Help for Families
Step 2: How to Cope: Uncover What Keeps You Feeling Stuck
Step 2 (Powertool 2) in the Beyond Blame System is about feeling more in control. Do you feel unable to make decisions because danger lies in every choice, yet you feel compelled to do something? Are you damned if you do, damned if you don't? If so, then you're feeling stuck.
The second step to successfully managing your life when someone you care about has borderline or narcissistic personality disorder is addressing the deep-seated reasons why you feel so trapped. These feelings of helplessness and lack of control have been scientifically shown to cause just as much suffering as the presence of the borderline or narcissistic personality disorder itself. When you learn to get unstuck and see your choices more clearly, you'll automatically feel better.
It's tough to communicate with people who have personality disorders because the disorder garbles both incoming and outgoing messages, causing massive chaos and confusion. As an analogy, think of them as having "aural dyslexia," in which they hear words and sentences backward, inside out, sideways, and devoid of context. You may frequently feel hounded about small trifles, and all-out fights can erupt over nothing—at least, nothing you can see. Research has shown that when friends and family members learn the right techniques for communicating with their disordered loved ones, the relationship runs much more smoothly.
However, if you are being yelled at or emotionally/verbally abused, do not fight with the person. Leave the area—go to a room or outside; a safe place you can call your own. Don't disappear; say something like, "Right now things are feeling too hostile and we aren't getting anywhere. Let's pick this up later when we've both calmed down."
Unhealthy Bonds Forged by Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is non-physical behaviors or attitudes used to control, intimidate, subjugate, demean, punish, or isolate another. Abusers tend to degrade, humiliate, or instill fear in their victim. Emotional abuse includes symbolic violence, such as slamming doors, kicking walls, and throwing objects.
Signs that you may be emotionally abused include:
- Thinking, "I know she hurts me all the time and does terrible things, but I love her anyway!"
- Receiving warnings from others about the relationship and dismissing them because others "just don't understand."
- Giving the person positive credit for small tokens of kindness (a birthday card) or for not being abusive when abusiveness was expected.
- Making excuses for the person's behavior
- Becoming preoccupied with the needs, desires, and habits of the person in an effort to prevent the person from having an outburst
Emotional abuse tears down a person's self-esteem and often leads to depression.
Feelings of Fear
The following fears are common for non-BPs:
- Fear of conflict, for example “I can’t say that. He might get upset.”
- Fear of being alone (abandonment) (BPs aren’t the only ones).
- Fear of failing or being judged a failure (for example, with having a failed marriage).
- Fear of financial problems (common in partners).
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of losing the relationship
- Fear of the BP’s threats coming true
While you can live with fear in the short term, as a long-term strategy it is unthinkable.
The Need to Rescue
A rescuer is usually a compassionate, kind person who wants to alleviate the suffering of others. Rescuers unknowingly relinquish control of their lives to their borderline family member, whose impaired thoughts, feeling, and actions now determine their own.
- Feel manipulated, intimidated, powerless, irritated, angry, and frustrated. They give everything they have, but it’s never good enough. They try to please and end up criticized and humiliated. Bliss turns into despair.
- Waver back and forth about their situation because their ability to make good decisions has been diminished.
- Have slowed personal growth because all their attention is focused on others
- Have lower self-esteem and may be driven by feelings of fear, guilt, and emotional dependence.
Rescuing isn’t good for the either party in the relationship or the relationship itself.