Confusing patterns.

This is an older post about a very confusing time for me during my recovery journey. It’s very common for people with Complex PTSD who survived narcissistic abuse to believe they are narcissists themselves, but if you think you are one, most likely you are not. I definitely have narcissistic traits, some that I picked up from my abusers, others that may be inherent, but I don’t have NPD.

Two years ago, I became so certain I did that I actually started a second blog about it. That blog has been taken down, though some people did tell me they found it helpful and that makes me happy. It’s very common for people with C-PTSD to believe they have NPD. but I just couldn’t leave the blog up because it started to feel like a lie.

Lucky Otters Haven

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In the almost year and a half since I’ve been blogging, an interesting picture has emerged. I started to blog after I went no contact with my ex (actually very low contact since we have children) as a way to process having been a victim of narcissistic abuse, first by my family of origin, then by my ex. My focus for the first six months or so was primarily on my abusers, and my rage at narcissists in general. Most of my articles were about narcissists and narcissism, and I read everything I could about it too. I became close with other ACON (adult children of narcissists) bloggers. I wasn’t ready yet to take a good long look at myself and what I could do to help myself, other than staying far away from abusive people. But it was a very good start to a journey that proved to be…

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The “Four F’s” of C-PTSD

This article was originally posted in April, 2016.

I also wrote a review of Pete Walker’s wonderful self help guide for survivors of complex PTSD, which you can read here:

Book Review: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker 

Lucky Otters Haven

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I just began reading “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker. I can already tell I won’t be able to put it down (I will write a book review when I’m finished, which shouldn’t take long). I’m also going to bring this book to my next therapy session because I want my therapist to see it.

Walker, who is a therapist and also a survivor of narcissistic abuse and sufferer of C-PTSD, is an engaging writer and definitely knows his subject matter. In one of the first chapters, he discusses the “Four F’s”–which are four different “styles” of coping that people with C-PTSD develop to cope with their abusive caregivers and avoid the abandonment depression. Whatever style one adopts may be based on several factors–natural temperament, the role in the family the child was given (scapegoat, golden child, “lost” or ignored child), birth order, and other factors.

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Available…

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To my Mom’s “Credit”

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As I have been visited by memories that I would have preferred to have had kept buried deep in my soul or in Jamie’s coffin, but that I need to work through as part of my own healing, I find myself wondering more and more what it is that I did to be so undeserving of your love, or even just the basic courtesies of nurturing, encouragement, even being heard.

So here goes….

Dear Mom,

I didn’t choose to enter this world and interrupt your life, to be born two months early, at a time perhaps that you were not yet prepared for my entrance. In fact had I known what I was in for, I would have chosen to stay inside much longer or not be born at all. I did not choose to enter YOUR world especially; you chose to take on the responsibility of “welcoming” me! Was…

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Book Review: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (by Pete Walker)

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I finally finished reading a most wonderful book sent to me by my friend and fellow blogger, Linda Lee. It’s called Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, written by Pete Walker, himself a sufferer of C-PTSD and narcissistic abuse survivor. He is also a therapist who works with others with C-PTSD.

Walker’s book is incredibly readable and tells you everything you need or want to know about C-PTSD, a subcategory of PTSD that isn’t (but should be) included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of the mental health profession. Complex PTSD is similar to PTSD but there are several important differences. The recognized diagnostic category of PTSD describes a disorder that is caused by one traumatic event, such as a rape or combat in a war. PTSD itself wasn’t recognized until psychologists noticed that many Vietnam war veterans were suffering from a group of similar symptoms including, but not limited to, loss of memory, dissociative episodes, panic attacks, general but severe anxiety or depression, inability to cope with day to day challenges, impaired ability to regulate emotions including anger, impaired ability to relate to others in a healthy way, nightmares, flashbacks, and physical pain with no medical causes. C-PTSD has a similar set of symptoms, but is “complex” because of its cause–instead of being precipitated by a single traumatic event, it’s caused by an ongoing series of traumatic incidents and also usually (though not always) begins during childhood. Very often it’s a result of being “cared for” by narcissistic or sociopathic parents, who are actively abusive or neglect their child. Unlike most self-help books, Walker covers the nature of narcissistic abuse and its soul-murdering effect on a child, and how this can lead to C-PTSD and its various manifestations.

Walker breaks down C-PTSD into four “types,” each one corresponding to a different type of defense mechanism, which he calls “The Four F’s”–Fight (the narcissistic defense); Flight (the obsessive compulsive or “workaholic” defense); Freeze (the dissociative defense); and Fawn (the Codependent defense). Most people will have a combination of these, but usually one will be dominant over the others. I find it intriguing that Walker describes the narcissistic and borderline personalities as manifestations of C-PTSD (BPD is a Fight-Codependent hybrid), because I also think that’s exactly what they are.

Walker doesn’t think that any form of C-PTSD is untreatable or necessarily permanent, although some forms are more difficult to eradicate than others. People with severe C-PTSD may spend most of their time in a “flashback” without even knowing that it’s a flashback. For example, if you are continually depressed and anxious without being able to pinpoint why, you may be in a flashback to a time when you were made to feel shame as a young child. Any sort of invalidation or reminder of the shame, no matter how small, could have set off the flashback.

Also discussed is the importance of nurturing your Inner Child, and Walker shows you how you can begin to do this on your own. He also explains why people with C-PTSD have such a harsh Inner Critic (which is the internalized “voice” of the abusive parent that relentlessly continues to shame the Inner Child) and how how re-training your Inner Critic to be less, well, critical and more supportive of the Inner Child can do wonders for your self esteem and help you begin to heal. One of the most important things that must happen in order to heal from C-PTSD is to be able to grieve the lost or wounded inner child and also to be able to feel and express righteous anger toward the abuser (while being No Contact with the actual guilty party, of course).

While Walker encourages therapy (and states that in severe cases says it may be the only way to heal from C-PTSD), he recognizes that it may not always be appropriate or possible for everyone. For example, some C-PTSD sufferers (usually the Freeze/dissociative type) are so hypervigilant and uncomfortable relating to others that they can’t begin to trust a therapist enough to make any progress that way. Such people may do better on their own, at least to begin with. He points out early on that even if you skip around in the book (because not everything in it may apply to everyone) that you can still be helped. He gives the reader helpful things they can do on their own, such as positive affirmations, self-mothering, self-fathering and the “Time Machine Rescue Operation,” mindfulness skills, thought-stopping the Critic, thought substitution, recognizing signs of being in a flashback, how to grieve, and finding “good enough” relational help, among many other tools.

At the core of C-PTSD is the “abandonment depression,” a feeling of terrible emptiness that the Four F’s have been used to avoid confronting. Walker explains how to cope with the abandonment depression without denying that it exists or using the Four F’s as defense mechanisms against it.

Finally, Walker includes a list of books–which he calls “Bibliotherapy”–that he and his patients and visitors to his website have found useful. He wraps things up with six easily referenced “toolboxes” the C-PTSD sufferer can use as adjuncts to their recovery.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving is intelligently and empathetically written, and easy to read without being condescending or dumbed down. Its chapters are organized in an understandable and logical way, and subheaders are used throughout to make it possible to read the book in easy to digest chunks. This book has helped me immensely so far, and takes the complexity out of this “complex” disorder.

You can visit Pete Walker’s website here:
http://pete-walker.com/

Guest Post #11: Life with Complex PTSD

Alexis Rose has a blog about Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) called A Tribe Untangled.  Her C-PTSD was brought about by a family tragedy (a terrible accident that befell her young daughter, something every loving parent fears with every fiber of their being) and it opened up a Pandora’s box of long repressed years of abuse and torture. Alexis Rose also has written a book, Untangled: A Story of Resilience, Courage and Triumph.

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From her Book information page:

Recalling her life, the author takes us on a journey of unimaginable abuse with continued explicit threats that eventually led to her being sent overseas on an impossible mission.  She repressed the memories of her past until a family tragedy forced her to face what her life had been. A history of abuse, torture, and threats to maintain her silence or be killed could no longer be denied.

This is the story of facing the truth and risking the consequences of breaking the silence. The author learns to accept the effects of the trauma that echo through her daily life as PTSD.

Through years of self-exploration, she learns to live her life fearlessly, with eyes wide open. Ultimately this book is about resilience; hope for victims who have suffered trauma and for the people who support them.

Alexis is an experienced speaker on the topics of living with courage and resilience in the face of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. She has also presented multiple interactive workshops titled, Using One’s Innate Creativity (writing and drawing) as a Tool for Healing and Personal Growth.

For more information about Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph, to request a book signing, or to ask Alexis to speak to your group or lead a workshop, email alexis@atribeuntangled.com.

Alexis has been kind enough to write a guest post for this blog, which when I read it brought me to tears because I could relate so much to so much of what she wrote.   She is one strong woman.  Here is her wonderful post.  Please follow her blog: https://atribeuntangled.com/

Life with Complex PTSD

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I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder about eight years ago, after a family tragedy. My daughter was hit by a van at 30 miles an hour as she was crossing the street on her way to school.

The year following Aria’s accident I was busy with tending to her health, taking her to appointments, trying to work full time, and keep our house hold running as normal as possible. And at the same time, I kept having these experiences that were making me feel crazy. I had worked so hard to keep my life, my family and their world so protected that the instant Aria got hit, my controlled snow globe world came crashing down. In fact when my son and I were talking the day of the accident, he looked at me and innocently said, “things will never be the same again.”  Extremely prophetic words, that at the time myself nor my family had any idea what they would come to mean.

I was becoming anxious. I started losing time, I was called into meetings at work because my performance was terribly erratic. I was physically sick all the time, and kept having these bizarre memories leaving me feeling crazy.  I knew something was seriously wrong with me so I made a call to a psychologist who agreed to see me the next day.

When I started working with my first therapist, I was so anxious to tell her everything all at once so I could just feel better and get back to work. I didn’t understand that I was having flashbacks, or that I was living in a constant state of crisis. I was writing her letters from a dissociated state which made no sense to me when she would read them aloud. I would lock myself in my room for hours for fear that I was going to hurt myself and I didn’t want to be around my family.

My first therapist diagnosed me correctly but neglected to start my therapeutic process by teaching me any kind of safety or distress tolerance tools.  I was out of control, thinking I was losing my mind, feeling like I had failed my family, and spiraling down a very slippery slope. She did the best she could but was way over her head and within nine months of seeing her, I knew intuitively that I had to find another therapist. I have been working with my current therapist for seven years.

When I first started seeing my therapist I was dissociated most of the time. I was in crisis, I was anxious, confused, and convinced I was going crazy. After a couple of sessions, it became apparent to him that we had to get some safety plans in place. Once that was in place we could begin the process of working on and processing my trauma.

I (sort-of) started to come to terms with the idea that my erupting memories were in fact true. I was so overwhelmed by my memories and what we would process during session that I would remember, forget, remember, forget; until I started to turn a corner and forget how to forget. That’s when I found I could really start taking the baby-steps towards health.

Not only was my therapy about processing the memories, I also had to start accepting that there were some pretty intense effects of the trauma and that influenced how I saw and reacted to the world.  I knew I had some pretty deep-rooted trust issues. I also had large, thick, almost impenetrable walls holding back any feeling or emotions that I was willing to let the world see. I also began to understand that because of my trauma I had a pretty significant attachment issues, which for me, has been one of the hardest things to learn and accept. For some reason the attachment issue fed into my very low self-esteem and it’s something I still work on.

I also had to face down how my trauma effected my relationships with my family, friends, parenting style and career. In the midst of dealing and coping with the trauma, there were a lot of AHA moments, when I saw how my behavior and ways of coping with life, had been a direct result of my trauma and not because I was a bad person.

Eight years later and one of the biggest reasons I write is because my PTSD symptoms still have a pretty good choke-hold on me. As with many mental illnesses PTSD can be invisible on the outside. I had always been the master of wearing many masks, and deflecting any conversation away from me, all with a supportive smile for everyone else. But when I couldn’t hide my illness any longer my friends began to ask me, what does it feel like inside. I couldn’t really explain it, so I wrote a poem and shared it with my friends and family. I found that by writing I found a way to share with others and begin to understand what PTSD means for me, and find a way to cope with my fear that I would be plagued by the symptoms forever.

My symptoms include (not limited too) flashbacks, concentration issues, becoming overwhelmed and my brain shutting down, not being able to make choices, anxiety/depression, and sensitive to the triggers that start the whole shebang of symptoms. We use the term, triggers, triggers everywhere. The wind can blow a certain way, or fireworks, or a car back-firing, even the moon can bring on flashbacks.

Unfortunately, my symptoms have left me with the inability to work. I went from having a wonderful career with the fringe benefits that provided me with some comfort for the future and the ability to provide for my family. I’m only able to work about 2 hours a day…on a good day.

It seems as if my symptoms (depending on the time of year) can start a chain reaction, so I needed to learn to work within my deficits. This isn’t easy or comfortable for me and because I’m still pretty new at learning how to work within my symptoms, I can find myself becoming frustrated and angry at my PTSD! Actually most days, if I’m going to be honest I am VERY angry at my PTSD. But then I settle down and think about what I want for my life and try to rest and reset.

The inability to concentrate can be over-whelming for me. I know what I want to do, what I want my brain to do but I simply am unable to do it. Making choice at the grocery store, or a restaurant can be so uncomfortable that I will just simply lose my interest in eating and shut down. Sometimes as night approaches it feels overwhelming because I know that its highly likely that sometime during the night I will have nightmares. Even practicing good sleep hygiene listening to podcasts, all the tricks can’t stop the nightmares sometimes and it gets overwhelming. And sometimes I’m overwhelmed because I’m a survivor of trauma and have PTSD and that’s just the way it is, even though I wish it was different.

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. At first, I strictly used it for bilateral stimulation. I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud.  It provided distance from having to use my voice at first, but then I found it actually gave me a voice.

What I hope to convey as I move forward: Try to remember to notice those perfect moments. Celebrate each step on the path towards health, know that it is a long and never linear process, and that it really is just one foot in front of the other, you need to do a lot of resting, a lot of just sitting and metabolizing.  And even though healing can feel like be a lonely process, through a blogging community and other support systems, we realize that we are not alone.

I’ve been hurt, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been abandoned, but I wasn’t going to let the effects of what happened to me keep me from trying to have the life I wanted. I never lose sight of my goals. They are to live with my past, live in the truth, and recognize and relish in the feelings of internal contentment. Some days those goals seem as far away as the furthest star, and other days I can see them just through the clutter, almost there. I still need a lot of therapy to manage my symptoms, and I may need a lot of assistance for the day-to day grind, but I’m motivated to keep moving forward, spurred on by the hope for a better life. A life where I am living, not just surviving.

http://atribeuntangled.com

Making your inner judge work for you.

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Credit: Me (click to enlarge image)

I’ve recently met my Inner Critic, who from now on I’m going to call my Judge, because it’s funnier and seeing the Critic as cartoon-like helps me be able to make him seem  (I think of the Critic as male for some reason) less intimidating and scary.

I mentioned that the Judge, while keeping me trapped on a very thin tightrope, making me afraid of a lot of things, really is trying to protect me. Unfortunately the Judge’s overbearing manner can be abrasive and downright abusive, attempting to keep me trapped in old shaming thinking patterns (which apparently it thinks are best because it’s a big clueless dummy).

You need your Inner Judge, because it keeps you moral and doing the right thing. It also gangs up on you when you’ve let others step on your boundaries or abuse you (“how could you be so stupid to let that person take advantage of you AGAIN?”) The problem is, the voice isn’t very nice and feeds into your already low self-esteem. It makes you feel like a bad person–or a pathetic loser. As a result, you can be afraid to take any action.

For me, although I’ve used all the Four F’s, my primary defense has been and still is Dissociation.  Pete Walker talks about the Four F’s of C-PTSD–Fight (narcissism), Flight (obsessive-compulsiveness and workaholism to escape), Freeze (dissociation; withdrawal from humanity, self-isolation), and Fawn (being codependent).

The trick is to make your Inner Judge work FOR you instead of against you. My therapist had me try to think of “him” as being afraid rather than mean and judgmental. By having compassion for your Judge, you can actually change the way the Judge talks to us.

Changing the Judge’s script.

My Judge used to (and often still does) tell me things like:

1. You are worthless. You never accomplished anything of any value.
2. Who would listen to you? You think you’re some kind of expert? What sort of credentials do you have?
3. You’re over the hill and it’s too late for you. You will die poor, miserable and alone.
4. All your friends and everyone in your age group are making more money than you, own their own homes, can go on vacations, have real careers, etc. What’s wrong with you?
5. All your friends are still married or re-married, but you don’t have anyone and will never find anyone else. You’re too old to find anyone now.
6. You’re so weak and such a pushover.
7. You are too crazy to have a good life. You have too many mental issues.
8. You made bad choices, that’s why your life is like it is.
9. You’re embarrassing to be around and are socially awkward so it’s best if you keep your mouth shut.
10. Your accomplishments aren’t real, they don’t really count, so bragging about them makes you look like a narcissist.

And finally…
11. What is wrong with you?

These are lies, the same lies my abusers used against me as long as I can remember. These lies became internalized and now that I’m NC with my abusers, my Inner Judge still does their dirty flying monkey work. But unlike my abusers, my Judge can be trained to change the unhelpful, judgmental statements to things that can be more helpful, like:

1. You are worthwhile. You have accomplished as much as you have been able to, and that’s enough for right now.
2. Many people enjoy your blog and tell you how much it’s helped them. You have friends who love talking to you and like your insight about things. Just because you don’t have a piece of paper deeming you as an “expert” doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about.  You have the expertise of life experience, which is more valuable than any degree.
3. You’re never over the hill. Age is just a number. We evolve with age and get wiser. Getting old isn’t bad, but society likes to tell you it is.  even if you remain “alone,” you can still have friends, happiness, and a full life.
4. You might feel envious, but many people are doing worse than you. You have many blessings, and you also shouldn’t compare yourself to others. You should only compare your accomplishments to previous accomplishments, not those of others. We are all different and have different reasons for being here.
5. Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely. What’s so bad about being single? You could still find someone anyway. In the meantime, cultivate your skills, talents, self esteem and friendships. Those count for just as much if not more than “being part of a twosome.”
6. You’re strong and are getting good at setting boundaries that work but are also permeable enough to let others in sometimes.
7. You are not crazy. You have PTSD, which isn’t a mental illness, but a normal reaction to a series of abnormal events. And you’re getting better every day.
8. Yes, you made some bad choices, but who doesn’t? You also made those bad choices because you didn’t have a choice but to make them (you were programmed to always make the choice that kept you from taking any real risks or chances–which usually meant not making a choice at all–and this is what kept you from growing emotionally). This was NOT YOUR FAULT.
9. You are smart and a lot of people like you. You have a right to express what you feel.
10. You should be proud of your accomplishments. Talking about them sometimes isn’t bragging, it’s showing healthy self esteem.
11. What happened to you to make you believe such outrageous lies?   There was something wrong with the people who told you these lies.

The “Four F’s” of C-PTSD

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I just began reading “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker. I can already tell I won’t be able to put it down (I will write a book review when I’m finished, which shouldn’t take long). I’m also going to bring this book to my next therapy session because I want my therapist to see it.

Walker, who is a therapist and also a survivor of narcissistic abuse and sufferer of C-PTSD, is an engaging writer and definitely knows his subject matter. In one of the first chapters, he discusses the “Four F’s”–which are four different “styles” of coping that people with C-PTSD develop to cope with their abusive caregivers and avoid the abandonment depression. Whatever style one adopts may be based on several factors–natural temperament, the role in the family the child was given (scapegoat, golden child, “lost” or ignored child), birth order, and other factors.

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Available on Amazon

The Four F’s are:

1. Fight (the narcissistic defense): often “golden children,” such children learn to project shame onto others; may go on to develop NPD
2. Flight (the obsessive-compulsive/anxiety defense): these children will grow up to become highly anxious, obsessive-compulsive, and avoidant.
3. Freeze (the dissociative defense): these children “protect” themselves by dissociating from others, themselves, and their environment.
4. Fawn (the codependent defense): the child learns to avoid harm by people-pleasing or siding with their abusers.

Walker speculates that if C-PTSD were recognized in the psychiatric literature, the DSM could probably be reduced to the size of a pamphlet, for many people diagnosed with other disorders actually have C-PTSD, which encompasses symptoms of many other disorders and have common roots.

What you may have been misdiagnosed with (or diagnosed yourself with) if you have C-PTSD (these are the most common):

Personality Disorders:
Borderline Personality Disorder
Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Dissociative disorders

Anxiety Disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Panic Disorder
Social Anxiety
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Mood Disorders:
Depression
Bipolar Disorder

Developmental Disorders:
Autism Spectrum Disorders
ADHD
ADD

Codependency

Addictive Disorders

While any or all of these diagnoses can be co-morbid with C-PTSD, they miss the mark or don’t tell the whole story. Personality disorders such as BPD can develop from severe, unrelieved C-PTSD and they do share many similarities, but personality disorder labels are stigmatizing and not very helpful for someone who has suffered prolonged childhood trauma and abuse. Labels like “panic disorder” or “depression” aren’t helpful because they only address one or two symptoms of C-PTSD and therefore can’t even begin to address the roots of the depression or anxiety. You can treat anxiety or depression with drugs or short term therapy, but you can’t cure the person of the C-PTSD that’s causing their chronic anxiety or depression. The same goes for labels such as alcoholism or codependency. These are merely symptoms. People with C-PTSD are also sometimes erroneously diagnosed with developmental disorders such as ADHD or autism, which not only don’t address the trauma that led to the ADHD- or Aspergers-like behaviors, but also have completely different causes.

Empathy begins at home.

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I know that for a very long time I’ve had issues empathizing with others on a one to one basis (with a few rare exceptions like my children). It’s not that I like seeing others in pain or want to hurt them (I don’t, at all), more that I have had so much trouble connecting to my emotions, especially tender or vulnerable feelings, that this avoidance extends to everyone else. I’ve always felt empathy when it’s “safe” though–therefore I can cry for a character in a movie or novel, or even a TV commercial. I can get quite upset reading a news story about someone who’s been abused, especially if it’s an animal or a child.

But when it comes to real life people, I just can’t allow myself to get that close. I hold everyone at arm’s length. It’s too dangerous to let them in, because they might stir up emotions I haven’t wanted to feel. Of course this means emotional (as opposed to cognitive) empathy goes out the window too. You can’t feel an emotion for someone else if you can’t even access it for yourself.

It’s a common belief that all people who lack empathy are narcissists or psychopaths (or have some kind of schizoid disorder or psychosis, or autism). But a lack of empathy is also a common symptom in people with complex PTSD. Shutting off emotions–including empathy–is a defense mechanism that protects you from further harm. The problem is, this protection also “protects” you from feeling much joy or being able to really love anyone else.

Recently I’ve been feeling a kind of tender regard for my child-self/true self. Right now she’s not integrated and feels far away sometimes, but I can feel her sadness and pain. I can also feel that she’s a good person, a gentle sensitive spirit with so much love to give. I feel a tender protectiveness now where before I felt only shame and wanted to hide her away, just as she had been hidden away by the narcissists who “raised” her. So how was I any different from them, by keeping her hidden, projecting badness and shame onto her, refusing to see her strengths? Sometimes I just want to hold her like my own child. It’s not self-pity; it’s closer to empathy and even love.

Is this where empathy begins? Does it begin with loving yourself–your true self? If you hate your real self, you cannot learn to expand empathy onto others, since you can’t even empathize with yourself. If all you feel is shame, that is going to be projected onto others. That would apply to narcissists and the personality-disordered as well as people suffering from C-PTSD.   The problem for the disordered is it may be too late for some of them.  They are so thoroughly shielded by a false self they cannot even access their real selves or only with a great deal of difficulty that could take years.  There are much stronger defenses to break through.  They may be so shut off they can’t even see the lie they are living and think it’s everyone else–not them–with the problem.

The root of attachment and trauma disorders is is rejection of the self internalized from the people who were supposed to love you and mirror you; to heal, you must be able to develop empathy for your true self. That’s what my therapist has been helping me do.

Where did BPD stigma come from?

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In recent years, BPD has earned a very disagreeable stigma, so disagreeable that people who have a BPD diagnosis are refused treatment, being told they cannot get better or feared by professionals who might treat them. NPD too, hasn’t always been as demonized as it is right now. NPD and BPD have become almost interchangeable in the narc-abuse community. I don’t recall it being that way in 1996 when I got my BPD diagnosis, and I don’t remember ever being told I was hopeless or unredeemable or evil or anything like that. I was treated pretty much like any other psychiatric patient, and was given therapy and put on antidepressants. I was obliged to take a DBT class, which at the time I blew off. (DBT is like CBT but exclusive to Borderlines–and it does work. The fact it worked for me makes me think maybe I *did* have BPD but no longer do!)

BPD was always classified as a Cluster B disorder, ever since its introduction into the DSM in 1980 (it was recognized, however, for much longer than that, and popularized as a disorder in the 1960s because of the research of Otto Kernberg, a German psychologist who studied “the narcissistic and borderline personalities,” and other “disorders of the self.”).* All “Cluster B” means really is the person has a weak, fragmented or nonexistent sense of self. Not being able to access a “true self” means they become either cut off from or cannot regulate their emotions. One of the results of this is a lack of empathy (but BPDs are the most empathetic of all the B’s, and some have normal levels of empathy). In NPD, a strong false self takes the place of the true one, which is a very dissociative symptom. In BPD, there’s not a strong false self like with NPD, but there is a weak and unstable one, and the person isn’t ALWAYS showing that false self. Some BPDs act quite a bit like over-emotional or unstable narcissists (or narcissists in the midst of a breakdown due to loss of supply). Others act like covert narcissists or just act neurotic and insecure but are otherwise nice people. Some feel their emotions too much, including empathy. A few are antisocial. I’m not sure why BPD (and maybe NPD) isn’t classified as a dissociative disorder, because essentially the person is cut off from their “self” in some form or another and that is what dissociation means. I’m not sure what the mechanics are in ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) but they are very different from either Borderlines or narcissists because they aren’t dependent on others to boost their weak egos. They are psychopathic and just do what they want.

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So the Cluster B’s, including BPD, were already around, but until the mid-1990s, no one thought of them as anything but mental illnesses or for ASPD, a kind of “adult conduct disorder.” They were psychiatric labels and nothing more. The narc abuse community started in 1995 or so, and Sam Vaknin was pretty much the first one online who wrote about it. Of course, he has NPD but even so, he first called attention to the “evil”-ness of NPD/narcissism (actually it was M. Scott Peck but at the time he wrote “People of the Lie” in 1983, the term “malignant narcissism” wasn’t in vogue yet and there was no connection of “evil people” to people with NPD. There was also no Internet to spread Peck’s concepts like wildfire the way they could have been in 1995 and later. But over time, M. Scott Peck’s book has become one of the most popular in the narc-abuse community) After Vaknin established his online narcissistic abuse community and wrote his popular book “Malignant Self-Love,” more narc-abuse sites got established (many or most of them started by victims, who were understandably angry at the narcissists who had abused them). Soon “narcs are evil” became a sort of meme, and by association, so did all the Cluster B disorders earn a “evil” reputation.

There are benefits to this, of course. Victims are being more heard than ever before. People are paying attention and avoiding narcissistic abusers. But some people who carry a Cluster B label are being hurt too, especially Borderlines (or people–usually women–who were erroneously diagnosed with it). Some experts want to get rid of BPD and just re-label BPD as Complex PTSD (probably not a bad idea). There are MANY similarities. The vast majority of BPDs are not anything like malignant narcissists and are not sociopathic at all. Most just act extremely insecure, needy, and maybe “high maintenance.” They can be manipulative or act out to avoid rejection. They may collude with people with NPD, however. But it’s possible to find these same types of behaviors in many people with Complex PTSD. Are they actually the same thing?

Another reason for the BPD stigma could be the tendency for narcissists and borderlines to form partnerships or be attracted to each other. In such a pairing, the Borderline is almost always the abused or codependent partner. In several “couple killings,” one of the criminal partners, usually the female, has had a BPD diagnosis. But they may have been so brainwashed by their abusers they were coerced into colluding with them against others (a form of Stockholm Syndrome).

Finally, a number of high profile criminals and serial killers have labels of NPD or BPD. But they almost always also have a comorbid ASPD diagnosis. Media icons like Joan Crawford who were known to scapegoat their children also had a BPD diagnosis. In Crawford’s case, she was also diagnosed with HPD (Histrionic Personality Disorder). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she had NPD (malignant) or ASPD as well, as her behavior was very sociopathic behind closed doors.

Why am I “defending” people with BPD if I don’t have it?  Several reasons:

  1.  I was diagnosed with it and carried that diagnosis for two decades.   I have personally experienced being rejected by therapists once they saw my “red letter” on paper.
  2. Just because my current therapist thinks I don’t have it doesn’t mean I don’t.  Or maybe I did have it and no longer do.  If I no longer have it, that means BPDs are not “hopeless.”
  3. Maybe BPD isn’t a valid diagnosis.
  4. Many people I have cared about who were slapped with “BPD” have been hurt by it.

These are just my rambling thoughts about this matter; I’d be interested in hearing your opinions.

* Timeline of BPD

Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS): What the heck is that?

nvs

This is a very informative article about a type of complex PTSD suffered by victims of narcissistic abuse called Narcissistic Victim Syndrom, or NVS. Neither NVS or C-PTSD are currently recognized by the DSM, but are under consideration for future editions. Although this article is written for therapists, I think it belongs here and can be well understood by people who live with or whose lives have been seriously affected by narcissists. The author stresses that to be able to effectively work with patients with NVS, it’s necessary to be well-knowledged about NPD and narcissism(which abusers are most likely to have).

Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What the heck is that?