Borderlines are human chameleons.

chameleon

My latest obsession seems to be the similarities and differences between people with NPD and BPD. I’ve been trying to come to terms with the idea an increasing number of mental health professionals hold that BPD may actually be on the same spectrum as NPD (for more information about this, see Alexander Lowen’s “Spectrum of Narcissistic Disorders”) but is a less adaptive (to the sufferer) form of the same disorder. What I’ve been reading is disturbing to me because I had no idea how similar BPD and NPD really may be.

The most important thing both disorders seem to have in common is that both borderlines and narcissists feel empty inside. Both feel as if they have a black hole inside them, and many try to “fill” that hole with things like substances, sex or compulsive shopping. People with both disorders are prone to abuse drugs or alcohol, or engage in other unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors (with the borderline more likely to be deliberately self-destructive and the narcissist callous or destructive toward others). Filling the inner black hole becomes so important that people with these disorders may disregard the needs of others in their need to get their “fix.”

I found an article in Psychology Today that discusses the devastating conundrum that both narcissists and borderlines have to face: the lack of an identity. It’s this absence of a true identity that make people with these disorders feel so empty and hollow, and drives them to do the kinds of things they do. The primary difference between these disorders is that narcissists adopt a false self to replace the lost true self, while borderlines–although not having a false self per se — instead become human chameleons, adapting their behaviors to a given situation (to avoid rejection)– but none of these identities are really “them.” The truth is, they don’t know who they really are. That’s why borderlines seem to change with the wind and confuse those they are close to.

The article I’ve linked to discusses these ideas in more depth. It’s extremely interesting stuff, but somewhat upsetting to people like me with a BPD diagnosis.

This article is Part 7 of a series about the differences and similarities between BPD and NPD.
The other 6 can be linked to from this one. (Of course I’ll be reading all of them.)

Who Am I? The Conundrum of Both Borderlines and Narcissists

I cannot repost the article here here without written permission from the author, so you will have to click the link to read the article.

Here is an article by the same author about the False Self the Narcissist uses to mask their lack of an identity: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stop-walking-eggshells/201111/behind-the-facade-the-false-self-the-narcissist

31 thoughts on “Borderlines are human chameleons.

  1. Although I have never been diagnosed with BPD, I have been diagnosed with Complex, or Developmental, PTSD caused by multiple childhood traumas and therefore, I can relate to some of the BPD “symptoms.” Because of this, I have been reading through bpdtransformation’s blog and I think he has it right. I agree completely with bpdt’s, and others, assertion that BPD does not even exist.

    Yes, the distressing symptoms of BPD are very real, in varying degrees, for many people. But the more I read and study about BPD, the more convinced I am that the symptoms of what is called borderline personality disorder are simply a variation of the symptoms of complex post traumatic stress. These symptoms are caused by psychological injuries, not inherent mental illnesses. Just as it is normal to bleed if you are stabbed, these symptoms are a normal reaction to extreme early childhood neglect and/or overwhelming trauma occurring at any age. Even the healthiest, strongest, sanest person in the world will bleed if he or she is stabbed, and the more times they are stabbed, and the more deeply they are stabbed, the more severely they will be injured.

    Giving a trauma victim a stigmatizing, denigrating “label” is adding insult to injury. Lauren, you were neglected and bullied and scapegoated as a child. Then you were verbally and physically abused for years in your marriage. Not even Superwoman could come through all that trauma unscathed.

    I will say it again, because it bears repeating:
    Having a PTSD reaction to overwhelming trauma is normal — just as it is normal to bleed if you are stabbed.

    Normal in this sense doesn’t mean healthy, of course. But the good news is that injuries can and do heal — but not if you keep being re-injured! I know that when I get down on myself for being “crazy,” all I do is make my depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms so much worse. I am afraid that you are hurting yourself every time you go down this road of picking yourself to pieces over your old BPD diagnosis.

    I have followed your blog long enough to know that you absolutely DO have an identity. You are kind, you are caring, you are deeply insightful, you are honest almost to a fault, you are humble, you are a brilliant writer, you are a talented author, you are a loving mother, you are loving to your pets. I am no “expert,” of course, but in my opinion you are NOT a “borderline,” even if there really were such a thing.

    You can believe what you want, of course. But I believe the very best thing you could ever do for your healing journey would be to follow in bpdtransformation’s footsteps and decide that your BPD diagnosis was and is WRONG.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I like BPDTransformation’s blog because it’s so much less negative about these disorders than others and i would be so very relieved to find out that what you said is true and the ‘symptoms’ of bpd are really only a form of complex ptsd. But you know what? This whole psychiatric diagnostic thing is SO incredibly crazymaking–and it keeps changing from one year to the next, with some experts saying one thing and others something completely different–about the SAME DISORDERS! So maybe it’s all just a crock of you know what and we really need to just start focusing on symptoms and treating those instead of labeling everyone as this or that. Some labels–rightfully or wrongfully have a sort of “evil” stigma attached to them, and I think that’s damaging to many people.

      I highly doubt that, in this country anyway, we are anywhere close to ditching psychiatric labels and the resulting stigmatization of certain disorders, but the idea of “no labels only symptoms” is an attractive one.

      Thank you for saying those sweet things. I feel the same way about you. I highly admire your courage and strength. You are also talented and funny, and seem very warm and loving. Oh, and a great pet parent to your “Lady.” (I hope it was okay to say that).

      As for my identity problems, I am developing one. I never used to have one, or thought I didn’t. But I’m finding my true identity, and it’s always been there.

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      • Yes, bpdtransformation is very young but he is extremely well read on the topic, plus he has obviously had years of excellent therapy and healing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree, I thought he was MUCH older. I was just on his blog and was shocked to see he is only 28! I gotta admit, sometimes his writing is a little on the scholarly side, but that’s okay and his story is very inspirational. He is certainly well read, much more so than I am! I’m getting there though.

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    • Oh, and one more thing, Alaina.
      I agree with your last sentence. It’s drastic, but it’s a much more positive way to regard my journey and future than , “oh noes, I have a cluster B disorder, I’m a bad person, I can never change!” Right?

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      • I think so. But who am I to tell anyone else what to believe? It’s all just my opinion, based on my personal experiences. Ultimately, you have to follow your own heart and mind.

        Thanks for the sweet things you said. And yes, it was perfectly okay to say that about our Lady-girl. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • I never got the impression you’re telling anyone what to believe. Stating an opinion isn’t the same thing at all. I also don’t feel like if I disagreed with you about something, you would attack me the way some have. You do not appear to be judgmental AT ALL. Thank God.

          And by the way, it ‘s good to see you around here again. I missed you.

          Liked by 1 person

    • ^^This^ a million times! There are as many ‘takes’ on the trauma symptoms known as BPD as there are people who have an opinion on it at all.

      BPD is a set of trauma symptoms. I was finding it difficult to continue reading articles that go into it the way the first article does because I would get myself so wrapped up in “OMG I’m such a horrible person.” Enforcing what I grew up believing.

      To read to educate and then work on it is understandable of course and I did a lot of that. And I am still open to reading things that offer solutions. But stuff that analyzes and picks it apart was doing more damage for me.

      I read some of the first article last night and then started falling asleep. Lol.

      Psych isn’t an exact science. And we are all individual. Not to mention human…which swings back to all of what you said, Alaina.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Several years ago I went to see a therapist who told me at the beginning of our third session that she had given me a new psychiatric diagnosis, in addition to my long-standing PTSD Dx, because the insurance coverage for this other diagnosis would pay for many more sessions than they would pay for PTSD alone.

        She did not tell me what my “new diagnosis” was, and I did not ask. I felt very uncomfortable when she told me that, in addition to some other weird spiritual things she had already told me, having to do with shamanism and bizarre visions she was having, so I never went back again. Sadly, she died a few months later. So I guess now there’s no easy way to find out what her bogus diagnosis was. However, I did definitely notice that my regular doctor, who was in the same system, started talking “down” to me after that. So I wonder if she gave me BPD for insurance purposes.

        The whole thing is maddening. And WE are supposed to be the CRAZY ones!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow! That’s really interesting, Alaina. I wonder what that dx. was too. The fact she didn’t tell you is suspicious. It wouldn’t have been NPD because I don’t think most insurance policies will cover that. It’s possible it was BPD and I agree with you that BPD may really be one way PTSD can manifest itself. BPD’s have problems with splitting, dissociation and emotional numbness/emotional lability, all things people with PTSD also suffer from.
          That’s why bpdtransformation is probably right about the labels being stupid. It’s not a science, and the labels are really meaningless–it’s the symptoms that are important. I wouldn’t worry about the 2nd dx. It doesn’t matter anyway. I understand wanting to know what it is though–I would want to know too, even though it really makes no difference.
          BTW, I do not think you act borderline at all, at least not from what I pick up from you online. You seem pretty sane to me.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Aww… thank you so much for saying that. I have been having one of those I-don’t-like-myself days. Which isn’t nearly as miserable as an I-hate-myself day, but still not fun.

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    • This is everything I’ve been trying to say for two years!!! Well done!! Also Lucky Otter, you do definitely have an identity. It’s pretty consistent and clear to see when you read through your blog x

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  2. Ladies, what a lot of narcissistic supply for me, thank you! But seriously, I appreciate your comments.

    I truly believe these labels are not reliable and are damaging. It can be hard to believe that, since our society speaks about them as if they are 100% real, just like cancer or diabetes. But they aren’t…. people are complex individuals and don’t fit neatly into the boxes of BPD and NPD, boxes which exist in our minds but not in external reality. Nevertheless, the spectrums of borderline and narcissistic functioning do mean something; but it’s misleading and damaging to concretize and write about people as if they HAD a disorder that is either one or the other. People’s level of functioning is constantly varying in different ways along a developmental continuum.

    Here is a good article that explains why schizophrenia is invalid and nonexistent as an organizing schema. All of the same arguments would apply to BPD:

    http://wayneramsay.com/schizophrenia.htm

    As you said eloquently Lucky Otter, it is more helpful to focus on why and how people are distressed – symptoms, in the medical language – than to focus on some simplistic word like borderline that seems to explain everything but ultimately explains nothing.

    So yeah people don’t “suffer from the disorder BPD”; they have the problems they have as a result of the neglect, challenges, trauma, stress, etc. which build up in their life over time. If these problems are severe enough, extensive use of splitting and dissociation can be necessary and then you get a distress picture which superficially appears to fit the BPD label, or not at different times. That doesn’t mean it is or isn’t BPD; BPD is just a descriptive placeholder, not a real disease.

    To critique a couple of other things… the echo article says that the two most successful treatments for BPD are medication and DBT. On the one hand, BPD is not one coherent entity, so these statements are in that sense meaningless. But DBT is not more special than other kinds of therapy, and in some ways it’s worse, for example in how it focuses on managing superficial symptoms versus understanding traumas in depth. DBT itself is arguably a reification/concretization of a natural healing process just like BPD is a reification of distressed experience into an inappropriate medical label. And… medication is a short-term crutch that can be damaging in the long term for many reasons. Medication is far inferior to love, understanding, friends/family, getting a job, etc.

    To me Randi Kreger’s writing is not helpful; it’s an example of using a PT Barnum effect to generate readership. What I mean is that she writes in vague generalities that could apply to a wide range of people (as the circus owner PT Barnum said, there’s something for everyone at his show, and new sucker born every minute). But when examined closely, the arguments don’t hold together and the vagueness of the descriptions means they tell you nothing useful.

    For example: “People who get intimately involved with narcissists also often have identity issues. So start to think about whom you really are and how you feel about things.”… Duh. People who get involved with other troubled people often have emotional problems, yeah no kidding… Thinking about who you really are can indeed be helpful, if you know…

    And, “The severity and intensity of NPD comes from the desperate pursuit of a sense of self. NPs believe all the lies they tell themselves about who they are”
    : as the quote says, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the “truth.” This statement is weak because narcissistic conditions however defined vary in intensity and severity from person to person and from time to time within the same person. It’s another example of how being concrete and medicalizing people’s subjective experience distorts reality. I could apply the quote “If you repeat a lie, often enough, it becomes the truth” to the way Kreger has convinced herself that NPD is a valid, coherent entity, even though when carefully examined, it is not.

    And in the Echo article, also, “In addition BPD is in part attributed to chemical imbalances in the brain which can be treated medically.” No it isn’t. This statement makes it sound like emotional distress is caused by chemical imbalances and that is unproven and nonsensical. BPD is not a coherent entity on the one hand, so this type of statement is immediately void and meaningless. But even if BPD were coherent, it would not be possible with our current science to determine what is attributable to (caused by) chemical imbalances and what is attributable to environmental experience. My hunch is that those brain chemicals aren’t sneakily causing BPD from inside one’s brain on their own.

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    • Very well said, bpdt.

      I also agree that Randi Kreger’s writings are not helpful. I got into a small verbal battle with her a few years ago on a Psychology Today comment thread. I believe I won that battle. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t even know what Randi Kreger’s qualifications are. I think she is just a writer. That being said, she got her information from mental health experts who believe BPD is a maladaptive form of NPD and with more psychotic features such as delusions, hallucinations, splitting and dissociation than NPD.

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        • As I recall, Randi Kreger has no more qualifications to write about BPD than I do, which is to say she has none, other than having read a lot on the topic and being in a relationship of some kind with at least one person who had a lot of BPD characteristics. In my opinion, you are much more qualified to write about BPD than Kreger.

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    • BPD Transformation wrote: “Ladies, what a lot of narcissistic supply for me, thank you!”

      Hahahaha! Put like that, it drives home how stupid this new “theory” that we are really just “narcissists who suck at it” is. They actually think people like you and me exist only to procure narcissistic supply! LMAO!

      Now, that being said, some people (not the “experts”) have actually called me a narc. One even called me a sociopath! 😮 I won’t name names, but I have been accused of it. But I think any blogger who writes about narcissism as much as I do sooner or later will piss off someone and have the label thrown back at them. It’s projection, is all it is. Some people don’t think I should be writing about narcissism as I’m a “narcissist” myself–maybe SV’s sockpuppet, lol. These people think BPDers are all evil, as bad as narcs, have no empathy, go around gaslighting everyone, and cannot be trusted.

      But I digress. There is so much confusion surrounding BPD and what it really is that it should probably just be taken out of the DSM until they get a better handle on it. I’ve seen it classified by some “experts” as a narcissistic disorder, a psychotic (schizophrenic-like) disorder, a form of PTSD, etc etc.

      I’m coming around to your way of thinking and sometimes think all these “experts” are all a bunch of idiots sitting in their ivory towers bloviating on about their opinions, which are no more based on science than mine are. I’m really starting to lose patience with them. So, BPDT, ya think we might be “malignant borderlines”? 😉

      Even the label “borderline” is confusing. What are we on the border of? Schizophrenia? Narcissism? The division between the United States and Mexico? What?

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      • So how do you know I’m not a sociopath? You’d never know would you; all my charm could conceal my complete lack of empathy and unrelenting desire for world domination!
        Everyone needs narcissistic supply, including healthy people. The difference is that in healthier people (evolving along a continuum) needs for admiration, mirroring, recognition, support etc. gradually evolve to become more mutual so you can take as well as receive. What pathological narcissistic states involve is not bad, it’s just an early developmental childlike position of taking but not giving.
        I hate pseudoexperts and wish they would retire already and stop pretending their labels are being used meaningfully.
        Based on writers I admire like Adler, Volkan, Kernberg etc., technically BPD should refer to a mode of interpersonal functioning where splitting is the predominant defense and all-bad images of self and others are dominant over all-good self and other images the majority (but not all of the time). By contrast NPD involves heavy splitting, but the good units are dominant more often than the bad. And then schizophrenia, from a technical standpoint involves a fusion of self/other images, where in the person’s mind they cannot at all differentiate themselves from others (and there is no consistent splitting), and this confusion and the terror it involves leads to the symptoms like paranoia and delusions and hallucinations. And then neuroses are healthier states, more advanced than BPD/NPD; where splitting has been overcome; the good self/object images are so strong that they force the bad self/object images to integrate with them. It is technically possible and has happened that someone grows from a schizophrenic, to a borderline, to a narcissistic and then to a healthy state of relating. This is described for example in the case studies in Vamik Volkan’s The Infantile Psychotic Self and Its Fates.
        I wrote about these phases in my articles #9 and #10. To me this is the best way to think about these categories, although they are still not discreet, but rather waypoints/regions along a continuum. The superficial symptom based approach of the DSM to me is useless and confusing.

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        • I’ll be replying more fully to this later. As with most of your comments, I need to digest it and think of what I want to say. Have a great day.

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  3. Maybe mine is compulsive about the music and the band. I think I’d die without it. I sent you a FB message. Its pathetic!

    The Narc is something else. He made up a Facebook profile named Scott Slocum with the photo of a young Asian woman, and then friended me and a few of my friends. How did I know it was the Narc? He has a think for Asian women…so the photo was simbolic and made it obvious as to who he was. It also intimidated me enough to respond, in which I said…I’ve got a boyfriend, which he already knew about, because I post the photos all over my facebook. Which was just a trap to tease me and then delete me from Lindekin.

    Vaknin is right. They tease, haunt, stalk and torment their victims for kicks. They seek revenge.

    I think my Narc has Pathological envy towards my writing skills, my poetry and that I put together a band.

    I’m not sure if I’m speaking about a Narc or a Psychopath? I can not begin to fathom the crazy making and Malignant intent this person has. He is in Australia.

    Who travels to Australia and around the world to torment women? Why wouldn’t you enjoy the countryside. Be happy. Enjoy playing guitar.

    I do not understand this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have grown so much since you and your narc split up, Mary, and I’m sure he is pathologically envious of you because you are creating an exciting life for yourself without him in it.
      A narc can be a psychopath–but at that point it’s actually ASPD not NPD (if you go by the spectrum theory with ASPD at the top of the spectrum, which I do).

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      • So he is actually has high spectrum ASPD. I don’t want him to have pathological envy. I really hoped he could just be happy. I thought he would find peace on a friendship level.

        Gospel choir helped me tonight. What he did makes me feel sad, and sorry for him.

        I don’t understand as to why he is so angry.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Mary, if he’s a high-spectrum ASPD, there is NO WAY he can ever just be happy and be your friend. God, that’s as bad as you can get! He’s as bad as a serial murderer!
          If you aren’t already, you should be NC with him, and the sooner the better. This guy could be dangerous. Don’t try to understand his anger–he’s angry because he hates himself and is projecting it onto you. Get away.

          That’s good choir helped you. Keep at it with your new activities that do NOT include him.

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  4. I also like what bpdtransformation says about behavioral treatment methods like DBT and CBT used on people with BPD and NPD. Yes, they can be helpful (I found DBT very helpful myself) but you are absolutely right, it does NOTHING to address underlying issues or the original trauma that led to these disorders. People with any Cluster B disorder seem to be automatically dismissed as being incurable. Insurance companies won’t pay for insight therapy or analysis for people with Cluster B disorders because it’s assumed they can’t ever get better.

    But you are living proof that deep insight therapy CAN work for Cluster B’s, Yes, it’s probably easier to cure a borderline than a narcissist, because we aren’t going around wearing a false self all the time. We’re also not as grandiose and deluded about ourselves.

    I found it interesting and a little ironic that Kreger’s articles talk about how people with BPD are more mentally ill and closer to being psychotic than people with NPD–and yet she admits borderlines are more receptive to deep therapy than a narcissist and more likely to be cured. That doesn’t make much sense to me. If we are sicker, how can we be more receptive to a cure? I think what she meant to say is, borderlines have a disorder that is more ego-dystonic (meaning BPD is not adaptive or helpful to the person who has it) while a narcissist may be able to function better in society, but are actually much sicker because most don’t think they have a problem (ego-syntonic) and are therefore less likely to present themselves for treatment unless they are in a crisis and their mask is falling apart.

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