Friday, June 10, 2011

Borderline Narcissism

Narcissism by definition is the personality trait of egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. The narcissist is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity.

This, however, is not Borderline Narcissism. Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder are both Cluster B grouped Personality Disorders (as relevant as that is) but they’re far from being the same thing. As is common with most Personality Disorders there are some overlapping characteristics between the two. How these characteristics present vary in severity and manifestation.

Let’s refresh yesterday’s point: Entitlement or a 'Sense of Entitlement' is an unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

   In clinical psychology and psychiatry, an unrealistic, exaggerated, or rigidly held sense of entitlement may be considered a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, seen in those who 'because of early frustrations...arrogate to themselves the right to demand lifelong reimbursement from fate'.
Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.

Belief in the special, exceptional nature of 'narcissistic entitlement dictates that the patient has a right to life on his own terms...Such narcissistic entitlement plays a central role in borderline pathology, since the borderline sees himself as a special person with special rights and entitlements, such that any frustration of these entitled desires tends to undermine and often shatter the patient's self-esteem'.

In the wake of Kohut's self-psychology, a valorisation of narcissistic entitlement might be said to have taken place, as 'the age of "normal narcissism" and normal narcissistic entitlement had arrived...[a] child's right and entitlement that its parents are obliged to proffer at the least the minimum requisite "self-object" allow the infant/child to develop a sense of self-cohesion'.    

For someone with Borderline Personality Disorder narcissism does not manifest as a belief that we are actually better than anyone else. (At least I don’t generally feel superiority over anyone.) It’s more a sense that our emotions can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult to see past our own scope and sphere of influence long enough to take into consideration the needs of others.

We may not consider ourselves ‘special’ consciously, but we do have an emphasis on our emotional needs that does drives our lives in a way that is of priority or deserving specialized treatment.

Unlike for the narcissist, for the borderline, when this favorable treatment is not met it does not necessarily feel like an attack on our superiority. It feels like an attack on our self-esteem and sense of self-worth.   So while the trigger may be a little different, it’s still a trigger, and can often lead to frustration, depression, upset, and rage.

Hm. Back to yesterday’s post, “Because of the elevated highs and lows in mood that people with personality disorders often experience, it is not uncommon for them to attach elevated sense of importance to their own emotional needs. They may appear at times to care only about their own desires and needs at the expense of other people around them or they may habitually prioritize their own needs above those of others.”

To me, this is what Borderline Narcissism is.

Depending on the Borderline this may be severe and ever present or more situational, as is my case. There’s no denying that I fall to feelings of self-centeredness especially when I’m so emotionally wracked I can barely crawl out of my own head. What other people need simply has no room in my mind when it’s all I can do to claw my way out of my own destructive thoughts. It’s not that I don’t want to think about other people, the torrent of emotion, doubt, anger, frustration is an utterly overwhelming deluge.  I don’t live in a perpetual state of this though.

The sense of entitlement comes from this aspect of narcissism that since we have put such an importance on our own emotional needs, that we may expect that others also hold our needs with the same priority. Especially when we’ve invested so much of ourselves into someone else we would automatically assume that they would give the same exaggerated emotional investment back. Even demand it. And when that demand is not met, the frustration is exceptional.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Common Sense of Entitlement - Borderline Personality Disorder Entitlement

Well. Maybe not all of it. But something. I'm sure of it. Or not. But maybe you'll offer it anyways because you think I deserve it. No? Well you should have. Shouldn't you?  

Entitlement or a 'Sense of Entitlement' is an unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

“Because of the elevated highs and lows in mood that people with personality disorders often experience, it is not uncommon for them to attach elevated sense of importance to their own emotional needs. They may appear at times to care only about their own desires and needs at the expense of other people around them or they may habitually prioritize their own needs above those of others. This trait is often referred to as a "sense of entitlement".”

(This is tied in with what is often considered Borderline Narcissism.)

“Sometimes, people who suffer from personality disorders seem to have a no sense of shame nor scruples. They are not afraid to "make a fool out of themselves", it's always the other who is to blame when something goes wrong. That in-built "what would other people think of me if I did this or said that" can sometimes appear not to exist in them. This makes it more common for them to tread into territory most people would avoid.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the phrase “I don’t care if I make a fool of myself”, “I don’t embarrass”. I’ve never had any scruples about saying exactly what is on my mind unless I think it will turn out poorly for one of my own goals. It’s odd. I never wonder what people would think of me. I know they would think I’m a terrible person; I simply don’t care. I will often stay my tongue simply because I don’t want the attention or I don’t have the energy for an argument but I don’t avoid issues because I’m afraid broach touchy subjects. My personal boundaries are practically non-existent and I don’t see other peoples without being shown so I don’t think to tread lightly.

What it Feels Like:

The sense of entitlement is often interpreted as selfishness by those who are closest to them. However, the personality-disordered individual may forcefully and even convincingly defend their position. The disconnect often occurs when a person who suffers from the personality disorder feels the need more intensely than is normal for most people - even to a point where they attach a sense of desperation or adopt a crisis response, where immediate bystanders see no crisis and are willing to apply situational ethics, sacrificing long term goals for short term relief.

This is something I hate to admit to. In fact, it’s something that I’ve only very, very recently realized I’ve done.

I put so much of myself into other people, into relationships, into providing and doing things for others… somewhere along the lines I lose that I do these things because I enjoy them or because I care and it gets muddied with “well look at all these things I’ve done for you, doesn’t that mean I deserve something back?” “Sure you’re there, but I’ve done so much more, I should have this” “I’m so much better for you than them because of all of these things that I’ve done”…. And on and on it goes. Except it’s not really true I suppose. It’s hard to admit. It’s hard to face. When you care about someone so much, want so much to do for and be with someone, that they can’t always be for you the exact specific thing that you NEED in order to have everything perfect and whole, complete and right. When they can only be who they are; with a normal human beings ability to give of themselves, if they choose, it can feel like we’ve been mistreated, neglected, ignored, and unappreciated. It hurts and it’s confusing. I’ve done so much for you. You wanted this thing done, you may not have asked for it, but I did it, I didn’t ask for anything in return, I just did it because I knew you wanted it… over and over… until somewhere it compounds into something that may not have originally been there.  

In that, a realization that all ties back into our sense of self-worth. Despite all of these things you still don’t want to give the same in return? So we do more, hope more, want more, and yet you’re still only human capable of giving, and/or taking, the amount that you are willing to give, which is never enough to make us feel like our efforts are truly appreciated. Every time you can’t, or won’t, reciprocate, it becomes more and more frustrating. Or maybe it’s a failing on the borderlines part. Despite all her efforts, the lack of reciprocation {disproportionate} seems like a rejection. We did all this, we must deserve some more recognition and yet we’re not getting it so you must not think we’re good enough. Who do you think you are? Maybe it’s not that you don’t appreciate what we do. Maybe you appreciate it just fine. Maybe you’ve just been taking advantage of our generosity. Without giving back something we deserve. Anger. This can follow with lashing out, breaking down, dissolving, seething, any number of things, until we shame ourselves into remembering how good of a person, friend, loved one you are, and we start all over again trying to do things for you that will make you forgive us and appreciate us again.

Cycle after cycle. And with each iteration it gets a little stronger. I’ve never set off with a sense of entitlement. Somewhere along the way it develops. Gradually.

Thinking back on this I know I’ve done this so many times with so many different people. Probably everyone that truly gets close to me. And I’ve never thought I was wrong or that I wanted something unreasonable. I’ve always FELT like what I needed was totally justified and appropriate. Idealized, maybe, but not out of proportion to the effort and meaning that everything had to me. Except, I’m starting to think that it really was. It doesn’t change the fact that these situations still felt a certain way to me, but I’m beginning to see the signs and clues that maybe will prevent me from falling into this trap of entitlement in the future.

Really the only thing that I think has ever worked for me is for the other person{s} to take a solid stance. Don’t be wishy-washy.   Don’t leave room for interpretation in what you want or your intentions for the relationship are. Set boundaries and stick to them. This will help both the Borderline and the NT. If you don’t establish where your world starts and her world ends she won’t have any way to check the elevated need for inclusion in yours because what does take precedence to her is how she feels.

Tune in tomorrow for a first look at what I mean by Borderline Narcissism….

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Living in Denial

Living in denial is a way of life for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.

I’m sure I lived in denial of my actions and circumstances for years. I may still be doing so, but if so I can’t exactly see it, because the only perspective I have is my own and I can’t see how other people see me. It’s all speculation from my perspective. 

Denial is a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

An excerpt from Out of the Fog:

Most people find themselves in denial in everyday living situations, particularly in handling threatening situations, grief or loss. This is quite normal not to face reality - or pretend it does not exist, as one struggles to cope with difficult circumstances.

Denial can result from experiences, memories or information which contradicts our world view resulting in cognitive dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance is a psychological term for the discomfort that most people feel when they encounter information which contradicts their existing set of beliefs or values. People who suffer from personality disorders often experience cognitive dissonance when they are confronted with evidence that their actions have hurt others or have contradicted their stated morals.

However, with personality disorders, there is a phenomenon known as dissociation - which is a more pervasive, destructive form of denial - where a person is not merely disregarding, neglecting or avoiding the truth but rather forms a conviction or belief around a fictitious set of beliefs and attempts to impose, force or project that fictitious version of reality onto others.


A family member calls you on the telephone and 5 minutes later insists that it did not happen.

A spouse commits an act of violence and later refuses to acknowledge it.

A child cannot recall an incident of parental abuse.

A divorced woman lives as though her ex-spouse is still living with her.

What Not to Do:

NT's can sometimes be stunned to discover that the personality disordered individual in their lives completely believes a completely false reality they have invented. It is common for NT's to spend a great deal of effort fruitlessly trying to reason, cajole or argue with a personality disordered individual into "snapping out of it", "waking up and smelling the coffee" or "facing the facts". It can be hard for NT's to accept that for a person who is dissociating, the denials they are expressing are the facts - at least at that time - for them.

Under such circumstances, standard communication or negotiation techniques are ineffective - since they are built on the premise that both parties can agree on what the facts are, have the ability to reason and can work towards a common interest or compromise.

What To Do:

Accept that each person's reality is their own property and everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, think what they want to think and experience their own world without intimidation, control or persecution. That applies to the personality-disordered individual in your life and it also applies to you. That will mean you may have to "agree to disagree" on important facts, history or conclusions.

Remind yourself that one person's opinion of you does not define you. You are you. Seek out the counsel of wise, caring and supportive people who you can trust to help you rebuild your self-esteem.
If someone says something which you believe isn't true, it is appropriate to declare "I don't see it that way". Once!

{ -What I like about this is that it is non-confrontational way to approach a disagreement. Often when you are in disagreement with someone as emotionally volatile as one with a Borderline Personality Disorder they will react strongly and lash out at any affront to their world view or perception. “I” statements, do not imply anything wrong with the other persons perspective, only that you are coming from a different place. – Haven }

If you, or any children in your care, are being exposed to abuse of any kind, take appropriate action to protect yourself and your children.

After that it is appropriate to walk away from any further discussion and go about living your life in an emotionally and physically safe, healthy, and productive way.

Hm. I agree for the most part but not about the dissociative tie in. I do have a pretty severe dissociative disorder and I don’t agree that it is a form of denial. Not in the way they phrase it, “… forms a conviction or belief around a fictitious set of beliefs and attempts to impose, force or project that fictitious version of reality onto others.”  In my experience, dissociation is not something I can choose to do. It’s a slipping out of my reality. I can ‘check in’ and know that I am actually in reality but I feel other. It’s not a choice by any means. It’s something that happens in order to remove me from a painful or uncomfortable experience, but I can still perceive the world around me in a way that is not delusional. It’s also not something I project, or even can project, onto anyone else. It’s a sense of being detached and removed from others, not imposing onto others. I talk a lot about dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization.


Denial. This is pretty much how I lived in my relationship with Evil-Ex. I wanted to believe the lies and manipulations he told me to keep me, which were in complete opposition to how he acted, in complete opposition to what I believed I deserved, in complete opposition to what I wanted from a significant other. I knew how he was treating me, but I couldn’t reconcile it with my emotional attachment to him, what I wanted from him, and lived in a state of perpetual denial. I also lived in a state of denial that my actions and reactions were appropriate; for most of my life really. Instead of being able to see {in reality} what I was doing, I was/am only able to feel how it affects me. I know the circumstances that ‘caused’ these feelings, and from there how I reacted was ‘justified’.  I may have been overreacting but I wasn’t wrong. I was the wronged. In my relationship with Evil-Ex I actually was the wronged. However, my relationship with my parents and siblings growing up, this was not the case. I was wrong and in utter denial that the way I functioned in my world was not appropriate.

I want to make this clear. Just because we have a Personality Disorder does not make us always wrong in our perceptions. They may be skewed, but like anyone else in this world we occasionally are on the receiving end of misbehavior which is not a product of our disordered reality.  I also want to say that denial is generally subconscious and not intentional. In order to heal, we must get out of denial.

*NT = Neuro-Typical. I use this to refer to people that are not Personality Disordered. A lot of places use Non {BPD} as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Road to Recovery...

Last week a Reader asked:
Do you think you could share a little about how you decided to address the pain and try to recover? There is someone in our life who we WISH would seek treatment, and I'm wondering what might get her there. Thanks.

How I decided to address the pain and try to recover. I wish I could give a completely selfless answer and say that I saw how I was affecting the people around me, that I realized how hurtful I was. I wish I could say that I wanted to stop lashing out and devastating the world around me. Unfortunately when I was taking out my emotions on other people I mostly felt like it was everyone else that did not understand me and the only thing wrong with me was that I was misunderstood. I felt hopeless. No one and nothing could help me because no one understood and if no one understood how could anyone do anything at all. Eventually I began Acting Out less and turned inward. I took out the majority of my turbulence on myself, Acting In. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still affect the people around me. It does. I’m just not as actively aggressive towards other people. Anyone close to me is still caught in my wake, or at the very least, sees what I go through, realizes that I’m hurting, and wishes better for me. It came down to the fact that I wanted to stop feeling so turbulent. I wanted it for me. First and foremost I want to feel better. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a better friend and be better to everyone around me. I absolutely do, but this wasn’t my main driver though it is a product of what I’m working towards.   The people that I’m close to care about me and they truly want me to be happy.

I’ve been an emotional disaster, especially when it comes to relationships, for as long as I can remember. It’s depressing. It’s painful. How I take it out on myself is excruciating. How I take it out on others is worse. I finally came to the realization that there has to be something better than living in constant pain and depression.

Growing up I fought the idea of therapy and medication. When I moved to New York I was involved in a very abusive relationship.  I bottomed out.   Finally, I sought therapy as a last resort.

Unfortunately as is often the case, it takes hitting bottom to have the greatest motivation to dig ourselves out of the holes we’ve dug. I wish I could say that was the only time I’d hit bottom, but it happens a lot. However, it got me to open up to the idea of therapy. Having the help to work through is invaluable and I strongly encourage this.

I think the last big kick in the ass was what lead me to the Psych ER {Intro, Part 1, Part 2, Morals}. The relationship I had been in wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad. It was just boring. I had no reason or inclination to stay in it and yet, when it ended I Acted Out in a way that got the cops and an ambulance called on me. I scared the hell out of my friends, terrified my parents, could have lost us our new apartment, could potentially have lost future employment… the repercussions of my actions were just not acceptable.  Especially when there’s no rational reason for my reactions to have been as extreme as they were. I knew something was very wrong for most of my life, but this was the last straw. I determined to stay on an anti-depressant, which ultimately was not enough, but it was a start. All these things; the realization of just how bad my actions could affect me and everyone else, remembering that through previous therapy I had begun to see bright spots again. I could see glimpses of better ways of living. I wanted not just glimpses of a better way, but actually walking a better path completely. Constant depression is a vortex of joylessness. I wanted to escape the blackness. No. Not black. Everything was grey. Grey, dreary, dull, nothing being crisp or vibrant for long enough to glean any happiness from. It’s no way to live and it doesn’t have to be that way. Finally I began to want for myself what my friends and family have always wanted for me; the chance of happiness. It’s why I created this blog; to help me as I work towards this. It’s something I want for anyone fighting a Borderline Personality Disorder.

The turning point came for me when I realized I want to get better.  No one can understand me, if I don’t help people understand me. If I don’t reach out to allow myself to receive the help I need. This is also my responsibility. This is a big world. I’m only one person in this world. There are plenty of people that love and care about me, but they also have their own lives to deal with. Ultimately, I am responsible for my own happiness and healing. This sounds like a sagely bit of wisdom, but for someone with BPD who wants so much to be close to other people without actually knowing how in a  functional way, it’s anything but easy. But it is possible. And it gets easier the more we work to embrace this.

I don’t know. I’m so tired of being so self-consumingly lonely, so sad and depressed, so misunderstood… so afraid… of everything. Life does not have to be this way. I refuse to believe that this is simply my lot in life. There is only one thing that can determine my fate, and that’s me. If I choose to be a different way, I can take control of my world and make it something that is worthwhile.  

In order to do this, therapy has helped me immensely. Writing this blog has helped me more than I expected. Being able to reach out, connect with other people struggling with a Borderline Personality Disorder, knowing that I’m not alone, hearing from other people as they also fight, or as they seek advice, or simply leave a few words to let me know they’ve been by… knowing that I’m reaching out and connecting with others like me; helps. I’m also determined to stick to a medicinal regime as well. I’ve previously floundered with this a little, but I’m working with my Psychiatrist to find meds that will aid me. There is no medical cure for personality disorders, however there’s hope that meds can alleviate some of the symptoms like depression and anxiety.

Realizing just how much I could lose. The opportunities, the people I love , my friends,…  the disappointment… The thought of losing them or letting them down is my biggest motivation now. I have a lot of people that I love and care about, and I want to be able to be with them in a healthy way that won’t drive them away.

You need to understand that I’ve lived with this for well over half of my life. Almost two decades of feeling like things would never get better. It’s not something you can just turn to someone and say ‘cheer up, it’ll all work out’ when so far, for so long, it hasn’t. It’s hard to see a better way when you’ve never known a better way. It requires a leap of faith. A leap that is incredibly scary when so often things smash to bits on the rocks below. It’s looking for a safe way down to the ground when your path is lined with jagged rocks and chards of glass. Fortunately there’s never just one way around the obstacles set in front of you in life. It takes a shift of perspective, but that sense of being safe in your own Self, is absolutely attainable. At least, I believe it is.

I  hope that gives some insight into your question. Thank you for asking.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Completing Sentences

Here’s something I completely forgot to mention. After my last session Therapist had called and left me an additional homework assignment called Completing Sentences.  It’s exactly what it sounds to be. She starts a sentence, and I complete it. Over the course of her message she also said things like she was thinking about me, and worried about me. I had a really hard week and I’ve been upset but it’s all a part of the therapeutic process and I’m doing really well. My therapist is a very caring and nurturing woman. For as frustrating as I know I must be, she’s so very supportive and I am glad to have her as my therapist.

Assignment about my fears - Completing sentences:
No one
I’m afraid to
Will I ever
I want to
I feel most afraid when
One good thing about my fear is

Immediate impressions:
No one… will ever love me.
I’m afraid to… be myself.
Will I ever… be loved
I want to… be a whole person.
I feel most afraid when… I’m alone.
One good thing about my fear is… I am only myself.

Expanded and detailed:
No one… will ever love me. No one will stay with me.
I’m afraid to… be myself. People will see me for who I really am. See all my flaws, see that I’m not perfect, that I can’t be who they want me to be, and leave me or want me to leave. When they see this it will prove what I’ve always known, that I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, nothing I do will ever be good enough.
Will I ever… be loved. For me. In a way that doesn’t end or leave. Will I have friends that love me and stay, will I find a partner that wants to spend their life with me. Will I ever be the kind of person that doesn’t need this kind of validation? The kind of person that can love herself and be safe in the knowledge that if I appreciate who I am, than that is all that truly matters?
I want to… be a whole person. I want to be in control of my life. I want to love myself and my body. I want to look in the mirror, recognize who I see, and appreciate who I see.
I feel most afraid when… I’m alone. No one will remember me. My attachment to them will dissolve. If I’m not around people they’ll forget me and I won’t be a part of their lives anymore.
One good thing about my fear is… I am only myself. I have no one to play to, pretend for. No one to influence who I should be. No one to tell me that I’m not good enough, not okay. What’s so weird for me is that in general I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. It’s only those very few people that are close to me that have this kind of influence and effect on me.

For this post I’m only doing my initial impressions. Thinking about it for a few minutes I can come up with probably dozens of things to expand on but that’ll just be overwhelming here. It’s a good exercise. Try it. I’d actually be really interested in seeing what you come up with so I invite you to e-mail me or leave it in the comments section if you feel like sharing.
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