Although Cluster B disorders (the dramatic, emotional, erratic group of personality disorders), are largely demonized on the Internet by narcissistic abuse survivors, there’s another growing attitude online that’s pretty much the opposite–that having a Cluster B disorder somehow makes you an uber-cool badass.
This is a dangerous delusion. Take it from me, having a Cluster B disorder like BPD (in my case) is NOT fun. Nor is it cool. In fact, it really really sucks. 😦 Both for yourself and everyone else.
This growing attitude of “Cluster B coolness” I’ve been seeing more of goes something like this:
The Myth: If you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), you’re a self-confident, go-out-and-knock-em-all-dead, ambitious, and highly intelligent badass who Gets. Things. Done. Psychopaths are similarly glorified, but they’re basically the reason why everything’s wrong with the world and empathy is seen as a “weakness.” The narcissistic woman is regarded as a diabolical yet seductive Jezebel who turns strong men into whimpering slaves at the snap of her pretty fingers and who every other woman strives to be. The narcissistic man is regarded as a buff, handsome, masculine, virile, successful go-getter who all women melt for (and that’s how they regard themselves, of course).
The Reality: In actuality, if you have NPD, you’re a negative, selfish, deluded, demanding, envious, entitled, whining crybaby with no real sense of self who everyone hates (and who hates everyone) but are afraid to say so because it might set off one of your infamous rages or you giving them the even more crazymaking “silent treatment.” People are always walking on eggshells around you because you’re really so unstable, hypersensitive to criticism, and deluded by and drunk with your own “greatness.” You’re a sore loser too and can’t stand to see anyone else do well or get any attention. No one really likes you and you’re probably right that people are talking about you behind your back, but frankly you deserve it. Also, many narcissists are just plain stupid and have no emotional intelligence. As for their reputed skillfulness in bed, many narcs (especially the cerebral types) hate sex and can’t or won’t perform. Or, as with everything else, they only care about their own needs and to hell with yours.
The Myth: If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, some people think this means you’re a sexy beast or babe who’s alluring, unpredictable, passionate, always charming and “quirky”, and never boring. Your chameleon-like abilities to match the attitudes of those around you is seen as evidence of potential Oscar-winning ability. It’s always pointed out how many actors and musicians suffer from BPD.
The Reality: Let’s be honest. If you have BPD you’re emotionally unstable, volatile, almost crazy (the original term “borderline” referred to the disorder being on the border between neurosis and psychosis), out of touch with reality, unable to take a firm stance on anything (or conversely, switching back and forth between two extremes, which just makes you look insane) due to your terror of being rejected or abandoned, prone to be an addict, (drugs, booze, gambling, shopping, cutting, eating and/or dieting, other people), clingy, codependent, insecure, high-maintenance, and fickle. The borderline doesn’t really have a false self per se like the narcissist, but they can’t access their true self either, so they wind up “taking on” the attitudes and emotions of those who happen to be around them like some kind of emotional bodysnatcher (in contrast with true empathy, their feelings overwhelm them and are out of control), and they just plain overreact to every damn thing so you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells.
The Myth: Although Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) isn’t widely talked about, its reputation is similar to that of BPD (but is really the stereotypically feminine form of Overt NPD): usually female, a sexy, seductive siren, dramatic, highly social, loves parties and being the center of attention, and is never, ever boring. You’ll fall madly in love with this bewitching seductress due to their many charms and their great looks.
The Reality: The real truth about people with HPD is that they’re insincere, emotionally labile to the point of being embarrassing (but their over-the-top “emotional displays” are largely an act), shallow, materialistic, and emotionally retarded. They often overdress (or underdress!) or are overly made up for an occasion, are sexually promiscuous, and are inappropriate in social situations, but they don’t care if you’re cringing in embarrassment for them because even negative attention is still attention and that’s what they crave more than the air itself.
The Myth: So here we are at the juggernaut of the Cluster Bs, the baddest badass of them all, Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Often confused with Psychopathy (and often overlapping with it), the antisocial or psychopathic badass is a sexy and fearless rogue, unconcerned with how others feel about them, possessed of an arresting and penetrating gaze (actually a predatory, creepy stare) that makes you feel like they are really listening to you, determined to get what they want (whether it’s their latest kill or their latest corporate takeover) and never giving up or allowing themselves to be intimidated, by anything. They’re the Rebels Without a Cause, the self-confident Ferris Buellers, the Coolest of the Cool, the celebrated anti-heroes of novels and films socially sanctioned to serve as a receptacle for the Shadow Self that resides within us all. The ASPD badass gives us permission to mentally “act out” our darker impulses, without actually hurting anyone, and that’s why we all love serial killers so much, and why the Ted Bundys and Charlie Mansons of the world get more marriage proposals than any football or film star.
The Reality: The antisocial badass is really just a heartless and criminally minded horse’s ass, who has no capacity for empathy, isn’t even socially constrained by their need to impress others to garner narcissistic supply (because they don’t require any), and is frequently in prison or has a rap sheet the size of War and Peace. This is a guy (or gal) who will make your life a living hell, beat you to a pulp any chance they get and leave you in a heartbeat and not even remember your name.
If they’re high functioning, they’re the people who are responsible for everything that’s wrong in the world today and the reason why you work 3 jobs and can’t afford a vacation or health insurance.
If they’re low-functioning, if they’re not straight up criminals, they’re flabby, pasty Basement Dwellers who dishonestly leech off the system or their family members so they never have to work and spend all their time trolling Internet forums to get a rise out of random strangers. Just like my ex.
Ah, what a studly, irresistably dangerous heartbreaker you are.
If you’re a psychopath or sociopath, you operate more like a machine than a human. Is that something we should be aspiring to?
So there you have it. Cluster B disorders are not cool. They are serious mental (and some believe, spiritual) illnesses, and they are pathetic. And let’s not forget that people suffering from Cluster B disorders are not happy people. In fact, most of them are pretty miserable. They are to be pitied (and avoided) rather than emulated.