Martial arts for uncontrollable anger.

taekwondo

Many people with Cluster B disorders and C-PTSD suffer from periodic, uncontrollable rages.  My son isn’t Cluster B, but when he was a young teenager, he had anger issues due to his father’s and my divorce (among other things) and successfully channeled that anger through his involvement in Kung Fu classes.    Not only did the classes help him channel his anger, they also taught him how to be mindful and greatly boosted his self-confidence.    As his confidence grew, he was less prone to sudden rages.

Many kids these days take Taekwondo classes.   Kids who have been bullied really benefit because learning these skills makes them feel less defenseless and more confident.  But they aren’t just for kids.  Adults with anger problems can benefit from such classes too.

Contrary to what many people think, the martial arts don’t teach violence.   These disciplines aren’t just for self-defense.   The philosophy behind them is that mindfulness is a must to defend yourself successfully–and that fighting back without justifiable cause will always make things worse.   They also teach their students respect for others and demand deference to the instructor.

So, for Cluster B people in particular, the martial arts provide four things that people with these disorders need so badly:

–learning to be more mindful
–learning to respect others
–channeling anger appropriately
–boosting real self confidence

Here’s a good article I found about how martial arts can be used to help people control angry outbursts and learn to be more mindful.

http://english.astroawani.com/lifestyle/do-you-suffer-anger-disorders-learn-martial-arts-42022

Deconstructing Cluster B stereotypes.

clusterb

This is a cute drawing circulating Facebook depicting the “typical” person with each of the four Cluster B personality disorders (I cannot give credit for it since I have no idea who drew it or where it originated).   While I understand it’s meant to streamline the overall feel of each of these disorders, they’re still stereotypes. Stereotypes certainly may have a grain of truth behind them, but it’s important to realize they are convenient shortcuts at best, and quite negative and damaging at worst.

Obviously, not everyone with these disorders is going to act the way they’re depicted in the cartoon.  Human beings, even those with personality disorders, are complicated creatures, and just as there are many variations in the general population, so there are many variations among any group of people with one of these disorders.

Here’s another cartoon (which I have used in several posts) that also depicts these disorders in much the same way as the above drawing.

cluster_b

ASPD:

I think it’s interesting that in both of these cartoons, the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder is a criminal type of individual making threats, either with a weapon or he is already in jail.   Both wear a sadistic expression.  Both are also male figures.    The reality is, not all people with ASPD are criminals or in prison.   They aren’t all serial killers.  Some have never committed a crime (or at least have never been caught).  In fact, the other group of people statistically most likely to have ASPD (or psychopathy) are the very high functioning CEOs of big corporations.   Many people with ASPD are in high profile careers like politics or entertainment.  Their lack of conscience and guilt feelings, coupled with a nearly non-existent lack of empathy (even narcissists have more empathy than a person with ASPD), make it easy for them to rise high in their fields and have no compunctions about firing people or “downsizing.”  Other people’s feelings are much less important than the “bottom line.”  Many high ranking people with psychopathy or ASPD are actually women.

It’s fascinating to me that the two groups of people most likely to have ASPD/psychopathy appear at each extreme of modern society: the low functioning ones locked up in prison and/or running from the law, and the high functioning ones running everything from giant companies to powerful countries.

NPD:

The person pictured with NPD is also a male in both cases, and both guys are dressed up in business suits.   One is holding a wad of cash, and the other is just arrogant, with a PhD (of bullshit!) on his wall.   Both are wearing arrogant expressions.  The reality is, many women also have NPD–females may constitute as much as half of all people with NPD, and I think it’s becoming more common (why else would there be so many narcissistic mothers and websites about them??)

Also, not all narcissists are of this grandiose, arrogant, showoffy stereotype.   Many narcissists are the fragile, vulnerable or covert type, and use their “altruism” or “niceness” to get supply (or put others on a guilt trip).  Or they present themselves as pathetic, put-upon victims who never take any responsibility for themselves and blame others for their miserable lives and failing relationships.    Granted, the vulnerable or covert type of narcissist is probably more likely to be a woman, but this isn’t always the case.   My mother was quite grandiose and arrogant, and so are many women you meet in business.

HPD:

Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) and BPD are both depicted by women in these cartoons.  In both cases, the woman with HPD is a femme fatale, exuding sexuality and demanding attention using her body and come hither expression.    Some histrionics are men though, and just act dramatic and over the top for attention.  It’s not always sexual attention they’re after.   I’ve seen many men with what appears to be HPD in the gay community (this is in no way meant to disrespect gay men, it’s just something I’ve noticed).   HPDs do tend to be more extroverted than the average person.

BPD:

The BPD women in the cartoons vary the most.  In the first drawing she is crying; in the second, she is split between devaluation and idealization.   The emotional instability of a borderline is a fact; but not all borderlines are female.   Males with BPD can act a lot like men with ASPD, due to their tendency to act on impulse and have hair-trigger tempers and fly into violent rages.  Borderline males are more likely to be imprisoned or have a criminal record than men with NPD, who prefer to keep their hands and reputations clean.  BPD women with this disorder can also be abusive toward others or even criminally-minded.  Or they can be codependent, or primarily self-destructive (this is probably the more common type in females).    There are so many manifestations of BPD that it’s a hard disorder to diagnose, probably harder than the other three.   Many people with BPD have addiction issues or eating disorders and hurt themselves more than they hurt others.  

My “rescuer” complex.

superwoman

I was waiting to post about this until I talked to my therapist about it tonight and I’m glad I waited because of what I found out about myself.

Since I was a teenager, I’ve had this “rescuer complex.” Let me explain what I mean by that, because it’s complicated. I also think I finally know why I’ve been this way for so long.

Over time, I’ve realized that almost every single man I’ve become either seriously involved with (that includes my marriage) or fell in love with (even if it was one-sided) has been either a narcissist or antisocial, and very often they were both. (There were two outliers–a therapist who I developed an intense and painful crush on, and another guy who was either bipolar or had BPD).

I don’t know how I could discern a potential date’s character at the time I met them, but somehow I could. Of course, I was never aware of why I was so attracted or what exactly attracted me to a particular man. Although I had a preference for a certain type of tall and dark haired man, occasionally I’d find myself wildly attracted to someone who did not fit that description. Or fail to develop interest in another one who did.

“Normal” guys — or guys with other disorders besides NPD/ASPD — just didn’t interest me. If a non-disordered man showed interest in me, I just generally wasn’t attracted to him, no matter how physically attractive or how funny or smart he was. If I accepted a date with a normal guy, I grew bored quickly and soon he’d figure out I wasn’t interested and stop calling.

Going back in my mind over my love life, a pattern emerges. In all these relationships, I was always trying to get these guys to express their emotions and show their softer sides. Sometimes I’d even try to get them to cry. No, I’m not a dacryphiliac (Google it if you’re curious), nor do I have sadistic tendencies. It was never my intention to hurt my lovers.   They could just as easily be showing “happy” vulnerability (tenderness, love, sympathy, “tears of joy” ) as “sad” vulnerability.    As long as they were being vulnerable, it didn’t matter what was causing it.

If I succeeded in getting a man to show their soft core under all that outer hardness or coldness, I felt a combination of tender affection and a sense of enormous pride. Whenever a normally hard or cold man became vulnerable, I felt important and powerful and flattered that he trusted me enough to drop the mask. I felt like I’d found the Holy Grail. Little did I know that very often, these soft emotional sides shown to me were fake. Crocodile tears shed because somehow the man “knew” that is exactly what I wanted. Occasionally the emotions expressed were genuine, but of course this would never last.

It doesn’t really matter whether the emotions these men revealed were genuine or not, because in both cases, my rescuer complex was activated. I spent years trying to figure out what this meant and why I kept doing it — and why men who already showed a soft side without having to wear a mask were not attractive to me. I think I finally have an answer.

Normal men presented no challenge to me. My goal in relationships was always to feel like a caregiver, a nurturer. It made me feel needed and important to be in that role. That doesn’t mean I didn’t care about these men–I did, but there was definitely a self-serving motive. If the man was closed off emotionally, as most narcissists and all psychopaths are, the “prize” of having won his tender side seemed that much more valuable and meaningful–and made me feel even more special.

Now I understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. In only choosing narcissistic men, I was recreating my relationship with my mother or possibly both parents (my mother was a malignant NPD, my father possibly NPD or a NPD/BPD combination). In trying to get them to be vulnerable and show their tender emotions, I was unconsciously trying to get my mother to love me and show me how vulnerable she really was (in front of me, she never showed vulnerability).

This should be obvious. After all, most people are attracted to those who resemble their own parents psychologically. The really shocking thing I discovered was that I was projected my own need to be nurtured onto the men I dated!

I was a very emotional and sensitive child, but was shamed for having such strong feelings, both at home and at school, where I was often bullied. I was told my emotions were unacceptable and that I wasn’t “happy” enough (of course if I really was happy, I was somehow diminished for that too). Over time, I learned to stuff these feelings to the point that sometime during my teens or twenties, I “forgot” how to cry. Presenting myself as someone who didn’t get emotional (except for my rages) made me feel more acceptable. My emotions became so blunted that I started to suspect I didn’t really have true emotions anymore. I began to feel like I’d died inside. Far from feeling better, I actually felt much worse.

Unconsciously I knew this wasn’t healthy and that I’d have to reclaim my vulnerability to feel happy. But I didn’t know how to do this, and I lacked the courage to do it anyway. So I did it by proxy–by getting someone I was close to–someone who mirrored me, like a boyfriend–to reveal THEIR vulnerable side. Then, I could express my own tender side, but it was directed toward another person, so it was safe. And made me feel needed and important, something I never felt at home.

Now that feeling of “excitement” I used to obtain by getting a seemingly invulnerable man to be vulnerable, I now get when I feel my own tender and vulnerable side revealing itself in therapy and at random other times.    I no longer need to “project” that need onto someone else, since I can do it for myself now.   What will this mean in terms of any future relationships, should I ever have another one ?  That’s something I can’t answer right now, but perhaps my days of requiring a potential mate to be a narcissist are finally over.

Why we must start trying to help “Cluster B” people instead of stigmatizing them.

npd_cartoon-1

Today I received an email from someone who invited me to participate in a new Facebook group.  This is a private group that is brainstorming ways to help people with Cluster B disorders, including the “dreaded” NPD.  Although I’m not very active on Facebook and normally avoid the victim-support groups, I’m making an exception for this one because it addresses something I feel strongly about but doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion.

Instead of writing a new article about why we must stop dismissing or demonizing people with Cluster B disorders as “incurable demonic perpetrators,” I’m just going to copy and paste her email to me (leaving out identifying information) and my reply.

I’m so glad I’m not the only person in the world who feels called on a mission to help people suffering from Cluster B disorders, who are victims also.  If Cluster B people (who are willing) can be helped, there would be far fewer victims.

*****

Dear Lauren,

I am a survivor of both a psychopath (married 8 years and with 2 boys) and a narcissist (2 years). One of my sons has narc tendencies as well and I have suffered abuse from him too through the years but I am happy to report he is doing better but still has many issues. He’s 21 now. These experiences and the love I have for my son and all human beings in general drives my passion. I honestly think it’s messed up the way victims dehumanize these personality disorders. Even most professionals toss them aside. I’ve seen it done many times. But I also understand how difficult of a problem it is. We leave these abusive relationships to heal ourselves (as we should) but we leave behind these people to continue the cycles of destruction with others, our children, and themselves. This creates more dysfunction in the world. I know I don’t have to tell you that this is a pandemic, as is C/PTSD. They are now finding that ADHD may actually be C/PTSD or that they can also concur together and childhood trauma is a common factor in those diagnosed with ADHD.

I hate all the labels because I don’t believe they are accurate. There is so much we still don’t understand. This is why I created a group on FB. I am not a professional but intend to go back to school. I believe I am a lot like you actually. Just a woman with experiences and a need to understand and help. I’m just not choosing to focus on the “victims” as much as the “perp-victims”. They are the source. They are the ones that must be helped so the damage doesn’t continue to create more damaged people. Regardless, I have this mission because it’s what my heart and mind directs me to do. I believe this is my life’s purpose. Reading your blogs I feel that we see things similarly.

This group I made is called _____. With every cell in my being I believe that if we stop ignoring and pushing aside these emotionally wounded PDs despite the difficulty they represent for us and just come together to find a real cure, a real solution and then we could help prevent further abuse. I believe in a holistic approach of body and mind…and also believe we need to take a multi-faceted approach. Prevention, Awareness, Research, and Implementation of the best tools available to us. I believe the answers are out there but we must actively search for them. I do not wish to heal them myself. But I believe I have a lot of passion and insight and can see the big picture. I want to organize this mission and hopefully bring together all the right minded people to collaborate on this mission. The reason I am writing you is because I want you to get involved. This group is a think-tank if you will of like-minded people to brainstorm solutions and to hopefully implement them. One person can’t tackle this alone. Please consider joining this effort. I realize you have your blog and I understand if you are not interested but I hope you could take some time to even share articles or research into the group. Even better share your knowledge and ideas. I intend to start a nonprofit for this cause. This cause could use all the support it can get. Please give this consideration and I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you for your time and feel free to hit me up with any questions or concerns.

My reply:

I’m so glad I’m not the only one thinking along these lines.  The way I see it, ignoring the “perpetrators” and only helping the victims is akin to not doing anything to stop poverty but only giving welfare to the poor, instead of stopping the problem that led to their needing welfare in the first place.  Besides, I’m sick and tired of the pervasive vilification of cluster B  people, most of whom were also abuse victims. People conveniently forget that, and while perhaps malignant narcissists and sociopaths can’t get better, lower level self aware narcissists and of course borderlines certainly can, if they want such help, and many do.

With fewer narcissists in the world, there would be fewer victims, but there are so few, really hardly any, support sites for people suffering from NPD in particular, outside of forums like the NPD forum at Psychforums, which I read regularly and sometimes participate in.      I have read so many accounts of people diagnosed with Cluster B disorders who tried to find help online but kept running into “victim sites” which did nothing except tell them they were hopeless and evil.    Things are improving for people with BPD due to online activism by BPD bloggers working together to reduce the stigma against them, but not so much for people with non-malignant NPD. Even many therapists refuse to take them on as clients, feeling that they’re too hopeless or will be too much trouble. A few years ago, I met with a therapist I felt I connected well with, but during the intake session, she told me she’d need to obtain my psychiatric records before we could begin treatment. About a week later, she called me and coldly stated, “I can’t take you on as a client. I don’t work with borderlines.” I felt like a door had been slammed in my face. It was very upsetting and traumatizing.

For several months, I’ve been in private correspondence with a nice young woman who happens to have an NPD diagnosis.   Judging by her manner, which is humble, emotional, and honest,  at first thought her diagnosis was a mistake and told her to get a second opinion.  But there is no mistake (she says she manipulates men and her family to get attention, which she says she was denied as a child).  She really wants help and hates being a narcissist and says my posts have helped her.   She’s very empathetic (emotional empathy, not just cognitive) too, which seems to fly in the face of having NPD, but actually “lack of empathy” is not a required symptom, just a common one.   I don’t believe what she talks to me about is her false self, but is her true one.  There’s no way I can ever think of this woman as “evil” no matter what she may have done to others, but the stigma is very bad, painting anyone with such a diagnosis (and sometimes even people with BPD) as a monster and incurable.   I don’t believe this person is incurable.  I think all that’s needed is a willingness to change and self awareness, and she has both.  I find her–and others like her–to be very inspiring.  It gives me hope that this isn’t a death sentence. On the NPD forum I frequent, I see others like her, both diagnosed and self-diagnosed (I’m well aware not all the self-diagnosed people actually have NPD).

My views about this have caused me some problems with the “narc haters” and some other narc-abuse bloggers online, but I don’t write to please the haters.  I write what I feel and believe.   And I think this group of cluster Bs is very much misunderstood, even though I can certainly understanding why anger may be useful, at least when going No Contact (which I do believe in and am No Contact myself with my ex and my N mother).  But I’ve realized over time that hanging onto anger like a trophy turns people bitter and keeps them wallowing in a victim mentality.  They become stuck in that mentality and can’t move forward or heal themselves from the trauma.   After awhile they become very narcissistic themselves.      About a year and a half ago, I was mobbed and attacked by a group of narc-hating bloggers. They trolled my blog, sent me abusive “anonymous”  messages, told lies about me, and wrote negative articles about me filled with half-truths and vicious rumors.   They attempted to destroy my blog and for awhile I was re-traumatized because of them and almost took down my blog (I only had one at the time — Rabbit Hole did not yet exist).   I was told I was a sociopath and a malignant narcissist.  They said I had an evil “agenda” and that I was being paid or otherwise compensated by outside organizations or people to promote my “evil” agenda.    Their thinking was very black and white, very us-versus-them.  All this because my viewpoint differed from theirs.  I was no longer satisfied to bash on “the narcs” and wallow in victimization.   They could not accept this.    These people used every trick in the narcissist’s playbook, and they were completely blind to their own narcissism, because to acknowledge it would be to admit they had become exactly what they hate and demonize.

I admit I am not very active on Facebook, but I would love to join your group!    I’m glad I’m not the only survivor who thinks along these lines (in fact, I have a BPD diagnosis and N traits myself but am in recovery for that). I think part of the reason I feel so strongly about this is because after all is said and done, I do still love my N mother, and pray every day that she can “wake up” and realize what has become of her and that she has missed out on ever being able to love or accept love. I heard stories of how abused she was as a child and her childhood photos show a little girl who looks so hurt and sad it just makes me want to cry. Unfortunately, in her case, I doubt this will happen due to her advanced age and the fact she is so malignant. My father, who was a covert narcissist and a borderline, died this past June, but I always loved my dad and wished we could have had some sort of closure before he died. I always knew he had love for me, but was so codependent to my MN mother that he could never express his love in healthy ways. Like you, I feel that I’ve been “called” to help address the narc-abuse problem by focusing on the source of the problem, rather than on just the victims (though as a victim myself, I believe in helping them too and offer support to them as well).

Mindfulness keeps me from quitting therapy.

MINDFULNESS (2)

In my last post, Jocelyn made a comment about quitting therapy, and this reminded me of something important that’s kept me going: mindfulness.

People in therapy, especially people who have cluster B disorders and have problems either regulating or accessing emotion, often quit when the going gets rough.  Narcissists are notorious for quitting therapy (if they ever enter it at all) because of all the Cluster B disorders, NPDs have the most problems allowing themselves to become vulnerable (well, maybe ASPD is even worse that way), but for therapy to work, this cannot be avoided.   This is why people with NPD so rarely get better.  For most, as soon as they start to feel too much, they’re outta there.

For borderlines, it’s a little easier.  We’re not running away from emotions all the time the way narcissists do (although I do to some degree and probably have narcissistic tendencies–I also have comorbid Avoidant PD which also explains my reticence).  For BPDs, our main problem is the regulation of emotions that are too intense.  But the core issues–abandonment trauma–is the same.   When you finally reach the stage of diving into the maelstrom of pain and emptiness, it’s incredibly painful.   You feel like you’re dying or going insane.  You think about quitting because who wants to live with all that pain?

That’s where mindfulness comes in.   Without mindfulness, I probably would have quit therapy after today.   But with mindfulness, I can actually let myself fall into the pit of pain and trauma and allow myself to feel those unpleasant emotions.  At the same time the mindful part of me is observing myself feeling them as they arise, and thinking logically and trying to make connections and give them meaning.   This kind of distance–while at the same time being fully submerged in the feelings–makes the experience more bearable and also makes it more likely you’ll learn something valuable from it.   Mindfulness also means you acknowledge that the emotions are not YOU; you have emotions but you aren’t your emotions.  You are you, and the emotions are just trapped energy moving out of you.

Without mindfulness, you just feel like you’ve somehow fallen into the 9th circle of hell and will never escape.   You can’t separate yourself from the overwhelming feelings and feel consumed by them.  No wonder so many people quit when they get to this point.   I’m so glad I took DBT classes (even though I blew them off back in he ’90s when I took them) and had the presence of mind to keep the DBT book I was given.  It’s been so helpful to me throughout this whole process.

I think mindfulness training should actually be a prerequisite for intensive psychodynamic therapy, especially for trauma survivors (whether they are personality disordered or not), because there is nothing to prepare you for the intensity of the ride you’ll be taking (which seems so gentle and tame at first).

There should be no shame in having a Cluster B diagnosis.

noshame

Yes, another potentially controversial post.  Please hear me out before judging.

There are some (actually, many) people in the blogosphere who believe that people with disorders like Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder made some kind of conscious choice to have their disorder.   With unusual exceptions (which I’ve discussed in others posts), I think this is wrong.

Bad seeds?

People with Cluster B disorders, in spite of what you probably read or heard, aren’t inherently evil or “bad seeds.”   Certainly, some become evil, because they’ve been programmed for a psychological need to obtain narcissistic supply in order to feel like they exist.  In order to get that supply, they became abusive and manipulative.   People addicted to drugs or alcohol are also abusive and manipulative, in order to get their chemical fix.

People with psychopathy may have been born without the brain capacity to feel empathy or have a conscience, but I don’t think Psychopathy should even be categorized as a Cluster B disorder at all, since it seems to have its roots more in brain chemistry than in early trauma.   Plenty of psychopaths came from normal, loving families.  The jury’s out as to whether Antisocial Personality Disorder is the same thing as psychopathy.  I think they may coincide often and their symptoms are similar, but I’m not at all sure they’re the same thing.    I don’t know a whole lot about ASPD, but I think it, too, usually has its roots in trauma as a child.   I know almost nothing about its treatability, but it’s my understanding it’s very difficult to treat, even more so than NPD.    But I digress:  talking about ASPD or psychopathy is not the point of this post.

Another blogger who commented on a post of mine today mentioned that she may have undiagnosed, recovered BPD.   I sensed from the tone of her admission that this might be something she’s  ashamed to admit.   I wondered why.   BPD, like NPD, has a terrible stigma, although in its favor, there’s a movement in the BPD community to reduce its stigma as “evil” and “incurable.”    Their efforts seem to be working, because BPD is seen today as being less of a “mark of the beast” than NPD is, although the stigma certainly still exists.

Why no anti-stigma movement for NPD?

I’m not sure why there is no grass-roots movement among narcissists to change the stigma against NPD, but from everything I’ve read from self-aware narcissists (and you’d be surprised how many of them there are online), they’re either: (a) proud that they are narcissists and wear the “evil” stigma like a badge of honor (these tend to be malignant, overt narcissists with antisocial or sociopathic traits), or (b) *this is a shocker* so ashamed of their narcissism that although they hate the stigma, they seem resigned to it and and seem to hang their heads in shame, quietly accepting how “bad” they are.  “I deserve it,” they say.   It may seem hard to believe, but some of them even defend the narc-haters.  Remember we are talking about self-aware narcissists.  Most narcs never get to that point.   Their grandiosity keeps them from having enough insight to do that.

Ego-dystonic vs. ego-syntonic.

Because people with BPD are almost always ego-dystonic about their disorder (they aren’t happy with themselves), and because generally BPD doesn’t lend itself to self-delusions  (in other words, having a false self) the way NPD does, BPD has a higher cure rate than NPD,  which also helps reduce its stigma.    NPD is usually more ego-syntonic, but not always.  Narcissists who are ego-dystonic (usually covert narcissists) tend to be frustrated, lonely, and depressed, and although they can be highly manipulative, entitled acting, and lack empathy, they lack the grandiosity and false pride that keeps them stuck in the delusion that their narcissism has worked for them.

I don’t see a whole lot of difference between BPD and C-PTSD.  Actually, BPD is like C-PTSD on steroids.  I’ve written about this subject before–the symptoms of both are nearly identical, and both Borderlines and people with C-PTSD are very prone to become codependent to malignant or overt narcissists.   They are also prone to self-harm, wild mood swings, and are sometimes suicide risks.  People with C-PTSD–especially women–often get slapped with the stigmatizing BPD label simply because the DSM doesn’t recognize C-PTSD as a legitimate disorder (and PTSD, while similar, applies more to those who suffered a single, intense trauma rather than the victims of chronic, long term abuse starting in childhood, so the treatments for someone with PTSD would be different).

Moving back to narcissism…

Many people believe NPD cannot be successfully treated, much less cured.   I admit I’m skeptical about its curability, though I do know there have been a few cases where it’s happened.   I also know there are narcissists who are ego-dystonic and unhappy with what they’ve become, once they realize they are narcissists.   I don’t think the adage that “if you think you have NPD, then you don’t” is necessarily true.    I have met a few here and on forums who desperately want to change their behaviors, usually because they’ve realized that they’ve missed out on things like knowing how to love and receive love, or having a healthy relationship with their spouse or children.   They want to know what love and vulnerability in a relationship feels like.  They want to know what real joy and empathy feels like.   They forgot how.   They’ve come to realize their lives are empty and shallow, and they are constantly under the stress of always having to act a part in a play.   They forgot who they were a long time ago.   Most narcissists did not have happy childhoods and most had parents who either abused or spoiled them (spoiling is a form of abuse because it fails to mirror who the child actually is, so the “love” they get is conditional).

As a mental illness.

I’m in no way defending narcissists or the way they act.   But as a cluster B disorder,  it started as a defense mechanism to cope with unbearable pain and feelings of emptiness. Many people believe narcissists love themselves, but nothing could be further from the truth.  They only love their false self.  Scratch any narcissist and you find a person who doesn’t even know who they are.  BPD is much the same that way, except Borderlines don’t have a functional or strong false self.    I’m not suggesting sympathizing with active, unrepentant narcissists or condoning their toxic behaviors. I’m not suggesting staying with one either!   But I think the stigma against NPD has hurt those people with the disorder who sincerely want to change.  These people do exist!  I don’t think they’re lying when they say they want to become non-narcissists–why would they? What would be their motive in doing so?   Much as with people with BPD, therapists refuse to treat them, insurance won’t cover them, and they are frequently demonized as non-human creatures or worse.

Maybe the treatment rate for NPD is so abysmal because they are given up on so easily by therapists who lose patience with someone who doesn’t show immediate improvement or acts aggressively or in a confrontational way.    NPD is a very difficult disorder to treat, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.  Even if a narcissist can’t be cured, CBT and other mindfulness therapies have had good results on some narcissists who really want to change the way they treat others and have more mutually fulfilling relationships.  DBT (dialectical behavioral training), a mindfulness therapy similar to CBT traditionally used on people with BPD, has also been shown to be effective on some people with NPD.

As a Borderline myself (my therapist thinks I’m recovered, but I’m not at all sure about that), and having personally experienced the stigma against Cluster B, I have a great deal of empathy for anyone with a Cluster B disorder who is self aware and genuinely sorry about the way they’ve treated others or the choices they’ve made, and who sincerely wants to do the hard work needed to make changes in themselves.   People with Cluster B disorders didn’t choose to become that way; like people with C-PTSD, they have a mental illness caused by trauma and C-PTSD is almost always at the core of any cluster B disorder.

While it’s true that some will never get to the point of self awareness or even if they do, may not be interested in finding new and better ways of relating to others and the world, there are many who do, and we shouldn’t judge them or hate them just because of their stigmatic diagnosis (and the diagnosis could be wrong anyway!).  That’s why I don’t run a “narc free” blog.  I allow and even encourage people with Cluster B diagnoses–including NPD–to post comments here and share their experiences along with others who do not have those disorders and were abused by people who do.  As long as they remain civil, respectful, and add to the conversation, they are always welcome here. Hell, I even started Down The Rabbit Hole because I thought I had Covert NPD. I’ve probably confused the hell out of everyone who reads this blog, but I was pretty confused myself.

Child roles in dysfunctional families.

dysfunctional-family
Credit: Artist unknown.

 

Wikipedia has an excellent, detailed article about dysfunctional family dynamics. Here I am just going to talk about the roles various family members play, and the kinds of families that become dysfunctional. If you’d like to read the whole article, click on this link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysfunctional_family

Dysfunctional families are usually of two types:

1. One or more of the parents are active alcoholics or addicted to drugs.
2. One or more of the parents have a Cluster B disorder, usually Narcissistic Personality Disorder but sometimes Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, or Histrionic Personality Disorder (or a combination of any of these).

The Cluster B Connection.

Outside of alcoholics and drug addicts, dysfunctional family dynamics are most prevalent when one or both of the partners suffer from a Cluster B disorder, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Malignant Narcissism.    After NPD, BPD is the most common disorder seen in the head of a dysfunctional family, though because it’s more common in women and Borderlines have more empathy than narcissists, BPD is most often seen in the codependent, passive partner.

ASPD (psychopathy or sociopathy) rarely appears by itself in dysfunctional families, as antisocial people and psychopaths tend to not be raising children at all (either because they’re incarcerated, their children have already been removed from the home, or they simply have no interest in raising children,) but a parent could have Malignant Narcissism, which is a combination of NPD and ASPD.   Also, people with pure ASPD, though more likely to be criminals or involved in illegal activities, tend to be less emotionally abusive than people with NPD or even BPD. They are merely selfish and lack empathy, and they are manipulative to get what they want, but they don’t care about getting emotional supply from others so they don’t engage in mind games like gaslighting, triangulating, projecting, and scapegoating (unless there is a material reward involved or they are trying to avoid culpability). However, some people with ASPD are sadistic and enjoy tormenting family members for fun.

Of all the Cluster B disorders, HPD is probably the least toxic (Histrionics are shallow, attention seeking, and dramatic, but not usually that abusive), but HPD is usually comorbid with another Cluster B disorder, such as NPD.

cluster_b_chart

In some cases, a non-Cluster B mental illness (such as Bipolar disorder) that causes abusive acting-out behavior may be the culprit, but it’s less common because most other mental disorders are less easily hidden from others and the person appears “crazier.” Non-Cluster B disorders are also more easily treated with drugs or therapy, and except for psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia, the afflicted person knows they have a problem and are more likely to seek help.

Cluster B and addictive disorders. 

Parents of dysfunctional families can also be both mentally ill and addicted to drugs or alcohol. The two often go together. In fact, alcoholism and drug addiction are extremely common in people with Cluster B disorders. Alcohol and drugs are their attempt to fill the emptiness they feel inside themselves.

Even if an alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t have an underlying Cluster B disorder, the behavior of an active addict/alcoholic is very similar to someone who has NPD. The only difference in the behavior of a narcissist and someone with active alcoholism is that for the narcissist, the “fix” is emotional; for the alcoholic, it’s chemical. A non-Cluster B active addict or alcoholic can be every bit as emotionally abusive, self-centered, and manipulative as someone with NPD. Only getting their next fix is important. (As an aside, it’s interesting to me that the 12 steps of AA and other 12-step programs almost all address the problem of narcissism by encouraging humility, responsibility, and amend-making. A person on a so-called “dry drunk” is basically a sober person acting out in narcissistic ways, which may be their nature).

The Codependent Partner.

Sometimes only one partner has a mental disorder or addiction, but the non-afflicted parent is always going to be codependent to them. The codependent parent, whether they have a disorder or not, almost always suffers from PTSD or Complex PTSD. If both parents have a Cluster B disorder (which I think is usually the case), the one who has NPD or Malignant Narcissism is almost always going to call all the shots and dominate the other family members. If a Borderline is paired up with a Narcissist, the Borderline is almost always going to be codependent to the Narcissist, colluding in the abuse but also being abused themselves. Similarly, if a Covert Narcissist is paired up with an Overt Narcissist, the Covert one is going to be codependent to them and possibly abused. Such a scenario can lead to the Borderline or Covert Narcissist developing Stockholm Syndrome (identifying with and colluding with their abuser). Non-Cluster B codependents can also develop Stockholm Syndrome, because it’s a complication of C-PTSD. The codependent parent often (but not always) has a high degree of empathy, which is what drew them to the narcissist in the first place, in a misguided belief that they could “fix” them or they were led to believe that the narcissist could “rescue” them.

The Roles of the Children.

In the ACON community, there’s a lot of talk about Scapegoats and Golden Children, but there are other roles children can play in a family that are rarely addressed. In a two child family, most likely there will be a scapegoat and a golden child, but in larger families, there can also be a Lost Child, a Clown, and a Rescuer (codependent). It’s unhealthy for a child to be in any of these roles, but the Scapegoat and Golden Child role are probably the most dangerous to a child’s mental and emotional health, for different reasons. Even in a two-child family, the roles can shift back and forth (according to the Wikipedia article, families in which the children’s roles change and shift are called Balkanized families–this alludes to the constantly shifting loyalties and borders of the Balkan countries in Eastern Europe).

1. The Scapegoat.

scapegoat

Both this and the Golden Child role are the soul-killing roles, but for different reasons. The Scapegoat is the child who is targeted by the narcissistic (or alcoholic) parent. The parent often is able to get the rest of the family to serve as flying monkeys and gang up on that child, projecting anything they don’t want to “own” onto them. Like the sacrificial goats described in the Bible who were banished to the wilderness and tormented by villagers, the Scapegoated child carries all the shame the rest of the family doesn’t want to confront or deal with. All the unwanted emotions and bad qualities are unloaded and projected onto them, so the abusers don’t have to confront or deal with these problems in themselves.

Usually it’s the most sensitive child of the family who becomes the Scapegoat, because that child tends to be the Truth Teller, the only family member who can see the dysfunction and may even react against it. The most sensitive child, being the child who shows the most emotion, is also a threat to the narcissists in the family because emotional expression is such a frightening thing to them. In many, if not most dysfunctional families, the expression of emotion is not allowed. So the most emotional or sensitive child becomes the scapegoat, especially if they rebel against the dysfunction or criticize it.

The Scapegoat may be assigned the role of Bad Child, the Loser, the Stupid One, the Ugly One, the Crazy One, the Weak One, or any combination of these. No matter what they do, they cannot please the parents (or the siblings who have been turned against them). Scapegoat Children usually develop severe C-PTSD or possibly another mental disorder, and having been trained to be victims and never given the emotional, financial or other tools to succeed in life, tend to fulfill their families’ predictions of being “losers,” so then their families can say to others, “See? This child really is worthless.”

Scapegoated children also tend to attract other abusers throughout their lives and are at risk for being targeted for bullying even as adults and for entering into abusive relationships. If the adult child doesn’t go No Contact, the abuse continues, usually through some form of isolation, silent treatment, or exclusion. Scapegoated adults are talked badly about by the family and not invited to family functions. They are given no emotional or financial support, even though other members of the family are given these things. It’s not unusual for a scapegoated adult child to be living in poverty, even if their families are wealthy–not only because they were denied financial support when they needed it, but also because their self esteem took such a terrible beating that they have no confidence at all and never take any risks that could improve their lives. Severe C-PTSD can also cause a person to have an inability to focus or concentrate or set realistic goals.

A Scapegoat isn’t always a child. It can also be a parent, in which the children are turned against that parent by the abusive one.

2. The Golden Child.

girl with a gold medal and cups.

The Golden Child, often (but not always) the eldest child, is the parent’s trophy, pride and joy. The parents may seem to love that child, but being incapable of real love, their “love” is conditional and is based on their fantasy of what they want that child to be, not on who the child really is. The child is assigned to be a Mini Me of the narcissistic parent.

The Golden Child, basking in constant approval, showered with toys and gifts, never held accountable for any wrongdoing (which may be projected onto the Scapegoat), and often recruited as a co-abuser in the abuse of the Scapegoat, grows up entitled, grandiose, and spoiled. Because their Real Self has never been appropriately mirrored and their less than perfect traits are ignored or projected onto someone else, and because they were rewarded for playing a the role of the Perfect One, a Golden Child in a family is the most likely to develop NPD and become a clone of the abusive parent. In this way their souls are destroyed even more than the Scapegoat’s. To continue to be the parent’s favorite, they had to play a role which became internalized. This becomes their False Self. After awhile, they are no longer able to access their Real Self at all. Golden Children who have become narcissistic continue their entitled, bullying, manipulative, grandiose behavior into adulthood and are likely to head dysfunctional families themselves, continuing the cycle.

A non-Golden Child, even a Scapegoat, can become a narcissist too (usually the covert form of NPD), for self-protection, but Golden Children tend to develop the grandiose, malignant form of narcissism and as such, are the least likely to ever seek help for their disorder or admit they have become abusers themselves.

3. The Lost Child.

lostchild

In larger families (three or more children), one child is likely to be ignored and treated as if they don’t exist. This isn’t a form of silent treatment; it’s as if the parents don’t notice the child is there at all. The Lost Child isn’t victimized like the Scapegoat, but they aren’t spoiled either. They may or may not be recruited to assist in the abuse of the Scapegoat, but they won’t necessarily be punished if they don’t cooperate; they will simply be ignored. The Lost Child tends to be quiet and shy, and not make any waves. They are probably aware of the family dysfunction and may sympathize with the scapegoat (but don’t let anyone know this). As they grow older, they may crave attention or develop addictions, or they may remain shy and retiring throughout their lives. They tend to avoid confrontation and drama, and may become extremely introverted.

4. The Clown/Mascot.

classclown

The Clown/Mascot attempts to divert attention away from the family dysfunction (and also get attention for themselves) by making light of everything. Everything becomes a joke to them, and they even use their own families as sources for humor. Clowns can be disruptive in class as children, to get attention, but because of their ability to see the humor in things, they tend to be outgoing and develop a large circle of friends during adolescence and adulthood (even if they are never taken very seriously). Family Mascots are almost never scapegoated, because they entertain everyone and take the focus off the family problems.

David Sedaris, a writer and humorist, is a good example of this dynamic at play.  Several writers in the ACON community (and even outside that community) were outraged by Sedaris’ callous essay (“Now We Are Five,” which appeared in the New Yorker after his younger sister, Tiffany, committed suicide).   Tiffany was clearly the family scapegoat and had evidently gone No Contact with the rest of the family. At the time of her death, she was living in poverty and only had, as her father put it, “two lousy boxes” of belongings. I don’t know all the details, but it seems as if she was offered no support, either emotionally or financially, in spite of the family’s wealth and Sedaris’ success as a writer. She was probably mentally ill, but her mental illness may have been due to being the family reject.

In a candid interview Sedaris gave for Vice, he describes Tiffany and her relationship with the rest of the family. His words are very telling.

Even as a child I looked at my sister and wondered what that would be like, not to feel the warmth of my mother’s love. Tiffany didn’t. There was always a nervous quality about her, a tentativeness, a desperate urge to be in your good graces. While the rest of us had eyes in the front of our heads, she had eyes on the sides, like a rabbit or a deer, like prey, always on the lookout for danger. Even when there wasn’t any danger. You’d see her trembling and think, You want danger? I’ll give you some danger

It’s been suggested that David Sedaris is himself a narcissist (possibly the golden child) and that could certainly be true, but I also suspect he served a secondary role as the family Clown/Mascot. His callousness toward Tiffany in his famous essay (and grandiosity about how great the rest of the Sedaris family was–it’s very common for narcissists who were golden children to hold their dysfunctional families up as paragons of perfection) seemed to be drawn both from narcissism and from a need to hide his anger and pain behind a wall of humor. Here’s a link to his essay (it’s heartbreaking and may be triggering):

Now We Are Five

The accompanying photo is interesting. Tiffany, the second to youngest child in a family of six children, sits in the bottom right hand corner. Her hair is cut short and unkempt, and she looks very unhappy. David, wearing the glasses, stands above her. Actually, none of the kids look very happy. Not a smile in the bunch.  Something’s definitely not right about this family.  It’s common to see family portraits where no one is smiling in the 18th or 19th centuries,  but not in the late 1960s, when this photo was taken.   Here’s another photo, from the Vice interview, where only Tiffany (again in the bottom right hand spot) looks desperately unhappy and disconnected from her siblings.

tiffany_sedaris
Credit: Vice.com / Left to right: Amy, David, Gretchen, Paul, Lisa, and Tiffany

I used to enjoy Sedaris’ writings and looked forward to his books and essays, but after this essay, I just can’t read him anymore. (Augusten Burroughs is a better alternative and doesn’t seem to be a narcissist).

In spite of their raucous and jovial manner, Clowns are likely to be depressed because they have never learned to confront or deal with their true feelings.  They hide behind a wall of laughter.  Their sense of humor is really just a cover for their pain. Many Clowns become addicted to drugs or alcohol, and a few become suicidal. Many of our great comedians served the Clown role in their families. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of them had drug issues or killed themselves.

5. The Rescuer.

superman_child

This is the codependent child who attempts to “fix” the family dysfunction by being obedient, always good, non-confrontational, overly generous, and self-sacrificing. The Rescuer may be highly empathic. The Rescuer tries to serve all the needs of the narcissistic/addicted parent, which of course is not possible. They will never argue with or criticize the narcissistic parent, and are always trying to get everyone to get along, which also is not possible. They may be the only family member who doesn’t abuse the Scapegoat, but they might if they feel like it’s required. However, even if they do collude in the Scapegoat’s abuse, they will be less abusive than the other family members, tending to take a back seat or even sympathize with the Scapegoat in private. In trying to please everyone, they please no one, and grow up feeling impotent and helpless. It’s a no-win situation.

When Rescuers become adults, they tend to unconsciously look for other abusers to “rescue,” having failed to do so in their families of origin. Like Scapegoats, Rescuers are likely to become abused themselves as adults, but it’s hard for them to leave an abuser because of their high level of empathy which keeps them tied to the abuser in their attempt to want to “help” them. They also tend to fall for an abuser’s promises to change and are easily “hoovered” back into a codependent relationship.

Shifting Roles.

In Balkanized families, the child roles can shift. The most common situation is a Golden Child becoming a Scapegoat, often upon reaching adulthood, if they fail to fulfill the unrealistic expectations put on them. (“You were such a disappointment to me!”) If a Scapegoat goes No Contact or leaves the family for some other reason, another child, possibly the Lost Child, becomes the new Scapegoat. Someone has to carry all the family shame.  If the family only has two children, the Golden Child may find themselves suddenly scapegoated or serving both roles.

Children who serve as both Scapegoats and Golden Children (very common in only children)  often develop Borderline Personality Disorder as well as severe C-PTSD and possibly other mental disorders like Dissociative Identity Disorder (almost always the result of severe emotional abuse).

Serving as both a Scapegoat and Golden Child is the ultimate mindf*ck because there isn’t even any consistency. The child never knows if they will be punished or rewarded from one minute to the next. Their only advantage (if they are an only child) is that they don’t have siblings who have been turned into flying monkeys who collude in the abuse.

If the family ever develops a need for a new Scapegoat (if the Scapegoat goes No Contact, dies, or disappears), the Lost Child is usually picked as a replacement, due to their non-confrontational, malleable temperament and lack of any real pre-existing role in the family.

Where did BPD stigma come from?

stigma_truth

In recent years, BPD has earned a very disagreeable stigma, so disagreeable that people who have a BPD diagnosis are refused treatment, being told they cannot get better or feared by professionals who might treat them. NPD too, hasn’t always been as demonized as it is right now. NPD and BPD have become almost interchangeable in the narc-abuse community. I don’t recall it being that way in 1996 when I got my BPD diagnosis, and I don’t remember ever being told I was hopeless or unredeemable or evil or anything like that. I was treated pretty much like any other psychiatric patient, and was given therapy and put on antidepressants. I was obliged to take a DBT class, which at the time I blew off. (DBT is like CBT but exclusive to Borderlines–and it does work. The fact it worked for me makes me think maybe I *did* have BPD but no longer do!)

BPD was always classified as a Cluster B disorder, ever since its introduction into the DSM in 1980 (it was recognized, however, for much longer than that, and popularized as a disorder in the 1960s because of the research of Otto Kernberg, a German psychologist who studied “the narcissistic and borderline personalities,” and other “disorders of the self.”).* All “Cluster B” means really is the person has a weak, fragmented or nonexistent sense of self. Not being able to access a “true self” means they become either cut off from or cannot regulate their emotions. One of the results of this is a lack of empathy (but BPDs are the most empathetic of all the B’s, and some have normal levels of empathy). In NPD, a strong false self takes the place of the true one, which is a very dissociative symptom. In BPD, there’s not a strong false self like with NPD, but there is a weak and unstable one, and the person isn’t ALWAYS showing that false self. Some BPDs act quite a bit like over-emotional or unstable narcissists (or narcissists in the midst of a breakdown due to loss of supply). Others act like covert narcissists or just act neurotic and insecure but are otherwise nice people. Some feel their emotions too much, including empathy. A few are antisocial. I’m not sure why BPD (and maybe NPD) isn’t classified as a dissociative disorder, because essentially the person is cut off from their “self” in some form or another and that is what dissociation means. I’m not sure what the mechanics are in ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) but they are very different from either Borderlines or narcissists because they aren’t dependent on others to boost their weak egos. They are psychopathic and just do what they want.

bpd_stigma_quote

So the Cluster B’s, including BPD, were already around, but until the mid-1990s, no one thought of them as anything but mental illnesses or for ASPD, a kind of “adult conduct disorder.” They were psychiatric labels and nothing more. The narc abuse community started in 1995 or so, and Sam Vaknin was pretty much the first one online who wrote about it. Of course, he has NPD but even so, he first called attention to the “evil”-ness of NPD/narcissism (actually it was M. Scott Peck but at the time he wrote “People of the Lie” in 1983, the term “malignant narcissism” wasn’t in vogue yet and there was no connection of “evil people” to people with NPD. There was also no Internet to spread Peck’s concepts like wildfire the way they could have been in 1995 and later. But over time, M. Scott Peck’s book has become one of the most popular in the narc-abuse community) After Vaknin established his online narcissistic abuse community and wrote his popular book “Malignant Self-Love,” more narc-abuse sites got established (many or most of them started by victims, who were understandably angry at the narcissists who had abused them). Soon “narcs are evil” became a sort of meme, and by association, so did all the Cluster B disorders earn a “evil” reputation.

There are benefits to this, of course. Victims are being more heard than ever before. People are paying attention and avoiding narcissistic abusers. But some people who carry a Cluster B label are being hurt too, especially Borderlines (or people–usually women–who were erroneously diagnosed with it). Some experts want to get rid of BPD and just re-label BPD as Complex PTSD (probably not a bad idea). There are MANY similarities. The vast majority of BPDs are not anything like malignant narcissists and are not sociopathic at all. Most just act extremely insecure, needy, and maybe “high maintenance.” They can be manipulative or act out to avoid rejection. They may collude with people with NPD, however. But it’s possible to find these same types of behaviors in many people with Complex PTSD. Are they actually the same thing?

Another reason for the BPD stigma could be the tendency for narcissists and borderlines to form partnerships or be attracted to each other. In such a pairing, the Borderline is almost always the abused or codependent partner. In several “couple killings,” one of the criminal partners, usually the female, has had a BPD diagnosis. But they may have been so brainwashed by their abusers they were coerced into colluding with them against others (a form of Stockholm Syndrome).

Finally, a number of high profile criminals and serial killers have labels of NPD or BPD. But they almost always also have a comorbid ASPD diagnosis. Media icons like Joan Crawford who were known to scapegoat their children also had a BPD diagnosis. In Crawford’s case, she was also diagnosed with HPD (Histrionic Personality Disorder). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she had NPD (malignant) or ASPD as well, as her behavior was very sociopathic behind closed doors.

Why am I “defending” people with BPD if I don’t have it?  Several reasons:

  1.  I was diagnosed with it and carried that diagnosis for two decades.   I have personally experienced being rejected by therapists once they saw my “red letter” on paper.
  2. Just because my current therapist thinks I don’t have it doesn’t mean I don’t.  Or maybe I did have it and no longer do.  If I no longer have it, that means BPDs are not “hopeless.”
  3. Maybe BPD isn’t a valid diagnosis.
  4. Many people I have cared about who were slapped with “BPD” have been hurt by it.

These are just my rambling thoughts about this matter; I’d be interested in hearing your opinions.

* Timeline of BPD

Borderlines: incurable demons or trauma victims?

complex_ptsd
The symptoms of Complex PTSD are almost identical to those of BPD.

Something has come to my attention during the time I’ve been blogging, which I think is important enough to merit another post about it.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD, DSM code 301.83) is classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a Cluster B (emotional/dramatic/erratic) personality disorder having many similarities to character disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Both NPD and ASPD are characterized by a lack of empathy, entitled behavior, and disregard for the rights or feelings of others. It’s also true that some Borderlines act out in ways harmful to themselves and others. Hence, “Cluster B” has become a pejorative category and some ACONs (adult children of narcissists) and others have demonized people with BPD as being amoral, immoral, and almost inhuman, nearly or as bad as as people with NPD or ASPD. Some even go so far as to lump all borderlines in with the “narcs” and barely make a distinction between them. In their minds, if you’re a Borderline, you’re no better than a “narc” and that’s all there is to it. You’re a bad person and to be avoided.

To make matters even worse, many mental health professionals refuse to treat people with BPD, believing them to be troublemakers, incurable, or both. I remember one therapist I saw years ago for an intake session and seemed to connect well with, called me a few days later after he received my psychiatric records, and told me he couldn’t take me on as a patient. “I don’t work with borderlines,” he said.

It’s true that there are some similarities between the Cluster B disorders, and both BPD and NPD/ASPD have roots in childhood abuse or neglect. But the similarities don’t run very deep. What I mean by that is while both a borderline and a narcissist cn be manipulative or abusive to others, the reasons are very different. There’s also the matter of intention. Borderlines, if they act out against others, aren’t usually aware they’re being abusive and/or manipulative. If their bad behavior is brought to their attention, they normally become very upset and feel terrible about it (unless they have a comorbid NPD or ASPD diagnosis). They act out because of overpowering emotions that they haven’t learned how to control. In contrast, a narcissist or person with ASPD acts out because they can. If their behavior is brought to their attention, they’re likely to become angry and rage against the accusation, make excuses, blame-shift it onto someone else, or deny it.  Unlike most borderlines, they don’t feel remorse, guilt or shame for hurting others.

In addition, many borderlines are much more harmful to themselves than to other people. If they do act out against others, most are as frightened by their own outbursts as others are and sometimes more so. In a nutshell, people with BPD know they have a problem and wish they could be different. Untreated BPD makes a Borderline’s life miserable, while people with NPD or ASPD are usually not bothered by their disorder. That’s why, even though Borderlines can act “crazier” than narcissists, they can get better and are much more responsive to therapy or behavioral treatments such as DBT or CBT.

But we’re still caught in a gray zone, neither here or there.   The stigma against borderlines (in my observation) has grown worse, and most narcissistic abuse sites pretty much regard people with BPD  as the “female or over-emotional version of NPD.”  (actually, Covert/Fragile NPD or Histrionic Personality Disorder would come closer).   If we’re narcissistic abuse victims suffering from complex PTSD, it takes a great deal of courage to admit you also have a BPD diagnosis.  It took me a few months to come out about it on this blog. Fortunately,  I haven’t received too much (or really, any) flack about it.

complex-ptsd-and-bordeline-personality-disorder-36-728
Click to enlarge graph.

The good news is, a number of BPD bloggers are helping to reduce the negative stigma that we’re “bad seeds” with an untreatable disorder just because we’re OMG “Cluster B.” Think about this: have you ever noticed that there aren’t too many people with NPD (or ASPD) blogging about their challenges and insecurities, or fighting to reduce the stigma against their disorder? If they blog about their narcissism or psychopathy, it’s usually to brag about how NPD/psychopathy makes them superior or allows them to have control over others and be successful in the world. That’s because they don’t think they have a problem (They just cause others to have problems). Most Borderlines know they have a problem and struggle with it constantly, since it makes them feel so crazy and lowers their quality of life. I can only think of ONE blogger with NPD who was unhappy with his disorder and successfully treated for it (or so he says). That man probably had low-spectrum and probably covert NPD; a person with malignant or high spectrum grandiose-type NPD will never have enough insight or willingness to admit that THEY are the ones with a problem. In contrast, I can think of about 20 bloggers with BPD who are in treatment or therapy or have even been healed! I’m sure there’s many more that I don’t even know about.

BPD also seems to co-occur a lot with complex PTSD or PTSD. Most BPD bloggers I can think of also have complex PTSD or are in treatment for it. The symptoms of BPD and Complex PTSD are almost the same. The DSM does not recognize Complex PTSD as a diagnosis; it only recognizes PTSD, which is not caused by chronic trauma over a long period of time (such as having been abused as a child), but by one traumatic incident (such as fighting in a war or being raped). Therapeutic treatments for complex PTSD and BPD are also almost the same (for that matter, NPD and other personality disorders are treated almost the same way). Both BPD and Complex PTSD have a higher cure rate than NPD. Since Complex PTSD isn’t recognized as a valid diagnosis, I think a lot of people (especially women) who might have been diagnosed with complex PTSD if it was recognized get slapped with the “Borderline” label instead. Although I accept my BPD diagnosis (and have even become a little attached to it), I wonder if I might never have been diagnosed with it at all had Complex PTSD been recognized by the psychiatric profession. I think in some cases, BPD may not really be accurate, or could even be the same thing as C-PTSD due to their many similarities. At least one blogger (BPD Transformation, who used to comment here but stopped for some reason), doesn’t even think BPD is a valid diagnosis and shouldn’t exist at all.

Further reading:

Are BPD and Complex PTSD the Same Disorder?

Is BPD a Real Disorder or Should it Be Eliminated as a Diagnosis?

Forever alone, revisited.

keep_calm_forever_alone

This is going to be another “running naked” post.
I have mixed feelings about being in a relationship. On the one hand, I long for it because I can’t deny that my inability to connect with anyone on a deep emotional level has caused me a lot of sadness and pain.

At the same time I need my solitude, and it’s almost always my preferred state. I’d much rather do things alone than do them with others. I’m simply too selfish and don’t want to give of myself to anyone else. I think the selfishness stems from fear though. I’m too afraid: I struggle with fears of rejection, abandonment, judgement, engulfment, being hurt, being used, being abused, etc. I have little to no interest in sex, although I can be sexually attracted. (maybe this is TMI, but I prefer my fantasies to the real thing).

So I have a sort of conundrum. I don’t want to grow old and die alone, but at the same time I don’t want to and am afraid to do what it takes to avoid being alone forever. I was married to my malignant narcissist ex for many years, but the marriage was extremely dysfunctional and I was always in the codependent role. Thinking about the marriage’s failure (which was inevitable from Day One) now makes me feel sad, although for a long time I just felt rage (which is why I started my first blog).

I would only consider a relationship with a non-narcissist now (and really, not with any Cluster B), but that’s a problem because I’m simply not attracted to normal people. I never have been.

The other problem is I’m “in love with the idea of being in love.” Like most Cluster B’s, I become limerent easily (though less so than I used to) and get addicted to the whole “high” that infatuated feeling brings. But it never lasts and I know intellectually it’s not real love. It’s a type of addiction that feels as good as a drug, but the crash (and there always is one) is just as bad as coming down from a powerful drug too. I miss that drug-like high of falling in love though.

To rectify this longing, I live the limerent experience out in my mind by developing powerful crushes on people who cannot give me anything in return for a variety of reasons. Oddly enough, this lack of reciprocation is okay with me. I don’t feel like anything is “unrequited” because I deliberately and consciously get attached to a person only in my own mind and prefer not to share my feelings with the person in question. I have an active enough imagination that there is no need to play it out in reality. In fact, I’d probably run away in terror if it became obvious my feelings were returned. I’d get off on the supply that comes with that, of course–but it would send me into panic mode too. It’s very weird. I don’t know if this is just an eccentricity of mine, or if this sort of thing is experienced by others. Having an active imagination does have its benefits. It’s very narcissistic though.

I think unless I can become non-disordered (which is unlikely), that I need to accept the idea of being alone for the rest of my life. On a day to day basis, I’m okay with that, but it’s sometimes so hard when you look around and everyone else in my age group is married or in a relationship, and I have to do everything on my own. You’re treated by society as defective and if you don’t make a good living, it’s hard to even survive. I feel like a freak sometimes. I can’t look at singleness as a permanent lifestyle or I get very sad and afraid. I have to do what they do in AA, and take things one day at a time.