Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Stop Walking on Eggshells (Paul T. Mason, MS & Randi Kreger; 2010) [2010-09-18]

So, (I'm pretty sure) I don't know anyone with Borderline Personality Disorder, but I found Stop Walking on Eggshells: taking your life back when someone you care about has borderline personality disorder (Paul T. Mason, MS & Randi Kreger; Second Edition) helpful anyway.  A lot of the stuff about the fact that you can't "fix" the other person (and also about boundary-setting, and trigger vs. cause) is broadly applicable.


I will caveat, however, that I'm not stoked about some of their language choices.

(1) They often alternate using "he" and "she" for generic examples, rather than going for a singular they or "he or she" (and whenever they do say "he or she," I think, "way to reinforce the gender binary").  (They do get points for having an f/f couple as one of their anecdotes, though.)

Non-Borderline (non-BP)
The term "non-borderline" (non-BP) does not mean "person who doesn't have BPD."  Rather, it is shorthand for "relative, partner, friend, or other individual who is affected by the behavior of someone with BPD."

"Borderline" Versus "Person with BPD"
      Some professionals prefer the term "person with BPD." They believe that calling someone a "borderline" implies that the diagnosis defines the person.  These clinicians assert that the longer phrase "person with BPD" should always be used.
    While we agree that the term "person with BPD" is less stigmatizing than the noun "borderline," our goal is to produce a book that is readable and succinct, as well as respectful to people with mental disorders.  To examine the complex interactions between BPs and non-BPs, we must often differentiate between them--sometimes several times in the same sentence.  Using the longer phrase would have made this book too hard to read, so we have chosen to use "borderline" or "BP" instead.  More importantly, "BP" is inclusive of people who have not been formally diagnosed, but show the traits.

BELIEF: I am responsible for all the problems in this relationship.

FACT: Each person is responsible for 50 percent of the relationship.


BELIEF: It's my responsibility to solve this person's problems, and if I don't do it, no one else will.

FACT: By trying to take charge of the borderline's life, you may be giving them the message that they can't take care of themselves.  You're also avoiding the opportunity to change the relationship by focusing on yourself.

BELIEF: If I can convince the person with BPD I am right, these problems will disappear.

FACT: BPD is a serious disorder that profoundly affects the way people think, feel, and behave.  You can't talk someone out of it no matter how persuasive you are.


BELIEF: This person can't help having BPD, so I should not hold them accountable for their behavior.

FACT: It's true the borderline in your life didn't ask to have BPD.  But with help, they can learn to control their behavior toward others.

BELIEF: Setting personal limits hurts the person with BPD.

FACT: Setting personal limits is essential for all relationships--especially those in which one or both people have BP.

BELIEF: When I try to do something to help my situation and it doesn't work, I shouldn't give up until it does work.

FACT: You can learn from what hasn't worked and try something new.


     Feelings don't have IQs.  They just are.  Sadness, anger, guilt, confusion, hostility, annoyance, frustration--all are normal, and to be expected by people faced with borderline behavior.  This is true no matter what your relationship is to the person with BPD.  This doesn't mean that you should respond to the BP with anger.  But it does mean that you need a safe place to vent your emotions and feel accepted, not judged.
Fran (non-BP)
I spent many years grieving for my borderline son when I realized the dreams I had for him would never come true.  I began mourning in earnest when my son's therapist asked me what I would do if my son needed to live in a residential facility for the rest of his life.  I just started sobbing.  The therapist explained that the child I thought I had had died, along with the future I had pictured for him.  But when I was done grieving, I would have a new child, and I would have new aspirations for him.

     There is nothing wrong with wanting to change the person with BPD in your life.  You may be right: he might be a lot happier and your relationship might improve if he sought help for BPD.  But in order for you to get off the emotional roller coaster, you will have to give up the fantasy that you can or should change someone else.  When you let go of this belief, you will be able to claim the power that is truly yours: the power to change yourself.
     Consider a lighthouse.  It stands on the shore with its beckoning light, guiding ships safely into the harbor.  The lighthouse can't uproot itself, wade out into the water, grab the ship by the stern, and say, "Listen, you fool!  If you stay on this path, you may break up on the rocks!"
     No, the ship has some responsibility for its own destiny.  It can choose to be guided by the lighthouse.  Or it can choose to go its own way.  The lighthouse is not responsible for the ship's decisions.  All it can do is be the best lighthouse it can be.

      Imagine if you were planning to have your wedding reception at the nicest hall in town, but two days before the wedding, lightning struck the hall and it burned to the ground.  When you tried to find another site, you found that every other hall was booked.  Naturally, you would feel very upset and angry.
     But you wouldn't feel personally attacked, as if the lightning blot knew you and was deliberately trying to make your life miserable.  You wouldn't blame yourself for things beyond your control.  But that is precisely what many people do when faced with the actions of a person with BPD.  They spend years assuming they're the source of the lightning when, in fact, they're only the lightning rod.
-p.91 (don't take BPD behavior personally)

Non-BPs aren't masochists; they're optimists--which may or may not turn out to be warranted.  It is hard to give up on that optimism and let go of a relationship that is so good otherwise.

["]When our sense of obligation is stronger than our sense of self-respect and caring, people quickly learn how to take advantage."
-p.110, quoting Susan Forward, Emotional Blackmail

     In Codependent No More (1987), Melody Beattie says that setting boundaries is not an isolated process.  She writes:
Setting boundaries is about learning to take care of ourselves, no matter what happens, where we go, or who we're with.  Boundaries are rooted in our beliefs about what we deserve and don't deserve.
     Boundaries originate from a deeper sense of our personal rights--especially the right we have to be ourselves.  Boundaries emerge as we learn to value, trust, and listen to ourselves.  Boundaries naturally flow from our conviction that what we want, need, like and dislike is important.

     People with healthy emotional limits understand and respect their own thoughts and feelings.  In short, they respect themselves and their own uniqueness.

     Naturally, all of these things will be perceived as abandonment by the person with BPD.  That's why you may need to gently point out that you are not acting against the person; you are acting for yourself.  Explain that your limits are essential to the health of the relationship and that you are asking the BP to observe them so that you can be with him or her for a very long time.

     Within reason, we suggest you observe your limits in a gentle way every time--even when you're tired or when you'd rather avoid a fight.  You may not always be able to take immediate action, but you can't let unacceptable behavior go unnoticed or you may actually reinforce it.

measure your success by the things you can control
     The person with BPD in your life may or may not respond as you would like during any one particular conversation.  This is beyond your control.  So measure your success by the factors you can control.  Ask yourself:
* Did you respond as an adult, not as a child?
* Did you act in a way that demonstrates your self-respect?
* Were you clear about your positions?
* Did you remain focused, even if the BP tried to draw you off track?
* Did you remain calm and composed?
* Did you refuse to be baited and drawn into a losing argument?
* Were you considerate of the other person's feelings, even if he or she did not give you the same consideration?
* Did you maintain a firm grip on your own reality while maintaining an open mind toward the BP's concerns?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, pat yourself on the back.

You're asserting your limits for the long-term health of the relationship--not just for yourself.
Karen Ann (BP)
When I am angry, I can't think rationally.  I'm possessed by emotions that cause me to act out viciously.  The feelings overpower me, and I have to lash out to let them escape.  It's an attempt to protect myself, knowing that what I am doing will drive a person further away.

Dick (BP)
When I rage at people, they are no longer real people with real feelings.  They become the object of my hatred and the cause of my distress.  They are the enemy.  I get paranoid and believe they want to hurt me, and I am determined to strike out to prove control over them.

Laura (BP)
I think that borderlines are very concerned about only one thing: losing love.  When I am cornered, I get very scared, and I show that by getting angry.  Anger is easier than fear and makes me feel less vulnerable.  I strike before being struck.

You're dealing with someone who needs immediate professional attention much more than he or she needs your capitulation.
-p.171 (feeling manipulated by suicide threats)

Say Ellis and Newman, "When you give in to the threats, you will still be angry, the BP will still be at risk for self-harm at any time, and the underlying issues will not have been addressed.  Plus, it is likely that the same scenario will repeat itself again and again" (1996).
[Ellis, T. E.. and C. F. Newman. 1996. Choosing to Live: How to Defeat Suicide Through Cognitive Therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.]
Tags: books: read, issues: mental illness

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