The narcissistic lover’s playbook.

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It looks like today is “Narcissistic Lovers and Spouses Day,” because this is the third article about that subject I’m posting today. But it occurred to me that narcissistic men (and probably women too, even though I have no personal experience with my own gender) follow the same rulebook when pursuing narcissistic supply and use all these ploys in pretty much the order I’m posting here.

I thought it might help those of you still in abusive relationships to be able to identify the telltale pattern of narcissistic abuse–which they ALL seem to follow. It’s a pattern of progressing abuse, and if you pass one “test”, they up the ante for the next “test.” In other words, if you tolerate a low level of abuse (such as verbal insults), the narcissist is empowered to move on to the next level of abuse, which could be triangulating against you or eventually, physical abuse.

They may not even be aware they are following this pattern because it’s such a core part of their personality they truly can’t stop themselves. You can stop them by ending the relationship at the first sign of abuse, but never try to fix a narcissist yourself. You won’t help them and will only hurt yourself.

First, a word about commitment-phobes.
It’s important to remember that this pattern does NOT apply to the commitment phobe type of narcissist, which some narcissists are. (They get their supply from other sources–relationships are too scary to them). A commitment-phobe will never love-bomb you or tell you they love you. Instead, they’ll run like hell if you try to get one to further commit or if you tell them you love them. But this article does not apply to that type of narcissist.

Stages of a relationship with a narcissist.

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1. Lovebombing/idealization.
During this heady phase that follows meeting your narcissist lover (who chose you because they see you as an easy “mark” to get narcissistic supply), you feel swept off your feet by their ardor and the speed at which they seem to want to get to know you and then take things to “the next level.” This phase includes idealization of you, intense, almost constant sex and the most romantic things you could imagine hearing anyone say. You feel beautiful, sexy and your self esteem soars. Life seems perfect. This is how they get you to fall under their spell so they can continue to “work” on you as a primary source of narcissistic supply. It will not last.

2. Declarations of permanency.
Your narcissistic lover will declare their undying love for you or even propose marriage or talk about having a family with you within weeks or a few months of meeting you. (This is a test to find out how committed you are and helps them guage how much abuse you will tolerate/supply you can provide).

If they actually follow through on their commitment (some will), it’s because they have decided you are perfect source of supply (you make them look good) they can keep tapping into on a permanent basis like a backyard well. Only unlike the well, you won’t keep refilling with water, but will eventually be sucked dry emotionally, mentally or even spiritually. A narcissist’s desire to marry or commit permanently to you has nothing to do with “love.”

3. Boredom and irritation.
Suddenly, for no explainable reason, your narcissist starts acting bored, distracted or vaguely annoyed. If you try to ask them about it, they will deny it, insist nothing is wrong, or act annoyed that you asked.

4. Badmouthing others.
At around the same time you start to notice their boredom and irritation, you will notice your narcissist seems easily annoyed in general, and starts badmouthing other people–his (or her) boss or employees, family members, other drivers on the road, but they save the worst badmouthing for their ex lovers or spouses, who were ALWAYS at fault for whatever went wrong.

5. Decrease or changes in sexual desire.
If your lover is a cerebral narc, they suddenly stop wanting to have sex with you and may resort to pornography or masturbation instead. If a somatic, the sex may become less personal and romantic and more “kinky”–for example they may say they want to try new things in bed to “spice things up” but being more romantic or tender isn’t one of them. They will no longer look at you when you make love.

6. Stinginess.
This formerly generous person who showered you with gifts of candy, roses and clothing suddenly stops buying you gifts or telling you they cost too much, or starts to complain about how much you are costing them in general.

7. Emotional/verbal abuse.
The verbal and emotional abuse starts. We all know the many forms that can take, since this whole blog is about that.

Some narcissists will, at this point, Devalue and Discard. This simply means they no longer need you as a source of narcissistic supply (they may have found a replacement) so they completely devalue and leave you. If they don’t leave, their abuse will keep growing worse. But whether they leave or not, they are still devaluing you.

8. Physical abuse.
Eventually, some malignant narcissists may begin the physical abuse, and again this can start with something as innocuous as a “push” or a single slap. If this happens, expect the abuse to increase in intensity if you stay in the relationship. Even if your narcissist never touches you physically, the emotional abuse will continue to increase until your self esteem is destroyed. In some ways it can be even worse, because there are no telltale bruises or scars, and your narcissist can easily tell others who could be of help to you that you are crazy or making it all up.

What if you decide to call their bluff and leave?

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If you decide to call their bluff and leave, there are four ways a narcissist will react:

1. They will try to “hoover” you back in through lovebombing similar to what they showed when you first met, make fake but sincere-sounding apologies and promises to change. Don’t fall for it.

2. They will act like splitting up was their idea all along because you were “too needy,” “too crazy,” “too high maintenance,” etc.

3. They will act like nothing happened and even have the chutzpah to keep calling you or texting you and act as if they’re your best friend. They may tell you all about their new lovers or dates, as if there was never anything between you at all. You can be sure that behind your back, they are trashing you to their new conquests–the same way they talked trash about their ex lovers to you.

4. Jilted malignant narcissists are likely to try to enact revenge, usually through badmouthing you to others, including possibly your friends, but their vindictiveness could take on more dangerous forms too.

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“An Open Letter to My Abusive Husband”

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A very courageous woman named Samantha wrote this “open letter” to her abusive, narcissistic husband which appears on her blog The Narcissist’s Wife, which I recommend for anyone trying to divorce or leave a narcissist.

Her “open letter” had me on the edge of my seat because it’s so triggering and fits right in with the article I just posted about “Daniel.” Narcissists all follow the same rulebook: Idealization and promising you the world, followed by The Devaluation and finally straight up abuse.

I am only posting the first part; to read the whole article there is a link to read the rest on her blog.

An Open Letter To My Abusive Husband…
By Samantha Matthews / July 22, 2015

Things were bad right from the start, but I was too young and naive to see it. That’s why you picked me, isn’t it? I was so trusting, and innocent. I had no idea you were broken, no idea our relationship wasn’t normal. I believed you when you told me I was messing up, and I didn’t question you. You could control me, keep me at arms length, and enjoy all the effort I gave into making our “relationship” a success.

And then, one day, I started to notice. Notice how controlling you are, how you turned everything I had issues with back on me, and how you never admitted you were wrong. I notice how you never listened to me on anything, and would later tell me the same truth after you heard it from another source. I noticed how you discounted my opinions and called me a hypochondriac whenever I felt sick. I noticed how you kept me separate from your friends and your social life, and resisted any efforts on my part to make couple friends we could hang out with together.

I noticed how you left me to grieve my grandfathers death alone, and didn’t give me so much as a hug. I noticed how you hid my engagement ring and let me search frantically for an hour before you told me you had it, and how you thought that was funny even though I was in tears.

I noticed how you lied to your friends, your boss, and your family, easily and without a good reason, just because you didn’t feel like doing something. I noticed when you told me about the drugs you did for the entire time we were dating/engaged, how you changed when you stopped doing them. I noticed that I never even knew you had been lying to me then. And how you thought that that revelation shouldn’t change a single thing in our marriage.

I noticed when you complained about how boring the hospital is while I was recovering from having our first child and pushed me to rush us home, and how you discounted all my pain and discomfort during my second pregnancy even while I was working 6 days a week at our business and taking care of a four year old.

I noticed how you never helped me in our business, even as you yelled and raged at me for how poorly things were being run (in your opinion) and how I needed to do more at the shop. I noticed how even when you committed to doing something, I ended up being the one to take care of it. And I noticed how you took and took and took money without contributing at all. To the extent that we ended up having to close the doors. I noticed how you blamed me for that too.

I noticed how you have discounted, dismissed, and mocked all of my accomplishments over the last 13 years. How you tell me the things I’ve done don’t count because they weren’t as good as what someone else did. You tell me I don’t follow through with anything, but you sabotage my efforts and make me feel horrible, and then throw it in my face if I do anything different than what you would do.

I notice how you talk about people behind their backs and say horrible, judgmental things about them. And I checked your phone, I saw how you say those same things about me too. How you mock me and only refer to me as the wife, as though I am not anything more. I notice how you put me down in public and deliberately humiliate me in front of our friends, in order to tell a story or try and make yourself look good.

Read the rest of her article here:
http://www.narcissistswife.com/an-open-letter-to-my-abusive-husband/

Narcissist man in love.

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One of my narcissistic lovers was a man I’ll call Daniel. I met him during my divorce proceedings. It was a short lived but intense relationship. As short lived as it was (it lasted all of 3 months), I decided to go into more detail about this particular relationship because of all my narcissistic lovers, Daniel was the most classic (and possibly the most malignant) textbook example of the course of a typical relationship with one.

Daniel was actually as bad a malignant narcissist as my ex, but of course I didn’t know it at the time. I met him while I was still married but the marriage was, for all intents and purposes, already over and we were separated. Daniel had that intense predatory stare, which I took to mean sexual and romantic interest, but it was really his way of sizing up me as prey.

I met Daniel at work. He was several years younger than me. I had been training him, and our eyes kept drifting to each other. He wasn’t the fastest learner but he seemed very friendly and always pulled his chair as close to mine during training as he could. Because I found him so attractive with his large liquid brown eyes, long eyelashes, and curly dark hair with its hints of gray, I didn’t mind the close physical proximity. I still remember the way he smelled–clean, like soap and shampoo, with a hint of muskiness.

Daniel became irresistably attractive to me. Narcs have a way of doing that to people like me. Although not all that intelligent, Daniel was actually a cerebral narcissist who had very little interest in sex after the initial physical passion of the first month or so. He thought of himself as very smart and after a while his know-it-allness became all too apparent.

Not long after meeting, Daniel approached me on break and told me he found me beautiful and kind and he’d like to take me out to dinner. Of course I said yes. That evening I went home walking on air and found my sexiest dress to wear. He picked me up on time, armed with a bouquet of red roses. We had a nice dinner and Daniel was attentive and romantic, gazing into my eyes, holding my hand across the candlelit table, and constantly telling me how beautiful I was and that he couldn’t believe my husband didn’t appreciate me more.

After dinner we went back to his apartment and he just held me and kept gazing into my eyes and telling me over and over how beautiful I was. He closed his eyes when kissing me. He didn’t push for sex and even said he wanted to wait until I was ready. He was perfect! I felt sexy and needed. At times when declaring his undying love for me, his eyes even got a little damp which I took to mean he was overcome with emotion and his feelings for me. This “vulnerability” I perceived made me fall harder for him. I couldn’t believe anyone could love me this much. He made me feel so special. I didn’t know it yet but I was falling into a yet another narcissistic predator’s trap. I should have suspected something fishy when he didn’t bat an eyelash when I told him I was still legally married, even though separated from my husband at the time.

We made love on our 3rd or 4th date and he told me he loved me and then held me all night as we drifted into sleep. For about two weeks I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. We couldn’t get enough of each other and would spend every free moment making love. It was all so magical I hadn’t even noticed he’d stopped taking me out or spending money on me. His abuse had already started but was so well-camouflaged by his physical ardor that I couldn’t see it.

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Two weeks after we started dating he told me he wanted to marry me. He didn’t have a ring to give me, but promised he would get one later, when he had the money. (He had the money–the guy was living on a trust fund left him by his wealthy parents and had bought his expensive apartment and he was always buying himself expensive toys). The funny thing was that I never actually said yes to his proposal. I told him I’d have to think about it, although a part of me wanted to scream “YES” from the rooftops. Something–I wasn’t sure what–was holding me back from accepting his proposal. He kept talking about how he wanted to make me pregnant (I was 42 years old) and how beautiful our children would be. He even told me he wanted to see me give birth. But I noticed whenever we were in public together, he seemed annoyed by any children who happened to be around and complained about parents who “couldn’t discipline their children properly.” He also criticized my parenting skills, telling me I let my kids “control me,” even though he’d never met them or seen me interact with them.

Daniel complained about his ex lovers, and although in his late thirties, he had never been married. He told me terrible stories about the women he had dated and how they had all been cheating whores, heartless Jezebels, or how unattractive, stupid, or crazy they were. He told me the most intimate details about them–one woman had a “smelly vagina” and another had acne all over her backside. Another had been in a mental hospital and embarrassed him in public with her crazy outbursts. I didn’t want to hear these details but he assured me I was perfect and different from all those other women.

After a few more weeks I noticed Daniel seemed to be easily bored and prone to fits of unreasonable rage. His rage toward others around us began to turn toward me, and he started to become very critical and controlling. He had stopped buying me things, but one day told me he was taking me to Victoria’s Secret to buy some new lingerie because he thought mine looked frayed and ill-fitting. Of course I was thrilled to be taken shopping, and when in the store, began to pick items I liked. I found a black satin teddy with lace trim and he grabbed it from my hands and put it back, saying “I don’t like that color on you. It makes you look too pale.” He seemed to be getting impatient with me in the store and disapproved of anything I pulled from the rack. Finally he made his own choice, and insisted on buying that for me, even though I wasn’t impressed with his choice. We drove back to his apartment in silence. He seemed so angry but I couldn’t figure out why. I noticed his road rage too–he seemed to get impatient with other drivers easily but was constantly cutting off and tailgating people himself. If I told him to take it easy with his driving, he would get even madder and tell me I was trying to control him.

The night after the shopping spree, he said he didn’t want to have sex because he was too tired. I took this at face value and figured he was just in a bad mood and would be over it the next day. But he had changed. Or actually, he hadn’t changed–but was now beginning to show his true colors. Whenever I tried to initiate lovemaking or even touching, he began to pull away, making excuses that he didn’t feel well or was too tired. When we did have sex, it felt rushed, as if he wanted to get it over with. He stopped telling me he loved me.

One night he received a phone call from an old girlfriend and spent two hours on the phone with her while I pretended to read. I wasn’t really jealous, but was annoyed and found it strange that this was the same woman he had told me was crazy. I asked him about that and he got enraged, telling me to mind my own f–ing business.

Daniel liked to travel around the country and never once asked me if I wanted to go. He’d always announce these trips a day or two before he was set to leave. He’d always return with shopping bags full of goodies–for himself. His idea of “gifts” to me were the freebies they give out in hotels–tiny bars of soap, shampoo, or dollar keychains or even hotel “Do Not Disturb” signs. Once he brought back some homemade fudge and I asked him for a piece of it. He said no.

The silent treatments and verbal abuse became nearly constant. I felt like I was walking on eggshells and it seemed I could do nothing right. Once I asked him why he never wanted to kiss me anymore and he said it was because of my breath. (No one had ever accused me of having bad breath and I even tested it by blowing on my daughter’s face and she said it was fine). I remembered the woman he’d dated who had a “smelly vagina” and realized that he would be telling some future lover (because at this point I wanted to break up with him) about my horrible, stinky breath and “controlling” ways.

He seemed to hate me, but also became upset and angry when I told him I wanted to spend time with my kids (who were living with their father for a short time during the divorce proceedings). He told me they were spoiled brats who would grow up to be criminals because I always gave into their wishes. I know now he was jealous of them. He always wanted me around, but was always so mean. I was always short on cash because I didn’t earn that much but he didn’t seem to care. Once I needed some gas money and he said no, even though he had stacks of $100 bills all over his apartment and in drawers.

We broke up on my birthday. He had come to my house late, and his gift to me was a “Toonces the Driving Cat” coffee mug. Although he obviously didn’t pay much for it, I thought it was a thoughtful gift (for him) because he knew I loved that old skit from Saturday Night Live. He took me out to dinner, which had become a rarity. He was very rude to the wait staff, but he always had been (that’s another red flag to look for–narcissists are notoriously rude to service personnel).

Shortly after we got back to my house, we got into an argument and he shoved me so I fell onto the couch. That was the first time his abuse had become physical. I knew it was a matter of time before he would start hitting me. I told him I would not tolerate physical violence and he started making fun of me for being such a baby about a “little push.” We kept arguing. He told me to give him back the mug he gave me. I told him no, because it was a gift and I liked it. He insisted.

I went and fetched the mug from the kitchen, and brought it to him, sweetly saying “here,” before smashing it on the floor as he reached for it. He stood there staring at the shattered remnants on the floor and then looked up at me with his mouth hanging open, said “You’re too crazy and too violent for me,” and stormed out the door, slamming it behind him. Me? Violent? I didn’t realize he was projecting his own violent tendencies onto me.

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A week later I found out I was pregnant. I called him to tell him I needed money for an abortion. He said he would not help because there was no way it was his! This from the man who a month earlier had told me he wanted to watch me give birth.

Fortunately, I never had to have an abortion because a week after that I miscarried. Daniel kept calling me, acting as if nothing had happened, and would tell me all about his life, never asking how mine was going. He acted like we were best friends. He even told me about a woman he was dating who was “perfect for him,” with no thought given to my feelings about this. Of course I really didn’t care and just felt sorry for the poor woman who didn’t know what she was in for yet. I wondered what he was telling her about me. Probably that I was insane, violent and a bad mother who had terrible breath.

I’d listen patiently to Daniel ramble on and then tell him I had to go. After about six months of his weekly phone calls, I finally worked up the courage to tell him to leave me alone and never call me again. I also blocked his number. That was the best choice I made in that relationship.

Clearing up some misunderstandings about BPD.

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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.

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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.

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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).