'Friday, September 17, 2010
Posted by United for Now at 3:09 PM 1 comments Links to this post
How to stay on the path when a loved one has Borderline Personality Disorder
Life is a journey. Sometimes we have a specific destination in mind - sometimes we are just enjoying the passing scenery. When we are trying to get somewhere, it’s important to maintain our focus on what our objectives are. This can become difficult if the person traveling with us has Borderline Personality Disorder. Due to their extreme defence mechanisms and twisted thought processes, they tend to wander off the path quite frequently. Their internal struggles create confusion inside them, and in an instant they veer off the path into dangerous and hurtful territory. Due to our compassion and love for them (a core feature of our nature), we feel compelled to chase after them in an effort to guide them back to the path. Through this chase, we wind up changing our purpose from moving forward in a healthy fashion, to becoming lost and stuck in defending and justifying ourselves instead. Sadly, this tends to ensure that we both wind up lost in the wilderness, sometimes never finding our way back to the path we started from. Allowing them to lure us off our chosen path leads to anxiety, abuse, and dysfunction, and rarely solves the issues we are facing. Breaking this pattern isn’t easy, yet it is the first step in developing a healthier relationship. Taking care of ourselves requires what feels like a selfish focus. Our loved ones aren’t mentally fit to be leading us around. As the mentally healthy ones, it’s important that we remember our goals. Prior experience has shown us that our efforts to bring them back to the path are rarely successful anyways, and often end up making things worse.
When the person with BPD wanders off the path - here is how to change the pattern -don’t chase after them. Stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Shut out the noise they are making to lure you further away from the path. Close your eyes and try to bring up your destination and goals. Once you’ve stopped your racing thoughts you are blocking the pressure they are putting on you, so you can evaluate things more clearly. Then ask yourself if following them into the wilderness has any chance of success. Evaluate if what they are saying is logical or if it has any bearing on your current journey. Is it a distraction and delay tactic? Does it need to be handled right now or can the issue wait to be resolved later? It’s not easy to block out their distraction and pleas for your attention, yet it is only with that critical pause that you can really notice how you are moving in the wrong direction, away from your goals.
When they don’t get the expected response from you, they will realise that they are traveling by themselves, which will initially confuse them, since up till now we’ve always joined them. To maintain their own equilibrium and to feel like they are still in control, often they will call out to you from the wilderness, trying to lure you into joining them. If you don’t respond to their baiting you, they will change tactics and use anger as a way to scare you into joining them in the wilderness. Faced with your apparent determination to stay on the path, this is where some Borderline Personality Sufferers will start to behave in ways that are evil and mean as they work to sabotage your goals and your determination in whatever fashion they can; threats, violence, destruction, intimidation, name calling, belittling, promises of withholding necessary things, retaliation, or any other painful thing they can think of to get you to join them in the wilderness. This is what we call the classic extinction burst. Things get worse before they get better.
At this point, each of you have different objectives. Their goal is to sidetrack you into joining them in dysregulation. Yours needs to be to stay focused on what your goals are, no matter how tempted you are to join them.
Remember - the first time you do this, your loved one probably won’t join you, no matter how long you wait or how patient you are. They will be determined to stay in the wilderness and wander, just to hurt and punish you. That is OK, as long as you expect it and are prepared for it. Try to keep in mind while they won’t like being alone, that it is a necessary thing for them to experience. It is what will bring on the opportunity for change.
We each have a journey here. We can no longer allow them to lead us astray. In time, if we stay committed to our goals, their journeys into the wilderness will be shorter and less frequent, as they adjust to the fact that we are staying on the path. We won’t be subjecting ourselves to as much pain, since we won’t be lost in the wilderness either. All of this is possible, “if” we make the commitment to stay true to our goals. If we understand that stepping off the path is unhealthy and makes things worse, not better.
United for now’