Friday, June 22, 2012

Ask Haven: Are people with BPD dangerous?

A Reader asks: How dangerous are people with BPD?

::sigh:: This is a very unfair question and one that comes heavily loaded from the stigma surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder.

Having Borderline Personality Disorder in and of itself does not make someone dangerous. It does not make someone a threat to society. BPD has been stigmatized as being very aggressive, very volatile, with people falling apart, throwing outbursts of temper and rage, and lashing out at those around them. While it’s true that this does sometimes happen, most people with BPD do not walk around in a constant stage of rage and aggression. This is only one aspect of the disorder and not the usual state a person lives in. I’d go so far as to say that many with BPD have sort of a default state in a Detached Protector mode (according to my Therapist). It’s a mode of anxiety and self-preservation, but outwardly not very different from most people. Unfortunately it’s the extreme cases that people report, hear about, and discuss. You don’t hear about the Quiet Borderlines, or the ones that tend to Act In and take things out on themselves… because they often don’t affect anyone other than themselves.

In fact, someone with BPD is more likely to be a danger to themselves than to others. The risk of suicide and self-harm are quite high for those diagnosed as Borderline and this does pose a significant threat to the person with BPD themselves.

It’s true that BPD can be very emotionally hurtful and taxing to all those involved but does this mean someone is dangerous? I guess that does depend on your definition of danger. Physically dangerous? Not usually, no. Often we live in a state of perpetual fear of abandonment and work to protect ourselves from that fear and also ensure that it does not happen at the same time. This is why there can be a lot of push-pull because these two things act against each other. I won’t say that there aren’t instances where people with BPD haven’t lashed out physically in an emotional impulse of hurt or anger. This can be true, but it is certainly not always true, nor is it as common as you may have been lead to believe.  Emotionally dangerous? Perhaps. But this is hardly the same thing as being a dangerous person. All relationships come with an element of risk because you’re putting your heart in someone else’s hands. When your heart is connected to someone that already has a mountain of confusion and trauma concerning their own emotional state, it’s very difficult for them to maneuver safely through new emotional territory. Something to keep in mind is that, for as painful as it can be for those affected by a loved one with BPD, it’s usually not intentionally malicious. It’s a fear response to protect the Self, not set out and cause you purposeful discomfort. Though unfortunately this does happen more often than anyone would like.

People are people though. How BPD presents in a person is unique to that person and their own base personality. It would be dishonest to say that nowhere does a dangerous person with BPD exist, because we live in a world where dangerous do people exist. There are also plenty of people without BPD that are extraordinarily dangerous. Probably more so than those that do have this diagnosis. There are plenty of people with BPD that would never hurt anyone (even where self-defense is warranted). So my point is, throw out the stigma. Treat each person as the individual they are.  As with all people, you should keep an open mind, open eyes, use your best judgment, and you will be able to determine if someone has the potential to be harmful to you. 

And on a completely separate note: Today was my 500th post! Holy crap. That's a lot of writing. I feel this to be a pretty decent accomplishment though. And as you may have noticed by getting to the end of this post: Since I won't be doing a Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy post every Friday (just every other), I think I'll substitute in an Ask Haven post in the interim. Cheers! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is Idealization actually Positive Projection?

… or does positive projection create idealization? I stumbled upon this train of thought while writing about positive projection the other day and I wanted to look into it further because (not to pat myself on the back) but I believe it has some validity. I couldn’t find anything concrete to support this theory specifically with idealization, but I did find this article on Positive Projection that I found to be quite interesting.

"When desirable qualities such as creativity, sensuality, or leadership ability are incompatible with one’s self-image, they often get projected onto others..."

Many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder have such a negative sense of self-perception and such a low sense of self-worth it’s easy for us to magnify our “failings” and almost impossible to recognize our better qualities. To the point where acknowledging our achievements and giving ourselves credit can feel shameful or embarrassing. I still struggle with this. I can certainly see how we could project the traits that we subconsciously feel are worth something onto another. If they actually do have some of these traits, I can see how it would be easy to magnify the importance of these traits, really latch onto how meaningful they are, because it’s easier to recognize and support a quality in someone else than it is to support ourselves. It’s a way to subconsciously give ourselves a greater sense of worth. It would also make the abandonment or rejection of something we value so greatly that much more devastating. It would almost be like a rejection by a part of ourselves. Proof that there is not something in us that is worth that much.

For Friend and Evil-Ex this has come in the form of artistic expression. They both had a lot of creativity and artistic flare which is something I valued greatly. In fact, it’s one of the things I lament most that Tech Boy does not have and I wonder if it’s why I don’t have such an intense connection with him. I’m sure it’s not the only reason, but in the former two we would become so wrapped up in our artistic fantasies and creative outlets that it was like I’d found my soulmate (not that I believe in souls). Something to ponder.

"...Positive projection is frequently an integral part of falling in love. Carl Jung maintains that all impassioned, almost-magical relationships between people involve projection. The other person becomes the object of great love or loathing, and sometimes both.

We usually don’t see our own projections, because they stem from the unconscious, and because they get cast onto someone with a suitable hook. But we can distinguish projections from objective observations, because projections are accompanied by considerable heat or emotion found in the feelings of awe, adoration and reverence...."

In retrospect I can see this as true. I would be so overwhelmed by the love, heat, and passion they would inspire in me because of our “connection” over a few things, that I would utterly ignore or rationalize all the other glaring points of contention. The abuse, the being married, the lack of true personal strength, the inability to show reciprocity in caring. Things that were truly important, were easily overshadowed by the heights of the more “important” things.

"The problems with projection include the following:

1. Prevents objectivity. Projection often prevents people from being perceptive and objective about themselves and others.

2. Prevents personal development. Unconscious content that is projected onto another person becomes less accessible for personal integration. “She’s the articulate one.” “He decides where to vacation.” “She handles the finances.” Often people will hold back from developing the admired qualities in themselves.

3. Too much dependence. A person may get into an excessively dependent relation with the person who is the object of these positive projections. “He’ll handle the finances; he’s good at that.” “She’ll speak to the children; she’s good at that.”

4. Deep disappointment. Sooner or later the person on whom one is projecting admirable qualities won’t be able to live up to one’s expectations, which can lead to deep disappointment, frustration, and loathing. So, we must refrain from expecting our partners to do what we can do for ourselves."

Deep disappointment is an understatement. I think this is probably where the quick devaluations come in. We put so much stock, so much of our own self-worth, into the idealize projections of ourselves into this other person, that when they disappoint us, it’s like an affirmation of our own failure and disappointment of Self. It’s the disappointment in ourselves that is the real hit, or the realization that if someone that we believed, projected, to be SO GOOD, can fall, than we can’t be all that good either. If we can’t be all good, what’s to keep anyone around. It’s one small step away from rejection and abandonment. The choices left are: Reject before we can be rejected, latch on for dear life, or deny and rationalize the disappointment. All extreme when the healthy thing to do would be to realize that they’re human. Humans make mistakes. It’s okay. And that goes for ourselves as well.  

"...We cannot avoid having projections. Yet, we can pay attention to our projections and thereby learn what we can develop within ourselves. Projection provides a great deal of value when we realize that that which inspires us in others has been in us all along. For instance, the heat with which you admire his “amazing intelligence and ability to speak” indicates that you value but disown those attributes in yourself. Being aware of your projection lets you know that something in you is seeking to develop your intelligence and eloquence...."

I really like this as sort of an advanced exercise in Self-Awareness.

~~ Identify the abilities/skills/traits you idealize in someone else; the things you think make them the perfect person for you. Is this a trait unique to them in the relationship? Or is it something you value in yourself as well? Do you have this ability too? Be honest with yourself.  

~~ Pursue those things further. Pick one trait and work to develop it in yourself. 

It might turn out that you deserve to give yourself a lot more credit where you have formerly been denying it. Of course, it may turn out that it’s not something you have a natural proclivity for and it’s something you value highly and wish you could embody. It’s okay if you don’t have the same skills. In fact, this may indicate that it’s not a projection and something you truly value in the other person which is also an excellent byproduct of this exercise in self-awareness.

Again, these are just my thoughts and theories on the subject and where my mind roams, but I think it makes sense. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How do you stop Projecting?

Sometimes I wonder about people that write lists and come up with checkboxes of criteria to walk you through stopping a habit. They make it sound so easy. Do A, B, and  C and voila! Cured. It makes me wonder if they’ve ever dealt with those issues personally or if they’re on the outside looking in and coming up with things they think would work from the perspective of an unaffected mind. 

The thing about projection is that most people don’t even realize they’re doing it, when they’re in the midst of doing it. They may realize it later or in retrospect but by that point it’s usually too late and the projecting has already occurred and likely the consequences have already been suffered.

So don’t let those checklists fool you. It’s not a simple matter of following a few boxes down a page. There is hope though. There are some things you can do to put yourself on a path of least projection.
As with most things, it begins with raising your own self-awareness. This is often difficult, especially if you’re like me and have a dissociative problem where you don’t always feel connected to yourself. For me, Therapist recommends that I write everyday; keep a journal. When I enter into a situation that causes any kind of feelings for me, good or bad, it’s important that I write them down and contemplate them. If you can identify what you’re feeling, you can begin to recognize why you’re feeling it. It may sound silly to those of you that don’t deal with this, but it’s pretty common for me to not know what I’m feeling about something. It’s a blank spot where my emotions should be. This happens most when I’ve passed the point of being emotionally overwhelmed, so theoretically, you’d want to start recognizing your emotions before you reach this point the next time. If you can identify what you feel, you can own it, let yourself experience it, and hold onto it. When you can hold onto your emotions you are less likely to project them onto others and can soothe yourself.

It’s like a game of psychological catch with a baseball of molten emotion. It’s too hot and uncomfortable for you to hold onto so you throw it at someone else where it’s easier to process.

This doesn’t help you deal though, and it hurts the person you’re smacking in the face with a baseball. 

When you begin to recognize what feelings and behaviors belong to you, you can own them. In owning them you raise your self-awareness and your own personal power over your emotions. The problem with projecting is that it takes those emotions out of your own hands, it makes things feel out of control because you’re seeing things in other people, and other people aren’t  controllable. That lack of control creates an intense amount of unbearable vulnerability. Vulnerable is the last thing we need to feel more of. When we are able to recognize and own our own emotions, they become things we can take control of which puts the power back in our own hands.

Like I said, this isn’t something that happens quickly. It takes time and some personal effort, but it’s possible.

The other thing that is important to learn, is relating. With Borderline Personality Disorder that relational ability is severely impaired. To relate it takes two things: 1. Being open to looking at your own feelings, and 2. Being vulnerable enough to let others begin to know you in a consistent and authentic way. We all know this is an experiment in trial and error and often a painful one, but eventually, connecting to those emotions, even the painful ones, allows us to develop a better sense of people and relationships. Which helps us choose healthier, less painful ones. When we keep throwing our emotions outside of ourselves, keep projecting our problems onto other people, of course we’re going to keep seeing the same problems with everyone and continue to make poor choices in the people we keep close.

So how do you start? Well, pick a negative relationship in your life. Is there someone at work or at home you don’t get along with? Do you feel like someone is out to get you? Try to figure out where that tension began. Here are some steps you can use:

(1) Who are you projecting on? Write down one person in your life you are judging harshly.

(2) What are the things that you tell yourself about them? What is the quality in them you most judge. Write it down.

(3) Identify how you display that quality, even if it is in a completely different way. If you can’t see how you display that quality now, allow yourself to see how you could display it in the future, the circumstances that could bring rise to that quality.

(4) Once you realize that you are capable of displaying the quality that you see in the person you’ve been judging, notice if your heart softens and if the judgmental voice in your mind quiets as you wake up from the trance of projection. 

It might not be a perfect plan, and it might not completely cure you of projection right away, but it’s definitely a start. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. The hardest part is taking an honest look at ourselves. And I mean anyone, not just those of us with BPD. Everyone has false or idealized perceptions of themselves. Taking a good honest look at our motivations and inner workings isn’t always the most pleasant journey. But it’s a meaningful one. And in the end, an empowering one. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sick Day

I was planning on posting about How to stop Projection today, but as it turns out, I'm too sick to function. 

Seriously. Who gets sick mid-June? I have a theory that since it was such a mild winter the virus germs got all confused. Now it's past their usual due date for sickness and they're all scrambling to get their infection quota in. Like, "Shit guys, we missed the cue on this one, quick we need to launch all that misery we missed out on when we should have been spreading it around! Go go go!" 

Yeah, so that's my theory. 

Fail. I'd honestly rather be doing work than have lungs filled with ick and gross. 

Relatively accurate representation

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