thinking. Maybe she thought if she just met the right guy, then all her sadness would just fade away. Maybe she just wanted to find someone who understood her pain. I wonder if she died of a broken heart. I wonder how many friends and family just stood by, watched all these tragic events unfold and did nothing. In the end, how many people said, “but she seemed so happy”.

What Denial?

August 23, 2010

Borderline Personalities that can’t deal with the pain of the past will put on a sunshine-y face for the world to see.  But ultimately, they are trying to fool themselves. They are in active denial. For people who feel emotional pain as deeply as BPs, denial is an essential survival skill. But in the end, the denial does more harm than good. BPs in denial are running away from the pain they have caused others, and the pain that others have caused them.

When BPs can’t deal with feelings of anger and sadness, they push these troubling emotions down. When they can’t face their conscience, they suppress their shame. This is part of their coping mechanism. The problem is emotions that are pushed down eventually come back up with a vengeance, like a volcano that suddenly erupts. Or they plague a relationship with chronic hostility. Not to mention the long-term health effects of unresolved emotions.

The happy face is just a facade. Nothing is healed. Behind the scenes the suffering continues. When BPs fail to deal with their issues in a real way, they fail themselves and those closest to them.

Vampire Love

August 22, 2010

Vampire love seems to be all the rage these days. Meanwhile awareness of Borderline Personality Disorder has gained its own media exposure. Is one morbid fascination related to the other?

A borderline can certainly relate to a tragic love that is doomed to fail. A crazy kind of love that marries both pleasure with pain. They can relate to the feeling of not being of this world and not being in control of impulsive urges. Like a vampire, a BP doesn’t know how to love someone without hurting them.

Some detractors have characterized BPs  as “emotional vampires”. Partners of BPs have described feeling like unsuspecting victims. Victims seduced by a lover who ends up sucking the life out of them. They have described not knowing whether to love or fear a BP. In the end, BPs pass on a little bit of their affliction in the same way vampires turn their lovers into the living dead.

But does this demonization of BPs only make them feel more like an outcast, like a vampire being chased by the villagers? Instead of making them into monsters, aren’t we all better off making borderlines seem more human?

Borderline Personalities can have a troubled relationship with therapists. Trust and control issues are at the core of their disorder, so even trusting someone who is trying to help them is difficult. All it takes is one bad experience to turn a BP off to therapy. So instead they turn to superficial quick fixes- Moving from city to city, jumping from one relationship to another, changing hair styles, buying new clothes, getting a new tattoo, burying themselves in work or hobbies. These actions give the illusion of change, but are really just diversionary tactics.

Many BPs struggled with an eating disorder and self-mutilation in their youth, but were able to overcome it. This may have given them the false impression that they can heal on their own. While BPD can seem to mellow out with age, most of the time symptoms just morph into other (sometimes more serious) symptoms.

Traditionally, Borderline Personality Disorder has been difficult to treat. Many therapists would avoid dealing with borderlines because they had a reputation of being difficult and adversarial. But with the introduction of Dialectical Behavior Therapy that has all changed. BPD is not your ordinary disorder, it requires a specialist. Traditional therapy will not do. If the BP is not ready to deal with their past, it can actually be harmful.

But nothing can be more harmful than not being treated. Untreated, BPD can ruin a person’s life- relationships, school, career, etc. An untreated BP makes impulsive and irrational decisions. An untreated BP lives in constant fear. An untreated BP is likely to suffer from depression, anxiety attacks, and thoughts of suicide. Ignoring it, dismissing it or trying to cover it up is the worst thing you could do.

In many cases a BP can be brutally honest, especially when they are criticizing someone else. They may even share their experience with sexual assault and other shocking revelations after only a few dates. But even with such displays of honesty, a Borderline Personality can also demonstrate behavior that resembles a pathalogical liar or a paranoid delusional :

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder find it more difficult to distinguish reality from their own misperceptions of the world and their surrounding environment. While this may seem like a form of delusional disorder at times, it is actually caused by their intense emotions overwhelming their regular cognitive functioning. This is why people with BPD can sometimes excel in academia and the work place and yet totally lose control in their personal and family lives.

It’s hard to say a BP is a liar, because that would assume they know they are lying. Many times they are not even conscious of their deception. A BP believes their own bullshit. Their coping mechanism protects them from the truth if it is too painful. Especially, if that truth includes past trauma.

Most BPs have experienced a lot of pain in their lifetime, some have been hurt by people they trusted. It is then natural for them to be suspicious of everyone. This is not so much a paranoid delusion as it is hyper-vigilance. Even a loved one can be mistaken for the enemy (split black). If not kept in check, past traumatic memories can easily be transferred onto current experiences. And this can lead to false accusations or a smear campaign.

Below are some examples of the tangled webs they weave via the Out of the Fog website:

False Accusations – False accusations, distortion campaigns & smear campaigns are patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticisms which occur when a personality disordered individual tries to feel better about themselves by putting down someone else – usually a family member, spouse, partner, friend or colleague.

Baiting & 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.

Projection – Projection is the act of attributing one’s own feelings or traits onto another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Proxy Recruitment – Proxy Recruitment is a way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing you up, speaking for you or “doing your dirty work” for you.

Altering reality is also a way of bringing relief to painful emotions like guilt and shame. BPs can do and say some horrible things. And for the hyper-sensitive BP, that is too much to bear. Denial then becomes second nature. This is the BP employing primitive survival instincts without even knowing it.