Empathy and conscience are not the same thing.

Empathy-definition

I recently saw this little gem on another website.

If you feel upset, worried, and guilty that you don’t care about others enough, then you don’t lack empathy. That right there shows you you have a conscience. Also guilt is a sign of empathy. If there’s guilt, there’s empathy. There can be no guilt without empathy. No empathy, no guilt because they are part of each other.

I’d like to take issue with this paragraph. The author is stating that feeling guilty or having a conscience means you have empathy. I beg to differ.

Empathy is the ability to feel an emotion with another, to be able to “put yourself in another person’s shoes.” It has nothing to do, really, with having a sense of right and wrong, which is what both guilt and conscience are based on. It’s entirely possible to be a self-righteous, stiff-necked prick and not have an ounce of caring for the way others feel. Think of that teacher you hated. Chances are, that teacher had a very strong conscience and a clear idea of what was right and wrong (and held themselves to the same tough standards they expected you to meet), but thought nothing of making you feel like a wad of old gum on her sensible orthopedic shoes when you violated their lofty standards. It’s also possible to feel guilty over things that aren’t even your fault but be completely oblivious to the feelings of others. Think of the worst covert narcissist you know. Chances are, that person is constantly saying “I’m sorry” and flagellating themselves until they draw blood, but their over the top guilt stems from a need to prove they’re really a good person, not because they really care that they just put your feelings through a cheese-shredder. They aren’t going to feel your pain with you–they just want to redeem themselves and have you forgive them.

Empathy and conscience do often go together though–they’re like the peanut butter and chocolate of the world of emotions–and I don’t think it’s possible to be a high empathy person and at the same time have no conscience or the inability to feel guilt or shame. But to assume that a strong conscience or the ability to feel guilt automatically indicates high empathy just makes an ass of u and me. All having a strong conscience or sense of guilt means is you’re not a sociopath.

Psychopathy may not be what you think.

gearhead

I’ve been doing some reading about psychopathy and have found out some surprising things. I always was a little confused as to how psychopathy differed from sociopathy and have used those terms interchangeably on this blog due to my confusion. I’ve also used the term interchangeably with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) and sometimes even malignant narcisissm. It turns out it’s probably something completely different from the other three disorders and may not even be a disorder at all!

Before you start laughing, hear me out.

It all started with this colorful, humorous description someone wrote on a forum I’ve been active on, describing how a Psychopath differs from a Narcissist:

When I picture a Psychopath, I think of someone who at bedtime bounces around from one thing to the next, essentially a high-energy, happy person. When I picture a Narc at bedtime, I imagine someone wearing long pajamas and a nightcap (yes, a nightcap), walking around a 19th Century house, holding a candle, checking for ghosts.

At first I thought this was a weird (but funny) analogy. But it really isn’t. According to psychologist Theodore Millon, Primary Psychopathy is something you are born with and is not due to abuse, unlike NPD or ASPD. Studies have shown that the limbic system (emotional center) of primary psychopaths is simply less active than in normal people. So they don’t experience empathy or have a conscience regardless of how they were raised, but they also don’t have very deep emotions in general.

Millon

Because they lack deep emotions, primary psychopaths tend to be fearless risk takers. They also aren’t moody because they don’t experience anxiety or depression the way others do–if they experience those states at all. But psychopathy has become associated with sociopathy and/or ASPD or malignant narcissism because a born psychopath may be more prone to developing personality disorders than the normal population, if they are abused. Because they don’t have the capacity to develop a conscience or empathy, if they do develop a personality disorder, it’s likely to be Antisocial Personality Disorder, where the right of others are callously violated. That’s why so many psychopaths are also antisocial and dangerous.

But there is nothing wrong with the cognitive functioning of a psychopath. They are able to learn the difference between right and wrong, and if they do not develop a personality disorder, theoretically they can choose to do what’s right. Only the limbic system is impaired, so any decisions a true psychopath makes are cognitively based. Emotion simply doesn’t play into it at all. They do “whatever works.” They lack a conscience because conscience is emotion- or shame-based, and a psychopath isn’t capable of much emotion in general.

So a primary psychopath can theoretically be a good person who is just extremely unemotional and only uses logic and reason to make decisions. Unlike narcissists, who actually have deep emotions but have turned all their emotions inward toward themselves and require “supply” to bolster their fragile egos, a non-disordered psychopath has no need for supply. They simply don’t care what anyone thinks. What you think is simply not something that even occurs to them. In contrast, a narcissist cares very much what you think and falls apart like wet toilet paper if supply in the form of approval or adoration is not forthcoming.

Primary psychopathy seems analogous to the Myers-Briggs ESTJ (Extroverted/Sensing/Thinking/Judging) personality type. In other words, a psychopath is an outgoing, sensation seeking, hedonistic thinker who happily jumps around from activity to activity like someone jacked up on Red Bull, yet they don’t have ADHD either because the J(udging) aspect means their high level of activity always has a goal or purpose. Such a person would be easily bored (which could also lead to antisocial behavior), never worry about things or experience (or even understand) guilt, and unafraid to try and experience new things. Their lack of emotionality would suit them well for the business world. In fact, people who have become very successful in business tend to score high in psychopathic traits.

two-brains

While many high level executives do abuse the rights of others and callously close entire departments and treat their employees like so many pieces in a chess game (whatever works, right?), because psychopaths can tell the difference between right and wrong, some will try to do the right thing just the same. The difference is, they are using cognition rather than emotion to back any prosocial decisions.

Looked at this way, primary psychopathy may not be a disorder at all but a personality variation. Of course, the term “psychopathy” has negative connotations because most of us associate it with antisocial criminals, shady con artists, and serial killers. And in fact many of them are, but not all.

Sociopathy differs from primary psychopathy because (according to Millon, above), it’s antisocial behavior that may develop in a person with ASPD or NPD and is always due to abuse somewhere in the person’s past. A primary psychopath can become a sociopath if they become disordered, and that’s where you would find the serial killers and criminals (and these people usually have ASPD). But a sociopath isn’t always (or even usually) a psychopath. Sociopaths who aren’t psychopathic are usually very malignant narcissists (high spectrum NPD + ASPD) or sometimes even Borderlines, and they differ from psychopaths because there is no logic or rational thinking behind their antisocial or destructive behaviors, only unhealthy, toxic emotion. They seem to have no empathy because all their empathy–and most of their other emotions except anger–are turned inward toward themselves. The false self is what they present to others instead of their real emotions. Narcissists have plenty of empathy but it’s all for themselves–that’s why they are prone to wallowing in self pity. A psychopath would never wallow in self pity. They simply don’t care what you think.

I can’t relate to narcissists who love their disorder.

android

I read this post at Psychforums written by a person who sees their narcissism as a huge advantage.

I spent all my life trying to figure out why I felt so different from other people. A few months ago I was researching in detail narcissism for my master thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray when I suddenly realized that I fit perfectly with all the criteria to be assessed as a high functioning, cerebral, covert narcissist. I immediately felt amazing about it. Not even for one second I believed that there is something wrong in me, but I soon realized that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to agree with my view.

The idea that my malignant tendencies have a reason to exist empowers them, and all the studies I have read on this topic instead of making me feel like I have a mental illness that should be cured provided me with the tools I need to expand my narcissism and use it in my favor. I guess this sounds like I really am sick, but bear with me: why would I, as a narcissist who feeds upon the desire of being special and unique, have a problem with being diagnosed as such? It makes me different from others for real. I am not going to stand in line with all those narcissists who fear themselves, who punish the way they are. Becoming self-aware opens infinite doors to the great potential I have.

I always deeply enjoyed manipulation, now I know why, but I also know that I have the power to bring this skill on a higher level and the more I master this “science” the less people will realize what I am doing to them. I don’t have a problem letting people know that I am a narcissist, but they never believe it – they still see me as a caring, loving, trustworthy girl who would go out of her way to help, too nice and interesting to be classified as “evil”. This discovery has given a great boost to my self-esteem which used to be pretty low. But it was low because I didn’t embrace and accept who I am. Knowledge is power. I am more functional now than before, I test my potential daily to see how far it can go, how much more I can get from it. Why would people ever want to heal from this?!

They say that a lack of empathy is a terrible thing. I don’t even know what empathy is, so why would I be concerned about owning it? They say I will never be happy with the way I am, but, let’s state the truth, people are never satisfied and fully happy anyway; they live for unhappiness because hope is far more enjoyable and stimulating. They say I cannot have fulfilling and real relationships, but that’s not true: given the right partner I can make him feel like he is the most special person in the world. Of course, all of this is done primarily to make myself feel like I have total control over them, but it can still provide them with some good things for themselves. It’s twisted, but I find unconditional love far more twisted. Self-awareness helps me regulating my depression since now I understand that it’s triggered by a lack of NS, so I just need to adjust that to feel back on track.

And when a NS is not readily available I feed my ego by trying to achieve success and praise in my work or studies. The more difficult and stressful it is, the larger my ego grows when I get there. Have you ever felt a proper ego boost? When it feels like there is something extremely warm in your chest which is expanding throughout your body? I live for that feeling.

I always wanted to become a teacher, but I was scared that I wasn’t good enough for that. Right now it has become clear that this is the only thing that I can do successfully. What’s better than a group of people who you can manipulate on a daily basis without being perceived badly? And here by manipulation I don’t mean in a bad way: you can convince them that they can be and do whatever they want in life. And they will repay you by making you feel omnipotent.

That’s a fair deal to me. Last but not least, being a narcissist made me finally forgive my mother for all the years of psychological and physical torture I had to endure. She made me the person that I am today, for better and for worse. I let go of all the grudge and hate and established a far better relationship with her.

I am human, but if my being a narcissist means that I am an evil human being, I can totally accept that and carry on. I would rather be good and be a hero for others, but I always found villains much more charming and true to themselves.

android2

This is an example of ego-syntonic narcissism and is common in high spectrum grandiose (classic, not covert) narcissists whether they’re self aware or not. It seems psychopathic to me. While on an intellectual level I can understand the logic behind it, and yes, I’ll even concede that it is possible to be devoid of empathy or a conscience and still choose to be prosocial (people with NPD and even ASPD can tell the difference between right and wrong, but usually won’t choose to do the right thing, only what suits them), I simply cannot relate to this way of thinking. It seems very machine-like to me, almost a parrot-like existence.

Sure, without a conscience you don’t suffer from guilt and shame the way most people do, but living this way just seems so cold and sterile to me. I spent years unable to feel much of anything, and am recently beginning to discover my softer emotions and wouldn’t have it any other way. Even sadness adds depth to the experience of being alive. How can a person like this be able to experience higher emotions like love, empathy or real joy? A machine can’t experience joy, sadness or love, all they can do is fake it. To me, this seems like a sterile, joyless way to live, an imitation of being a human, and I want no part of it. How can you really enjoy life when everything and everyone becomes nothing but narcissistic supply? I’m sorry, but I’m a person, not a parrot.

That being said, high functioning/high spectrum narcissists do seem to like their narcissistic traits, because they tend to be beneficial in the selfish and narcissistic society we currently live in. The enormous popularity of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of selfishness as a virtue attests to this. But such a world, run by people who feel nothing and get high off their own perceived power and superiority, is deeply frightening to me.

Cognitive dissonance and NPD.

narcissism_childhood

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of cognitive dissonance and its role in creating a narcissist or turning a narcissist into a malignant one.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

–Wikipedia

A computer will crash or stop working when given conflicting sets of instructions. Although people are not computers (because we have emotions and a soul), if we receive conflicting sets of “instructions” or information about ourselves, it causes so much mental distress that a personality disorder can develop if the conflict appears very early in life.

A child who is constantly invalidated by narcissistic parents tries to correct the cognitive dissonance by “becoming” what the parents tell them they are. If the parents tell them they are evil, bad, always misbehaving, etc. they may become aggressive, overt narcissist themselves to “match” the parents’ assessment of them. If they are told they are incompetent, a loser, stupid, etc. they may develop covert narcissism or BPD instead.

Golden/spoiled children.

Veruca-Salt

Spoiling a child is actually a form of abuse, because being a golden child negates the child’s own reality that they are human and less than perfect. The spoiled, golden child will either try to be as “perfect” as they are told to match their parent’s unrealistic assessment (and a grandiose false self develops from that) or they know they can’t ever be the image of perfection their parents insist they be, and to correct the cognitive dissonance they may become rebellious or adopt covert narcissism (in which the child believes they are worthless and the parents are wrong) as a coping strategy.

Other personality disorders.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also a way to correct cognitive dissonance. I think BPD develops in many children who were both golden children and scapegoats (which is often the case with onlies) who were given inconsistent parenting, sometimes abused, sometimes treated like little gods. That’s why they’re so conflicted and seem to act in contradictory ways that confuse themselves and those around them.

Not all abused children develop narcissism or BPD, but it’s my belief almost all children of narcissists develop personality disorders, all of which are the adult incarnations of childhood attachment disorders.

Malignant Narcissism.

monsters-nietzsche

Malignant narcissism is NPD that is high on the spectrum and mixed with antisocial (ASPD) traits. A low-mid spectrum narcissist (or even a non-narcissist!) can turn malignant during adolescence or even as an adult. I think this is almost always due to some choice they made or action they were forced to engage in that went against their conscience. Let me explain how this works.

M. Scott Peck in his book, “People of the Lie,” (the book that popularized the concept of malignant narcissists as “evil”) told the story of a man who narrowly escaped becoming evil/malignant. The man, a non-narcissist who loved his family dearly, suffered from debilitating panic attacks when crossing a certain bridge on his drive to work. Even though he didn’t believe in the devil, one day while suffering a severe panic attack he made a “deal with the devil”–he told the devil he could take his favorite son’s life in exchange for allowing him to cross the bridge without having any more panic attacks. Of course nothing happened, and the son was fine. The man, filled with remorse over having these thoughts, told Dr. Peck about it, and was told he did the right thing to repent, because otherwise he would have become evil himself, especially had something actually happened to his son. If he had turned to darkness and narcissism, it would have been to correct the cognitive dissonance between what he had done and his internal moral compass. He would have had to discard his previous moral standards and embrace darkness.

A person forced to engage in something they find morally reprehensible, such as a soldier forced to kill innocent civilians, can turn toward darkness. Many veterans return suffering severe PTSD and in some cases seem to have lost the souls they went to war with. Many, who have committed atrocities in war, correct the cognitive dissonance created by doing something that went against their conscience, by discarding their conscience altogether. This isn’t a conscious choice usually, but is the end result of severe PTSD. (I think all personality disorders are, in fact, manifestions of severe PTSD caused by chronic abuse starting when the personality was still forming.)

It’s my opinion that adolescence is when malignant narcissism is most likely to develop, because adolescents are by nature risk-takers and trying to establish a separate identity from their their parents. This usually takes the form of some type of rebellion, and rebellion is normal as long as it doesn’t go too far. Some adolescents may be “dared” by their friends to engage in antisocial activities. Adolescents are so eager to be accepted in a group of their peers that sometimes their desire for acceptance overrides their conscience, which isn’t fully developed yet. If these antisocial activities hurt others (such as robbing someone’s house on a dare), the teenager’s fledgling conscience is halted in its growth, and may be discarded altogether. It’s at this point an adolescent can turn to malignant narcissism. This is why the choices kids make are so important. Here’s an excerpt from my article, “Healing Narcissism: Stephen’s Story,” in which a fictional boy I called Stephen turns to narcissism as a coping strategy, and it all began with a dare.

The Choice.

bullied_child

Stephen recalled a dare when he was 8 years old. A group of boys who had bullied him dared him to set a paper bag of dried dog poop on another boy’s rickety wooden front porch and set it on fire. The boys promised him that if he did this, they would no longer bully him and they would be his friend and protect him against any further bullying. Stephen knew that doing this could set the other boy’s house on fire and at first he protested, explaining what could happen. At this point he still had a conscience. But the boys threatened him and told him if he didn’t do it, their bullying would become worse and they would kill his pet rabbit. Stephen believed them, so against his will, he complied.

They set out after dark for the targeted house. The boys watched from the darkened yard as Stephen lit the paper bag on fire and hesitantly walked up the front stairs of the boy’s porch and set it next to a dead potted plant. The deed done, all the boys ran away before anyone saw them. Stephen looked back in time to see the flames ignite the plant, and quickly start to spread over the railings of the rickety old wooden porch. He felt awful and considered going to the police, but he didn’t dare. He went to bed that night and had terrible nightmares.

The targeted boy’s house burned down and he, his baby sister, and his mother had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. Soon after, the family moved away, never to be seen again. No charges were pressed because no one knew who the culprit was.

To protect himself from his unbearable feelings of guilt and shame, Stephen shut off his painful emotions of guilt and conscience. From then on, the group of bullies accepted him as one of them, and they continued to engage in tormenting other children and even petty crimes.

This is an example of cognitive dissonance. Stephen would not have been able to live with himself had he not turned to narcissism as a coping strategy. The irony here is that, the more intense the child’s guilt or shame over committing an act that goes against their morals (or the more heinous the act), the more likely it is they will turn malignant, because to do otherwise would mean the overwhelming shame they feel could likely cause them to become severely depressed or even suicidal. This isn’t an excuse for anyone to turn to narcissism (or malignant narcissism) as a coping strategy, but is an unfortunate reality.

Acquired narcissism.

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Sometimes people who become extremely successful, such as celebrities, sports stars, business leaders or politicians, can become narcissists, even if they were not narcissistic before their success. It doesn’t happen to all of them, but if it does, this is another example of how cognitive dissonance tries to “correct” things. In order to close the mental gap between their actual assessment of themselves as imperfect humans and the adulation they receive from the outer world that treats them as if they’re somehow more than human, a successful person can turn to narcissism to align their self-assessment with the way they are regarded by others. This is why some celebrities become so full of themselves or manipulative. It’s a form of acquired narcissism, but because it’s acquired fairly late in life and isn’t due to a choice, this type of narcissism may be temporary and only last as long as the person remains famous or very successful. If they fade into obscurity, the person faces a narcissistic crisis, but after that I think they can return to a non-narcissistic way of being in the world.

Emotional vomiting.

Reposted from Down The Rabbit Hole.

vomiting

My moods have been as unstable as the ocean before an approaching hurricane. One day euphoric, the next in the depths of rage and despair. My few good moods lately are so easily shattered.

Then I see my own narcissism and have trouble sorting it out from the normal “negative” emotions we all have for survival. What’s worth being upset about? What is just selfishness and entitlement?

I observe and watch myself. Since my revelation, the wall of cognitive blindness that kept me unable to see my narcissism melted away and what is revealed is the underlying envy, rage, entitlement and grandiosity. This layer was always the most painful to me (and hardest for others to deal with, because the false grandiosity (which can be pleasant, even if deluded) came marinated in a poisonous concoction of envy and rage. So the grandiosity and entitlement is toxic to everyone. It’s like snake poison.

Becoming humble isn’t becoming weak or masochistic. It doesn’t mean you allow people to flagellate you or abuse you. It means knowing you have limits, acknowledging you are only human and not a superman or woman. It means accepting the truth about yourself, even when it hurts. It means seeing what’s real. The scales falling from our eyes may be painful, but in the end this pain will set you free.

I’ve been emotionally unstable for three weeks now. Of course those could be BPD traits coming to the surface too. But I know a lot of it is all the spiritual poison of long term narcissism rising to the surface of my consciousness so they can be purged.

I can feel these black poisons in my body and mind, dragging me down and making me feel sick. I’ve cried more this week than I cried in the past 10 years. It’s cleansing, satisfying crying. It feels good. I feel more centered and relaxed and more at peace when I’m done. The truth becomes clearer. If you really want to get better, tears are the vehicle that carries the sickness from the body. If you have a stomach virus and couldn’t vomit you could die. The same thing goes for spiritual and emotional sickness like NPD or BPD.

cry_tears

I also write bad purple prose poetry where I vomit everything out. I haven’t done that since I was in my teens writing angsty, angry poetry in my school notebooks. It doesn’t matter that the poems are awful. They’re helping me purge myself of the spiritual poison of decades of abuse. It’s part of getting better. Like the crying, writing these poems brings me relief and more clarity. So do writing out my thoughts and feelings, no matter how “ugly” they may be.

The actual nitty gritty of healing from NPD is going to be so painful. I can see how painful and scary it will be. I’ve seen the entrance to the tunnel and it’s dark and vast and depressing, but I’m going in there to rescue my real self, my child self trapped there who never got to grow up or to know who she was. I care about that little girl now. I used to hate her, I wanted to divorce myself from her. She embarrassed me and shamed me. Now I need her help because she has empathy and sensitivity and enormous strength of character and I need those things more than I need a million dollars or a lover. She is my beacon of light. I know she is me but we’re so disconnected; there is so much baggage between us.

Even becoming self aware is painful. Strange, unfamiliar emotions come to the surface of awareness but at first they make no sense. You feel dissociated, apart from yourself, looking inside. But then it starts to make a lot of sense and you can’t believe you never saw it before. Looking inward from the outside is like you’ve been transported to a psychedelic upside down land. You don’t know what’s the true self and what’s the false one. You feel your different selves battling it out, and it makes you confused and disoriented. It also gives me headaches.

This is the stage I’m at right now. I can finally see my behaviors as others saw them, and sometimes stop myself before I act out. I’m getting better but I still slip up a lot. My emotions seem to be rising from both the “good me” and the “bad me” and they fight for center stage. It’s like a collage in relief and you’re not sure which is the background and which is the foreground. You can’t always tell yet which self is the true one and which one is the liar, and you’re begging a higher power or somebody, anybody, to show you what is true.

If the narcissistic mind in the process of healing were the whole universe, this inner conflict would be a battle between good and evil of Biblical proportions. Most of us aren’t evil, we are deeply conflicted and make bad choices.

But only you can know what are the right choices, and what is true–and that takes patience. You have to accept it’s going to take time to be able to internalize what’s right and good and what connects you with others. You can’t give up, no matter what.

I need clarity. I need help sorting out all these conflicting, confusing emotions that churn inside me and make me sick. This cathartic emotional puking–relieved with episodes of expansiveness, optimism, limerence-like euphoria and even moments of real empathy–is removing these toxins from me and I think in time, the episodes of joy and optimism will become more frequent and more stable and replace the episodes of vomiting.

I’m beginning to see the direction God planned for me. Since making this shattering discovery about myself, everything is becoming clearer. Ideas are finally gelling together from my chaos of conflicting ideas and insights. And these ideas aren’t popular and they’re not what I thought they would be; they’re what’s needed. But before I can make these ideas a a reality, I need to face the pain and purge it and remember it’s all part of healing. I need to go in that void and slay the dragons–ether that or reconcile with them.
I’m up for the challenge…I think.

I just wish that in going through this process I didn’t have to engage with the mundane world of work and paying bills. I wish I could isolate myself somewhere on a remote beach, just listen to the waves and feel the hot sun and the coolness of the sea…go inside my beach cabin and play music and write things that elicit my real feelings…and not have to deal with other people for months or even a year or two. Just spend all that time working on myself instead of having to keep up the lie just to survive in the world. When my self imposed exile is over, I’d return to modern life a changed person.

When does a narcissist cross the point of no return?

no_going_back

This question came up on the forums I’ve been active on. I think this question has fascinating implications but may never be answered with any degree of certainty.

Where the point of no return (the point at which a narc cannot be healed) exists on the narcissistic spectrum isn’t a question we will probably ever know. However, I have a couple of theories that ping ponged around inside my head.

1. Level of sadism/paranoia. (these traits were suggested by another forum member)
I think the ratio of ASPD traits to NPD traits would come into play–and most ASPDs are at least somewhat sadistic. I don’t know what the percentage of ASPD traits would have to be (and maybe it would vary in individuals anyway) but obviously a narcissist with a lot of ASPD is going to be more sadistic, and therefore more malignant/psychopathic, and that’s the point where no self awareness is possible–when a narc becomes malignant or psychopathic. Paranoia would come into play too, as I think paranoia rises with sadism. The more malignant the narcissist, the more paranoid (and sadistic) they will be.
For more, please see my article about The Dark Triad.

2. Soul-murder/cognitive dissonance.
My second theory about the point of no return is going to sound a little strange. I don’t believe the world is just the physical world we see. I’m not especially religious and don’t interpret biblical events literally but I am Christian (Catholic) and believe with no doubt that evil exists. Whether there’s an actual entity called Satan is not something I can answer. But I think there are evil entities, or energies, and I think M. Scott Peck’s book “People of the Lie” explains all this brilliantly (and was the first book to explain malignant narcissism even though it wasn’t called that in 1983). It was also the book that helped me identify my mother and my ex as MNs.

Anyway, I think it’s possible for a person (a victim of abuse) to be infected with the evil of another person. If it goes on long enough, the victims’ “narcissism fleas” (N traits picked up from their narcissists) can become cancerous and turn into full blown narcissism. If the victim was especially abused or sensitive (or was both scapegoat and golden child) they may be more covert but are still N.
I think choice also has to do with it. If one sides with their abusers all the time, or colludes with them in antisocial acts, I think something in the person’s soul can turn dark.

npd_spectrum

Once this darkness sets in, a person who was low-mid spectrum moves higher on the spectrum into malignant narcissism and can’t go back to being the way they were. That’s the point of no return. This has happened in wartime, with soldiers forced to do things that go against their morals like killing innocents, or accidentally killing a fellow soldier in combat — when these veterans return they suffer severe PTSD but for some, who were forced to commit deeds that went against their conscience and morals, they crossed a line into evil.

I think the mechanics of what happens is that when one makes a choice or is forced to do something that goes against their morals, there’s so much cognitive dissonance that a split in the mind occurs, where the person, feeling so guilty over their deed that it’s unbearable, takes the side of evil, to correct the dissonance.

I think all PD’s may actually be complex PTSD (c-PTSD) that is more deeply embedded in the personality.

As far as narcisissts lower on the spectrum (low-through mid spectrum)–and I absolutely believe it’s a spectrum disorder like autism–a non-malignant/non ASPD narcissist isn’t evil and hasn’t crossed the point of no return. It won’t be easy to get that “skeleton transplant” (and will be extremely painful!) but it can be done.

I hope my BPD wall of words made sense (someone told me that all BPD’s write posts that are as long as books with a lot of run on sentences, LOL!)

Clearing up some misunderstandings about BPD.

borderline

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about borderline personality disorder. I’ve noticed many people seem to confuse it with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). While there ARE some overlapping symptoms (and it’s even been speculated by a number of mental health professionals that BPD is actually a less severe form of NPD), they are quite different from each other. I’d like to clear up a few of these misunderstandings and discuss both the similarities and the differences.

New DSM Criteria for BPD.

According the the DSM-V (2013), these are the diagnostic criteria for BPD (the new list of criteria is quite long and ponderous so I will not attempt to talk about each of these points here):

A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:

1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):

a. Identity: Markedly impoverished, poorly developed, or unstable self-image, often associated with excessive self-criticism; chronic feelings of emptiness; dissociative states under stress.

b. Self-direction: Instability in goals, aspirations, values, or career plans.

AND

2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):

a. Empathy: Compromised ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others associated with interpersonal hypersensitivity (i.e., prone to feel slighted or insulted); perceptions of others selectively biased toward negative attributes or vulnerabilities.

b. Intimacy: Intense, unstable, and conflicted close relationships, marked by mistrust, neediness, and anxious preoccupation with real or imagined abandonment; close relationships often viewed in extremes of idealization and devaluation and alternating between over involvement and withdrawal.

B. Pathological personality traits in the following domains:

1. Negative Affectivity, characterized by:

a. Emotional lability: Unstable emotional experiences and frequent mood changes; emotions that are easily aroused, intense, and/or out of proportion to events and circumstances.

b. Anxiousness: Intense feelings of nervousness, tenseness, or panic, often in reaction to interpersonal stresses; worry about the negative effects of past unpleasant experiences and future negative possibilities; feeling fearful, apprehensive, or threatened by uncertainty; fears of falling apart or losing control.

c. Separation insecurity: Fears of rejection by – and/or separation from – significant others, associated with fears of excessive dependency and complete loss of autonomy.

d. Depressivity: Frequent feelings of being down, miserable, and/or hopeless; difficulty recovering from such moods; pessimism about the future; pervasive shame; feeling of inferior self-worth; thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior.

2. Disinhibition, characterized by:

a. Impulsivity: Acting on the spur of the moment in response to immediate stimuli; acting on a momentary basis without a plan or consideration of outcomes; difficulty establishing or following plans; a sense of urgency and self-harming behavior under emotional distress.

b. Risk taking: Engagement in dangerous, risky, and potentially self-damaging activities, unnecessarily and without regard to consequences; lack of concern for one’s limitations and denial of the reality of personal danger.

3. Antagonism, characterized by:

a. Hostility: Persistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability in response to minor slights and insults.

C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.

E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).

Is it really true that Borderlines can’t feel empathy?

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BPD patient “Alice” (Kristen Wiig) in “Welcome to Me.”

The very first thing that stood out to me (and was not included in the older DSM criteria) is “lack of empathy.” Yes, it is a fact that many borderlines have difficulty feeling empathy under normal circumstances, but the reasons for this are vastly different than the lack of empathy seen in people with NPD.

Most people with BPD have the capacity to feel empathy, and can feel very guilty when they become aware (or it’s pointed out to them) that they have treated others badly, but because Borderlines have great difficulty regulating their emotional reactions and have an unfortunate tendency to lose themselves in their own drama when they perceive they are being attacked, at those times they can “forget” that others exist, and this can lead to them acting selfishly and disregarding the feelings of others. This can appear very narcissistic. It’s not that they CAN’T feel empathy though, because they certainly can. They can also feel remorseful. But it may take a disaster (such as losing a good friend or a broken relationship) for them to realize the damage their impulsive and selfish behavior has caused. If their bad behavior is pointed out to them by someone else–such as when the character Alice in the movie “Welcome to Me” loses her best friend Gina, who tells her how much she was hurt by Alice’s insults against her–they will feel remorse and try to make amends in whatever way they can.

Borderlines just want to be accepted.

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Unlike narcissists, borderlines hate to be hated. Narcissists like any form of attention–negative or positive (and some even prefer to be hated!) while borderlines only want to be loved and thought of in a positive manner. Most of them WANT to be good people and WANT to be liked, but don’t always act in ways that make them seem very nice, due to their impulsivity and tendency to act out whatever emotions they are feeling at the moment.

Impulsivity is a primary issue with a borderline–a trait not shared by narcissists (but IS shared with people with ASPD)–because they fail to think ahead and consider consequences of their bad behavior.

Borderlines can act narcissistic because of their deep seated need to feel accepted. Most hate themselves (as do narcissists) and some can act grandiose and full of themselves in their attempts to be liked and admired. Deep inside, they feel worthless. It’s not hard to take down their braggadocio, however. Cut a borderline down to size and they may react with rage or tears (as will a narcissist) but are also more likely than a narcissist to admit you are right and they are really just worthless losers. They might even apologize profusely for acting so out of line.

I can’t help but think of the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. An insecure little man who stood behind a curtain projecting the face of a raging tyrant onto a huge screen. When Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal who the “Wizard” really was, and Dorothy upbraided him for being a “very bad man,” the Wizard immediately became humble and apologized profusely to the group, telling them that yes, he was just a humbug. Some people have said the Wizard was a narcissist, but I think his behavior was more typical of a borderline. A narcissist would have continued to insist on his superiority, even with his true nature having been revealed–and his true nature would not have been so benign. The Wizard’s intentions for Dorothy and her friends were also good.

While a narcissist may rage and perhaps even use tears (to manipulate others into feeling sorry for them), they will almost never admit their wrongdoing or admit they are anything other than God’s gift to the world. Doing so is far too dangerous to them.

Why Borderlines act selfishly.

BPD_cartoon

A borderline who is not under stress or in the midst of an emotional drama, or has learned to control their impulses through behavioral training like DBT–dialectical behavior training which was developed by Marsha Linehan (it does work–I can attest to its efficacy), can certainly feel empathy for others, and can be genuinely good and kind people. Genuine kindness and concern for others is rare in a narcissist and almost unheard of in a malignant narcissist. Borderlines generally have this capacity, but unfortunately, if they haven’t learned to control or regulate their emotions, their ability to feel for others or show a conscience is eclipsed by their own drama, which at the moment becomes all-important. They really just don’t know what they are doing, but if you call them out or make them suffer consequences, in most cases they will try to make it up to you.

Borderlines don’t live a lie.

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Borderlines do not wear masks, as narcissists do. They cannot pretend to be someone they are not (or if try to, they usually fail miserably, like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz). They are not trying to fool you, even though to avoid rejection, they can be manipulative and use some of the same games (gaslighting, blame-shifting, rages, etc) that narcissists do. Borderlines, if anything, show TOO MUCH of themselves–and that includes the bad along with the good. With a borderline, it’s all WYSIWYG. They can’t wear a mask, because they lack the ability to plan things out ahead of time the way someone with NPD does. Wearing masks requires cunning and the ability to lie. While borderlines can and do lie (usually to exaggerate the pain they are facing or to idealize/devalue someone else), they can’t lie about who they are or what they’re feeling. In that sense, they’re even more honest than the average non-disordered person.

Idealization/devaluation in borderlines and narcissists.
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Both narcissists and borderlines do tend to idealize and devalue other people, and both are guilty of black-or-white thinking. But the motives for this behavior are different. A narcissist idealizes someone they see as a good source of narcissistic supply. They do not see the source of supply as a person, but will put them on a pedestal as long as they’re providing enough supply. Should the victim stop providing supply (or the narcissist just becomes bored and needs a new source of supply), the narcissist devalues and discards the victim, without mercy or regret.

Most borderlines idealize and devalue others based on their need for acceptance and love, not the need for supply. If they perceive another person as good and kind, and accepting of them, they will tend to idealize the person and sometimes become clingy and needy (a narcissist can be clingy and needy too, but for different reasons). If the borderline feels the other person losing interest or pulling away from them, they may suddenly, without warning, devalue the other person and reject them. They do this not to be mean, but to avoid being rejected themselves. This explains the “I hate you…don’t leave me” or “come closer…go away” behaviors many borderlines show. It’s confusing and contradictory to others, but it helps them to avoid the inevitable rejection they believe is coming to them. Borderlines live in constant fear of being rejected; narcissists live in constant fear being ignored–losing their “drug” of narcissistic supply. While their behaviors may seem similar on the surface, the motives behind them are quite different.

A borderline is not usually deliberately malicious or sadistic. It’s not their intention to hurt others or cause them misery, even though they unintentionally do it all the time because they have so much trouble controlling their impulses. They usually are not even aware how much their unpredictable and contradictory behavior is confusing or hurting others. If a borderline is made aware of what they are doing, they are far more likely to seek therapy than a narcissist, because someone with BPD wants more than anything to be loved and accepted. A narcissist just doesn’t care what you think of them, as long as you are paying attention to them. Of course, there are some low-mid spectrum narcissists who have enough self awareness and hate the fact they can’t feel the more sublime emotions (love, empathy, joy) of a normal person, and those few may actually seek help too.

BPD is maladaptive to the victim.

linehan_biosocial
Marsha Linehan’s diagram that shows why BPD doesn’t work well for the sufferer. (click to enlarge)

Borderline personality disorder is ego-dystonic: that is, it isn’t adaptive to the sufferer and their behaviors cause them as much or more misery than it causes others. People with any ego-dystonic disorder or mental illness–depression, anxiety, phobias, certain personality disorders such as Avoidant, Borderline or Dependent–are more likely to seek treatment because they aren’t happy with the way they behave and feel. They don’t necessarily blame others for their own misery, the way a narcissist will do.

Borderlines are also far more likely than narcissists to engage in suicidal ideation or even attempt suicide when they become depressed. They are self-destructive and more dangerous to themslves than others. A narcissist is not as likely to consider or attempt suicide, but if they do, they are more likely to attempt to “take you with them.”

Narcissistic personality disorder is ego-syntonic: that is, it usually is adaptive to the sufferer and in most cases their bad behaviors don’t bother them at all (they don’t care how you feel), they only bother others. This is why narcissists are so unlikely to seek treatment, unless they have lost their sources of supply and are undergoing severe depression (narcissistic crisis). Narcissists are miserable people, but they are far more likely than borderlines to blame others for their own misery.

Both disorders are included under the Cluster B category of personality disorders because both involve a malfunction of emotional regulation. In a narcissist, emotion is strong but is hidden and masked; in a borderline, emotion is strong but cannot be hidden or regulated at all. Both disorders cause others misery, but a narcissist lives a lie; a borderline generally does not.

BPD as a defense mechanism that arises in early childhood.

scared_child

Both NPD and BPD (and all Cluster B disorders) arise out of childhood from early attachment disorders with caregivers. Both are desperate attempts not to be hurt anymore and have their origins in abuse or neglect as young children. Most narcissists and borderlines were abuse victims as children. Both narcissists and borderlines are incredibly sensitive–so much so, they have constructed almost intractible defense mechanisms to avoid further pain and hurt. Unfortunately for the borderline, their defense mechanism of overreaction to everything is maladaptive and hurts them more than they can hurt anyone else. But due to this, they are far more likely to seek treatment.

Upcoming Post:
Later on, I plan to post an article about Marsha Linehan’s DBT and other therapies for people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. (They are similar to the methods used for people with NPD).

Letter from a narcissist’s “true self”

narcissus1_caravaggio

Here is a hypothetical letter written from the point of view of a narcissist’s True (lost) Self.

The advice given here by the True Self is almost the polar opposite of whatever their False Self would tell you. That’s because their False Self is a lie and isn’t who they really are, even though they may have been wearing this mask for so long they can never access their True Self without enormous difficulty or even at all.

Always follow the advice of their True Self, no matter how much they protest and rage, unless you want further abuse. It’s actually the best thing for them if they ever decide to look in the mirror past the lies they show the world (and may have come to believe is the truth)–and of course it’s best for you.

Letter from a Narcissist’s True Self:

Dear Victim,

I have lied to you about nearly everything. I am not sorry for this behavior because I cannot empathize with you. I chose narcissism so early in my life that I never had the chance to develop a conscience or the capacity to feel remorse or empathy for the way I hurt you. Still. I know it’s wrong on an intellectual level. I just cannot feel your pain. Sometimes I wish I could, but I can’t.

I became a narcissist because as a child I felt too vulnerable. I was sensitive. I felt too much and most of it was painful. I was made to feel like I was nothing, a nobody. I was hurt, betrayed, abused, just like you. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t loved, or why I was treated with contempt and like I didn’t matter. I was also was never given a good example of how to become a good person. I never had anyone to model in a positive way.

Life was so painful for me I had to do something about it. Something drastic. I had to become strong and never show weakness again, because my weakness was killing me. I was trained that being a sensitive person who feels compassion and remorse, a person who can love others, is a weak person. I know that isn’t really the case, but it was how I was trained. I was so young that I couldn’t see how wrong that might have been.

I reached a point where I had to make a choice. In order to survive, I had to sacrifice my humanity. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt like I had to. I didn’t want to be hurt anymore. I had to sell my soul.

In order to sell my soul, I had to shut you and everyone else out. I couldn’t allow myself to feel too much. I couldn’t allow myself to be sensitive anymore, and that meant I could no longer allow myself to love anyone, feel anyone else’s pain or joy, or feel sorry if I did something wrong.

I had to don this mask that I wear, which is a lie. In order to keep that lie intact, I had to treat others badly. I had to diminish you to prop my false self up. I had to hate you in order to “love” the mask that I show the world, because if I didn’t continually prop myself up by making you feel bad, my mask of lies might fall off and expose the real me, a powerless and vulnerable child which I had to protect at all costs, even if it meant destroying everyone else around me. I am a bully but inside I know I am nothing. I act like I love myself but I really hate myself. I only love the mask I wear. I abuse you to protect that mask.

michelle_mallon_quote
Read Michelle Mallon’s story here.

You can never get through to my true self because the lies I tell are nearly impenetrable. I have lied so often and for so long that I myself have come to believe my own lies. I am a walking lie. That is the truth.

I will never let you get close to what I really feel. I don’t even know what I feel anymore. Most of the time I feel nothing, because a lie has no feelings. But try to destroy my protective armor, and I will try to destroy you. If I must go down in flames, I am going to take you with me. I will rage and abuse you. I will gaslight you and tell you the most horrific lies about yourself.

I may seem nice at first or when I feel like the supply you give me is threatened or you may leave. I know how to get others to trust me–by acting like a nice person. I am good at acting like a nice person but I can’t feel a nice person’s emotions. It’s hard work to act nice, because that’s a lie too.

When you begin to trust me, I will start abusing you, because I must keep you at arm’s length and keep my mask of lies intact at all costs. Both the niceness I show you and the asshole I become are both lies. I cannot even access who I really am. I have forgotten. I just know that my true self is there, somewhere, and I can never, ever, let you meet them.

If you mirror back to me too much of the truth about me–if I become aware that you KNOW this mask I always wear is a fake–I will attempt to destroy you or cut you out of my life. I cannot afford to have the truth about myself revealed to me. Nothing terrifies me more than facing the truth about myself so I have dissociated myself from it. It scares me so much to realize how evil I have become. It hurts me so much that I had to choose this fake self because of what was done to me. I hate being evil. I really don’t want to be this way but I will never, ever admit that. I cannot ever show you or anyone in the world how weak and vulnerable I really am. But deep inside, I know I am.

incrediblehulk

I am still an infant. I never grew up. My emotional and moral development was arrested when I was just a very young child, so I only have the emotional maturity of a child that age. That’s why I can’t care about you. It’s why I must always have my way. Can a two or three year old care about YOUR feelings? Of course they can’t, and like a toddler, I can’t either. I am like a mentally challenged person, only my retardation isn’t mental, it’s emotional and moral. I’m emotionally retarded.

It’s hard work keeping up my false self. I am paranoid and defensive all the time that I will be discovered and exposed. It’s enormously stressful to be a narcissist. It’s stressful and often painful, and I know I have sacrificed the ability to ever feel real happiness in order to never be hurt again.

But still, I hurt all the time. You can hurt me very easily. The only way I dare show my hurt is by projecting it back onto you through my abuse and through my rages. I’m a bully because I always hurt so much. But I can’t hurt FOR you, only for myself. I cannot afford to hurt for you. I’m too busy always licking my own wounds and trying to keep the lie going. I will hurt YOU if I must to keep the lie intact.

As I age, I may soften a little but most likely I won’t. I could even become worse. Don’t wait for me to change because I most likely never will. Once I chose this life, there was no going back. I chose darkness and once that’s done, there is no going back to the light. I sold my soul and there’s no way to buy it back, but through the grace of God himself.

If you care about yourself (because I can never care about you), you must leave now. Don’t play my games. Ignore me and act like I don’t exist. Being treated like I don’t exist is the worst thing I can imagine, but if you care about your own survival it’s what you must do. I will destroy you if you don’t. Heed my warning.

There’s even a small–a very small–chance that your abandoning me and taking away the supply I get from you could make me take a look in the mirror for the first time at the lost child I left behind so long ago. If that happens, I will be in so much pain I may seek the help I need. Don’t count on it though. Even if I ever seek help, once I start feeling too much pain I will probably leave counseling. Feeling that pain is too terrifying. It’s easier to abuse my own mind (and yours) by keeping up the masks and lies.

Here is a song that describes me well.

Don’t wait for me to change. I won’t. Don’t play my games. Even if I rage, hold your ground. You’re stronger than I am. I will never let you know I know this. Don’t fall for my lies.

Better yet, leave now. Keep your soul intact. Don’t allow me to turn you into a shell of what you used to be or worse, a person like me, even though it’s what I want.

Sincerely,
Your Narcissist

What my fear of rejection makes me do

borderline_pd

Time for a true confession.

I’ve been focusing a bit less on narcissism because the topic itself is somewhat of a trigger for me right now.

But I’ve recently decided to write openly about my BPD, which (along with Aspergers) is often misdiagnosed as narcissism.

Besides the envy and pride I’ve previously mentioned as my worst narcissistic traits, there is one other thing that has sometimes made me wonder if I might really be a narcissist.

Whenever any male in a position of authority has tried to tell me the truth about myself (like a therapist or teacher), I want to attack them. When I was much younger (teens and 20s) this manifested as rage attacks (as it did with my therapist during my 20’s). Today it’s more likely to be expressed as sarcasm, snarkiness, or just…silence. All of this is very narcissistic of me and makes me want to cringe in the corner when I think about it. Because knowingly hurting someone goes against the bigger, better part of me, a person who is kind and compassionate and hates to see anyone suffering or hurt.

I used to torment my therapist back in the 1980s. He didn’t know the intense feelings I had for him. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. If you’ve ever watched the ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon “Hey Arnold,” you will remember how cruel Helga always was to Arnold, but secretly she mooned over him.

helga_arnold

My therapist must have hated me. I LIKED tormenting him. He sat there week after week taking it like a trouper. If he was angry or upset, he never showed it. Most likely my strong feelings and verbal attacks were a form of transference. Maybe I experience a form of transference toward any male in an authority position who mirrors me.

I finally told that therapist I was quitting. Why? Because of my fear he was so tired of my mindfucking him that he’d tell me he couldn’t be my therapist anymore. I knew I wasn’t cured, but I left anyway. Sure, I was having trouble handling my infatuation, but now I know it was really all about hurting him before he could hurt me. How stupid of me, since he was probably more than happy to see the back of me.

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I’ve really been thinking a lot lately about my BPD and the unpleasant ways it sometimes manifests itself. The behaviors are narcissistic, and they don’t happen all the time, or with most people (thank God for that!) But the reason they exist at all is because as a Borderline, I live in mortal terror of being rejected or abandoned, and certain men in authority who tell me truths about myself may represent my father, who I was afraid would reject me (even though he wasn’t really the problem at all).

Sometimes I do wonder if I may be a narcissist.

But I know I’m not because it makes no sense. Real narcissists don’t have a conscience or empathy. They can’t be happy for you or sad for you and I can be. If I do something wrong–even if I derive some kind of sick pleasure during the time I’m engaged in it–afterwards I feel terrible. I just want to run and hide.

I’m working on these behaviors, using an old workbook I got in 1996, because lately I’ve been thinking about possibly dating again. I’m getting over my fear of finding myself with another narc, because I feel like I know enough to read them now, to see the red flags and know when to run if I must–but I also don’t want to drive a nice guy away due to my “I hate you….don’t leave me” Borderline tendencies.

There’s so much apologizing I would like to do to so many people. I know that’s not possible but I wish it were.

I know I’m changing for the better, but a lot of bad and painful emotions are coming to the surface in the process of discovering who I am, because I’m feeling again. I think my PTSD is almost healed, and that’s a great thing, but mixed in with all the nice, loving, tender emotions are some not so nice ones too. Like a maggot crawling on the petals of a rose.

I never said I was perfect.

“Coming out” about my BPD

Hand of a child opening a cupboard door

On November 22, 2014, I wrote an article about my daughter Molly (not her real name), who I suspected of having NPD due to having been used as a flying monkey by her father for many years. I prayed it was “just” BPD.

Last month she was evaluated and her Axis II diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). While BPD is a Cluster B disorder and shares a number of traits with narcissism, it’s more amenable to treatment because a Borderline does have a conscience and the ability to feel empathy–but their tendency to fly off the handle, their insecurity/neediness, and propensity to engage in self destructive activities that sometimes hurt others masks the fact they really aren’t bad people. My daughter actually has a huge heart and cries when she sees someone suffering or in pain, so it fits that NPD wasn’t her diagnosis. Still, I’m relieved she’s been officially cleared of it.

I was diagnosed with BPD myself in 1996. I have been hesitant to call attention to it on this blog or talk about it much, because of its close association with NPD and other “character disorders” like ASPD. At the time I was diagnosed I was in an inpatient psychiatric setting, where I was also diagnosed with Bipolar I (major depression with fewer or no manic episodes), generalized anxiety, PTSD, Avoidant PD (I didn’t know you could have two PD’s at once back then), and substance/alcohol abuse. At the time I was not diagnosed with Aspergers (that was much later, and I was self diagnosed at first).

I definitely had all the traits of a borderline, but in the hospital and in outpatient therapy following my stay, I learned ways to control my BPD traits, such as my tendency to fly off the handle easily, act impulsively without thinking how it would harm others, idealize/devalue people (black or white thinking), abuse drugs and alcohol, and generally coming off as being very self centered and oblivious to the needs of others.

DSM_borderline
Click to enlarge.

For a time back in the early 1980s I even test drove narcissism, but as an essentially empathic person who suffers from a lot of guilt and shame, and has no desire to hurt others, narcissism didn’t work for me, and I am so grateful for that (even though I became a codependent doormat instead).

In therapy, I remember a method we were taught called “turtling”–which basically means to imagine yourself as a turtle when you feel yourself about to act/react in Borderline, impulsive, or self destructive ways. Turtling calls for enough insight to recognize your feelings prior to acting on them. You imagine going inside your shell to think about things before you act. I remember in the hospital we made “turtle” totems to keep as reminders to always think before we acted and ask ourselves why we felt the way we did. I still have the little clay turtle I made. I remember also being given a workbook for people with BPD with many helpful exercises and activities to help us recognize and control our behavior. It did help me a lot.

clay_turtle

Today I don’t think I display many BPD traits, but I don’t think I’m cured either. When I’m very depressed, frightened or angry, those BPD traits pop back up like unwanted pimples. I still remember the lessons from my therapy and still look at my little turtle or a picture of a turtle to remind myself to go inside myself and not react until I think things through and process my feelings.

Because this is a blog for survivors of narcissistic abuse and many (if not most) survivors think of narcissists as demons or monsters, I was hesitant to talk about my BPD much, because it’s a Cluster B disorder and is so close to NPD in many ways. The disorders are easily confused with each other. A person with full blown BPD can seem very much like one with NPD, but for the Borderline, the motive behind their unpredictable and sometimes destructive behavior is fear of abandonment and insecurity. For the narc, it’s for obtaining supply. Some people seem to think of people with BPD as almost as bad as narcissists. Some of them are.

So that’s why I’ve been reluctant to talk about this. But again, from Day One I committed to honesty and I hope I won’t be judged too harshly for “coming out” as a person with BPD.

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Borderline personality disorder.

My daughter, I’m happy to say, knows almost as much about narcissism as I do now, and has been reading my blog. She came across the above article where I speculated she might have NPD and she was so worried about that it made her cry. We had a long discussion about that. Since then, she has been improving a lot and says my blog has helped HER! She says she’s proud of me for having the courage to start this blog. And I have to say, I’m just as proud of her. Here’s my article describing how healing and emotional that talk we had was. I think we will both be just fine.

My next article, which I will write later today, will be about how malignant narcissists can transform a good person into an evil one. They can infect you with their illness. That’s another reason why they’re so dangerous.