Thursday, February 20, 2014

Resolution, Not Conflict

I found this article the other day and at first I was hesitant to present it because frankly, I found it off putting. I was offended by it…. At first. Here’s the thing to remember though, not all articles or studies will necessarily relate to you personally, we are all individuals with very different lives, with very different stories and upbringings, but it may help someone… and by the end of this article there was something that did hit home for me. Now it is quite long so I’m going to present this in 2 parts. Stick with me until tomorrow on this. It’s the bit tomorrow where it breaks down into the different types of patterns that I was most intrigued by….

The guide to problem-solving. by Susan Heitler, Ph.D.

From Cute Little Girl To Boderline Personality

Difficult daughters may show early signs of potential borderline patterns.
Published on December 12, 2011 by Susan Heitler, Ph.D. in Resolution, Not Conflict

One of the prominent commonalities usually found in folks diagnosed with bpd (borderline personality disorder) is their fear of abandonment.  Could it be possible that folks with bpd fear abandonment because they do things that motivate people in their lives to want to get rid of them? Their off-putting behavior may be related to feeling that they are royalty, special people entitled to be treated as the prince or princess of the family and entitled to create chaos if they do not get royal treatment.  Royalty syndrome is a losing formula for how to make a relationship last. 
How do borderline personality disorder patterns develop?

This flat out pissed me off. Royalty treatment? I wouldn’t know how to act like a princess if someone put a tiara on my head and handed me a kingdom. I’m the one that does for people, not the one that expects people to do for me. I generally feel bad and extremely awkward when people do anything for me, even at appropriate times. I take on everything myself. Even other peoples burdens. The few times I’ve needed help or to rely on others I’ve learned that this is wrong or something that I should be ashamed of. This is a lesson I’ve had practically beaten into me.
Then, I had to stop for a second and think that maybe this article was talking about someone that had a different experience than me. 

It's not pc to blame the victim.  If a woman has fears, we should be sympathetic, right?  Or maybe not.  Maybe the fears of a person who fears abandonment are totally appropriate because that person's provocative behaviors invite rejection.  

Why would someone want to abandon a person with bpd?  Allowing a person who expects to be treated like a prince or princess to remain involved in your life may sign you up for too much emotional turbulence. The kind of royalty belief I am referring to is the kind that bites off your head ("Off with your head!") if you do not do what they want you to do.

I learned this lesson the hard way, from experience. 

Fortunately, the experience was short.  It ended however with my behaving in a manner that at the time I could hardly believe was in my behavioral repertoire.  Using the tone of voice my mother used to call talking 'in no uncertain terms,'  I sternly told little Ginny Mae, "I will never allow you to cross the doorstep of my house again.  You are never again welcome to enter my house." 

Those words were harsh, especially for speaking to a six year old girl.  Were they words of abandonment?  Yes.  Or worse.  I didn't merely walk away from Ginny Mae.  I told her that I would never allow her in my home again.  I ejected her from my life.

My secretary describes me as unflappable.  People usually like me and I usually like them.  How could I have spoken so meanly to poor young Ginny May?

It started when I invited six cute little girls to join my soon-to-be-seven-year-old daughter and our family for a birthday weekend in the mountains.  We live in Colorado and my daughter and our family were relishing a fun weekend with the children at a cabin in the woods.

For two and a half days, the girls played with each other delightfully, all except Ginny Mae.  Every time a group of girls included Ginny Mae in their activity, fighting erupted.   Whether they played with dolls, built forts out of branches, baked cookies in the kitchen, or played hide and go seek amongst the trees, every two-some or three-some that included Ginny Mae ended up in tears, anger, yelling and sometimes even hitting.

The repeated eruptions of anger turned me into a firefighter.  By the end of the weekend, I was exhausted.  The last fight, an argument about who would ride home in which car, finally flipped my switch.  I transformed from warm helpful host to sternly rejecting, fed up, overwhelmed mother bear. 

"I do not want you ever again to set foot in my house!" I spewed out.  "You are never, that's never, to come play with my daughter again!" I repeated forcefully to be certain that Ginny Mae got the point that from this point forward she was to stay totally out of my world.

I succeeded in ejecting Ginny Mae from my world.  

I pretty much never saw her again.  Ginny Mae did however continue in the same grade as my daughter, who for years felt fearful at the sight of her provocative, quick-to-pick-a-fight friend.  

As it turned out, Ginny Mae even ended up attending my daughter's same college, but fortunately my daughter by then understood that Ginny Mae was herself the victim of her habit of picking fight.

Actually, my daughter's youthful experiences with Ginny Mae may have served to help her as an adult to understand borderline patterns of functioning.  Now a clinical psychologist herself, my daughter is particularly effective with clients who show borderline patterns such as emotional hyper-reactivity, seeing situations and people as all good or all bad, having a divisive impact on groups (splitting), misinterpreting situations in ways that lead them to feel like a victim, and repeatedly putting themselves in situations that prove hurtful to themselves.  With regard to her, and my, learning this story has at least a partially happy ending.  

In addition, this incident with Ginny Mae that happened now over thirty years ago continues to intrigue me.

Specifically, how do some young people, most often but not limited to female, develop personality patterns that create chaos and fighting wherever they go? 

            Well…. We’ll get to those tomorrow… Stay tuned!!!


  1. I immediately question what this mom was thinking by having a birthday party with that many 6 year olds last for *an entire weekend*. My goodness. That was a recipe for disaster, regardless of whether or not one of the kids was on the trajectory to having BPD, ADHD, ODD, or whatever. Playdates for kids that age should be a little more length-appropriate, not an entire weekend. Why on earth would she have not expected some level of drama. Yes, NEA-BPD is doing research to have parents see if they can (after the fact) identify characteristics in their child during development that perhaps would have been markers for BPD, so yes, some of those markers are there in early childhood....but I think this lady really is inqualified to pass judgment on this poor 6 year old girl, especially in light of the girls all being taken out of their familiar environment and for such a lengthy period of time...of course there would be drama and it doesn't have to be BPD related! I can see why you're pissed.

    BTW, I went to a DSM-V training on Monday and thought of you...and I mean this in a good way even though it may not sound like it. You mentioned in one of your posts in January how you felt like you relapse and you were feeling badly about it. The speaker (Jack Klott) said "relapse should never be viewed as a failure; it's always a learning toll on our journey to recovery". :)

  2. Yeah this article was quite offensive at the start, I can see that... Yikes.
    But I agree that children can display borderline symptoms too, sometimes loads of them quite intensely. I think borderline personality disorder usually starts very early and from my own experience children can definitely have strong symtoms of this disorder from a young age.

    Do Borderlines push people away subconsciously, sort of like a self fulfilling abandonment prophecy?
    It sounds like something they would do. But maybe it isn't even that at all, maybe their desperate behaviour to make people stay in itself can be overwhelming and stressful. Like their tantrums when they are told to leave at the end of the day. Well I'm just speaking from my own experiences but yeah... It's an interesting article so far...although I'm not sure if this writer's conclusion is going to be rather critical of the borderline.

  3. I am hoping the author comes to a more compassionate conclusion than the one she opened up with here, but I have my doubts.

    I also think it's very dangerous to suppose anything about one particular person that she has experience with and impose that on an entire diagnosis. I mean, I know my particular fears of abandonment come from my parents actually abandoning me physically and emotionally from the very beginning, so I think I take offense here that she suggests those with BPD "deserve" abandonment. But my provocative behaviors didn't manifest until my teenage years, so I am pretty positive it was bad parenting, not bad child.

    I also get the sense that she wants to somehow feel better for treating that 6 year old girl like shit, but also knows at the same time that it was very wrong of her as the adult to speak like that. I hope she knows that the problem was not that a 6 year with emotional sensitivity didn't have the words to effectively communicate during what sounds like a very overwhelming weekend for even an emotionally "stable" child, the problem is that too many adults, and western society in general, are ill equipped to deal with a variety of emotional sensitivity ranges, and children aren't being taught the skills to communicate them in a way less emotional (emotionally inept? Why is my sensitivity the abnormal/weakness? Is not their coldness a weakness getting in the way of their compassion and understanding of the world?) people deem appropriate.

    Alright, I suppose I should just sit tight for the second half.

  4. i most definitely showed most of the signs written in the article as a child. i was a horrible kid. prone to bully the boys in my class and scaring the girls into following my lead ( i am a girl). the teachers hated my guts. BUT, i also was severely traumatized from an early age, lived with an extremely violent alcoholic father. my life was pure hell. why doesnt adults seeing children so out of control put two and two together and bother to call the cps or such?

  5. one more point regarding western way of raising kids...i am african, i lived in a traditional multigenerational familiy before coming to europe at 6 years old. i had been through war, refugee camp and truly horrific things. later, after ending up in a group home the psychologists who evaluted me wondered if, although i mos def had behavioural problems, growing up with tons of family members made me less damaged than if i'd grown up in a western-style nuclear family. multigenerational families and close family relations means there are always someone who'll comfort you even when your own parents invalidate you. you are never alone as a child, there are tons of cousins to play with. tons of aunties, uncles, grandparents, sometimes greatgrandparents. whatever shortcomings your own parents have just doesnt matter that much in this kind of settings.

    i am a social worker myself now, after a horrific life with bpd, but again and again i see the same thing; immigrants from similar backgrounds as myself, tend to have healthier psyches due to an upbringing in big families.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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