Personality Disorder Attribute List

Personality Disorder Attribute List

 

PD Attribute List

 

The below largely taken from the “out of the fog” Forum. This is a list of approximately 90 Personality attributes and behaviors which are common and recurrent in people with PD

Index:

Below is the Index and brief description of each of the attributes listed. Click the headings for a more detailed description, examples, how it feels and what to do. This article is intended to be used as reference, so for ease of use, at the end of each section I have added a “Back to index” link, click that to be brought back to the index.

#1 Splitting – Idealization and Devaluation (Immoderate Judgement, no middle ground).
#2 Sleep Deprivation – The individual takes actions to deliberately deprive you or interrupt your sleep patterns.
#3 Situational Ethics – The individual’s ethics are situation dependent.
#4 The Silent Treatment – Deliberate and as a form of punishment.
#5 Shame & Shaming – Especially of your identity
#6 Sexual Objectification – The individual sees your ability to provide sexual services as your primary value.
#7 Sense of Entitlement – The individual feels entitled when it is not reasonable to do so.
#8 Self-Victimization – The individual acts like they are the victim in the situation when they are not.
#9 Self-Loathing – An extreme hatred of one’s own self, actions or one’s ethnic or demographic background.
#10 Self-Harm – The individual deliberately harms them self.
#11 Self-Aggrandizement – The individual speaks of them self as being far greater than they are.
#12 Selective Competence – The individual claims to be capable of only certain things.
#13 Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The individual remembers doing or saying only what suits them.
#15 Sabotage – The individual sabotages your work, achievements or reputation.
#16 Riding the Emotional Elevator – Emotional Triggers cause regression to emotionally immature states.
#17 Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression – Anger and Aggressive emotional states disparate with reality.
#18 Push-Pull (Push me Pull you, Push You Pull Me) – A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.
#19 Proxy Recruitment (Also called “Contract Writing”) – A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”
#20 Projection – The act of attributing one’s own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.
#21 Physical Abuse – Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition and comfort.
#22 Perfectionism – The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.
#23 Lies, Liars and Lying – This is your basic, old-fashioned fib. The most common form of lying is self-serving and infrequent. This kind of lying is done by just about everybody and is usually motivated by a desire to get something you want or to get out of something you don’t want.
#24 Dissociative Lying – A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.
#25 Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.
#26 Parentification – A form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the family’s other children.
#27 Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome – When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.
#27 Panic Attacks – Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.
#28 Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) – Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is characterized by an inflexible adherence to rules or systems or an affinity to cleanliness and orderly structure.
#29 Objectification – The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.
#30 No-Win Situations and Lose-Lose Scenarios – No-Win Scenarios – When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options
#31 “Not My Fault” Syndrome – The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one’s own words and actions.
#32 Normalizing – Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.
#33 Neglect – A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.
#34 Narcissism – A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.
#35 Name-Calling – Use of profane, derogatory or dehumanizing terminology to describe another individual or group.
#36 Munchausen’s and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome – Munchausen’s and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome – A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.
#37 Mood Swings – Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.
#38 Moments of Clarity – Spontaneous periods when a person with a Personality Disorder becomes more objective and tries to make amends.
#39 Mirroring – Imitating or copying another person’s characteristics, behaviors or traits.
#40 Masking – Covering up one’s own natural outward appearance, mannerisms and speech in dramatic and inconsistent ways depending on the situation.
#41 Manipulation – The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.
#42 Low Self-Esteem – A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.
#43 Lack of Object Constancy – An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.
#44 Lack of Conscience – Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.
#45 Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
#46 Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.
#47 Infantilization – Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.
#48 Chronic Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.
#49 Imposed Isolation – When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.
#50 Identity Disturbance – A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view
#51 Hysteria – An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.
#52 Relationship Hyper Vigilance – Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.
#53 Hoovering – The Pull in “Push me Pull you”, A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.
#54 Holiday, Anniversary & Memory Triggers – Certain holidays and anniversaries tend to trigger emotional memories, and can make people who suffer from Personality Disorders more susceptible to riding the emotional elevator.
#55 Hoarding – Hoarding – Accumulating items to an extent that it becomes detrimental to quality of lifestyle, comfort, security or hygiene.
#56 High-Functioning and Low-Functioning – Click for definitions
#57 Harassment – Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.
#58 Grooming – Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.
#59 Gaslighting – The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.
#60 Frivolous Litigation and Frivolous Lawsuits – The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.
#61 Feelings of Emptiness – An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.
#62 Fear of Abandonment – An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.
#63 Favoritism – Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.
#64 Scapegoating – Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.
#65 False Accusations and Distortion Campaigns – Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.
#66 False Accusations, Distortion Campaigns and Smear Campaigns can all be forms of Baiting, Projection or Proxy Recruitment. – Click for definitions.
#66 Engulfment / Enmeshment – An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.
#67 Emotional Blackmail – A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.
#68 Emotional Abuse – Any pattern of behavior directed at one individual by another which promotes in them a destructive sense of Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).
#69 Domestic Theft – Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.
#70 Dissociation – A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.
#71 Depression – People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with symptoms of depression.
#72 Dependency – An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.
#73 Denial – Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.
#74 Cruelty to Animals – Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.
#75 “Control Me” Syndrome – This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or “acting-out” nature.
#75 Confirmation Bias – The tendency to pay more attention to things which reinforce your beliefs than to things which contradict them.
#76 Circular Conversations – Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.
#77 Chronic Broken Promises – Repeatedly making and then breaking commitments and promises is a common trait among people who suffer from personality disorders.
#78 Cheating – Sharing a romantic or intimate relationship with somebody when you are already committed to a monogamous relationship with someone else.
#79 Chaos Manufacture – Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.
#80 Catastrophizing – The habit of automatically assuming a “worst case scenario” and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.
#81 Bullying – Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.
#82 Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
#83 Belittling, Condescending and Patronizing – This kind of speech is a passive-aggressive approach to giving someone a verbal put-down while maintaining a facade of reasonableness or friendliness.
#84 Baiting and Picking Fights – A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.
#85 Avoidance – The practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.
#86 Anger – People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.
#87 “Always” & “Never” Statements – “Always” and “Never” Statements are declarations containing the words “always” or “never”. They are commonly used but rarely true.
#88 Alienation – The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual’s relationships with others.
#89 The Abusive Cycle – This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships and families.

 

 

 

#1 Splitting – Idealization and Devaluation

Definition:

Splitting – The practice of regarding people and situations as either completely “good” or completely “bad”.

No Middle Ground

Splitting is described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) as “A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.”

People who are regarded as being “all good” are sometimes referred to as being “split white” or “painted white”. People who are regarded as being “all bad” are sometimes referred to as being “split black” or “painted black”.

When a person or a group of people is “split white” by a person with a Personality Disorder, they may just as suddenly be “split black” (and vice versa). Because there is no middle ground – no shades of grey – it’s an either/or proposition. For the targets, this can be confusing and upsetting.

Consequently, there is usually some justification presented by the person with the Personality Disorder for their actions, decisions or sudden changes of heart but their logic is frequently flawed, contradictory or incomplete

What it Looks Like

  • A woman praises her husband as a wonderful husband and father in public but accuses him of abuse later the same day.
  • A mother habitually tells her daughter she is “useless” or “worthless” but when she gets a good grade at school gushes: “We are all so proud of you!”
  • A friendly co-worker or neighbor suddenly, without warning, begins giving you the cold shoulder.
  • A person persistently moves on from one social group to another, praising each group at first before becoming harshly critical.

Splitting is an example of Dissociation – or “Feelings Create Facts” – where a Personality Disordered person’s feelings take priority over what the facts actually tell them. If they experience a mood swing and suddenly feel good or bad about a particular person or situation, they can instantly modify their opinions, memories or attitudes to be consistent those feelings, regardless of any apparent contradictions.

How it Feels

When you come into contact with someone who engages in splitting, you may feel threatened by how easily or how quickly they can idealize or demonize you or other people for no apparent reason. Even if you are currently “split white” yourself, you may still feel insecure because you know that your favored “status” may change without warning.

If you are close to a person who uses splitting, you may occasionally find yourself being asked to choose between agreeing with them, or defending yourself or other people whom they have “split black”. This can become a real problem if you feel there is a matter of principle involved or if a valued relationship is suddenly challenged or threatened. You may be very uncomfortable trying to reconcile your relationship with the Personality Disordered individual and your personal values or valued relationships with other family members, friends and co-workers.

You may suddenly come under a lot of pressure to cut off contact with specific people and find yourself sacrificing friendships and social settings just to “keep the peace”. The problem with doing this is while it may seem to avoid conflict in the short term, you may hurt yourself and starve yourself of support and social interaction that you need in order to stay emotionally healthy.

You may also come under sudden pressure to neglect or compromise your own values or principles when they come into conflict with the black and white thinking of someone who is splitting. The trouble with giving in to this kind of pressure is you are likely feel to worse about yourself afterwards.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t argue with a person who is splitting or try to talk sense into them. That’s a recipe for a Circular Conversation.
  • Don’t blame yourself. People with Personality Disorders can easily distort facts to fit the way they feel. That’s their concern, not yours.
  • Don’t act like the Thought Police. Don’t use any tricks, intimidation or ultimatums to try to get someone to see things differently. Everyone is entitled to think what they want to think and believe what they want to believe.
  • Don’t become angry with them or try to retaliate.
  • Don’t yield your own reality about a person or group or isolate yourself from healthy friendships, family, social groups just to “keep the peace”. Don’t try to hide those relationships. It’s OK for you to have differences of opinion.
  • Don’t automatically assume that everything the other person believes or says is untrue. Don’t automatically run for the opposite corner or play “devil’s advocate”. Try to think objectively. Occasionally, like the boy who cried wolf, they may tell you something important.

What TO do

  • Handle disagreements with a person who is splitting as unemotionally, firmly and briefly as you can.
  • Try to “agree to disagree”. Acknowledge that you see things differently.
  • Respect their right to have their own point of view and assert your own right to have your own point of view.
  • Avoid ideological debates. Try to see the gray in each situation and judge on the merits.
  • Maintain and nurture your healthy friendships, family relationships and social groups, so long as they form no substantive threat to yourself or to another individual.
  • Find a support network, a group of people who understand what you are living with and who you can talk to about the tough situations.
  • If appropriate, talk to people who have been split black or white by your loved one to let them know that you are able to see the “gray”.

 

 

#2 Sleep Deprivation

Definition:

Sleep Deprivation – The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person’s sleep cycle.

Description:

Depriving a member of the household of sleep is a common tactic used by emotional abusers because it has a profound effect on the emotional state of the victim while leaving almost no evidence that abuse has occurred.

Motivation for sleep deprivation may range from anger and a desire to make the victim feel some of the abusers pain or rage to a more manipulative form where the abuser calculates that they will have more control over the victim in a sleep-deprived state.

Sleep is one of the most basic needs for survival. Basic human survival needs include:

  • Oxygen
  • Water
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Excretion of waste
  • Protection from extreme temperatures

Sleep Needs:

Different groups of people need different amounts of sleep:

Age Average Hours/Day
Infants 14-16
Children 1-3 12-14
Children 3-6 10-12
Children 7-12 10 – 11
Children 12-18 8 – 9
Adults >18 7-8

Source: http://www.webmd.com

Effects of Lack of Sleep:

Inadequate sleep is linked with:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

Source http://www.sleepfoundation.org

Denying a person sleep or starting arguments at a late hour is a common tactic of emotional abusers and those who suffer from personality disorders.

Examples:

  • Making excessive noise after bedtime.
  • Turning on lights after you have gone to bed.
  • Starting arguments or emotionally charged discussions at bedtime or just before bedtime.
  • Hitting or bumping you intentionally when you are in bed.
  • Forcing you to sleep in a strange place or to share a bed with an abuser.

What it feels like:

At bedtime, it is normal to feel disorientated or confused as your body winds down and your brain releases hormones which slow down your metabolism and begin the regenerative process of sleep.

When this is interrupted or impeded, you may feel confused or irritable. Your ability to think critically or to understand and read the emotions or intentions of others may be compromised significantly.

You may become irritable and “snap” at the other person in an attempt to get back to a sleep state. Alternatively, you may find yourself bargaining or agreeing to things you wouldn’t normally agree to just to get back to sleep.

Learning to Cope:

If someone habitually denies you of the ability to sleep – they are abusing you as much as if they were starving you of oxygen, food or water. You need sleep and need to get yourself into an environment where sleep is possible.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t ignore lack of sleep or consider sleep as a luxury.
  • Don’t participate in any discussions or arguments after bedtime.
  • Don’t take the bait when someone says something provocative late at night.
  • Don’t remain in an environment where you are habitually kept from sleeping.

What TO Do:

  • Prioritize sleep in your life as high as food, shelter, water and oxygen.
  • Communicate clearly that you refuse to have any kind of discussion after a certain time of night.
  • Set this time to be 30 minutes to an hour BEFORE bedtime and stick with it. You will need this time to wind down before you try to sleep.
  • Turn off phones and other devices that an abuser may use to disturb and provoke you.
  • If you are repeatedly denied access to sleep at home, leave for a hotel, friend’s house or shelter.

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#3 Situational Ethics

Definition:

Situational Ethics – A philosophy which promotes the idea that, when dealing with a crisis, the end justifies the means and that a rigid interpretation of rules and laws can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served by doing so.

Any Thought in a Storm

Situational ethics can be dangerous when combined with the distorted, crisis-prone thinking of those who suffer from Personality Disorders. For example, imagine you are invited to dinner at the house of a friend. You arrive, exchange polite conversation, enjoy a few appetizers and sit down at the table. Midway through the main course you suddenly begin shouting at the other guests, overturning the chairs, grab the host out of his chair and begin physically assaulting him.

That would be considered highly inappropriate behavior – unless, of course, you had just observed him choking, took charge of the situation, instructed one guest to call for help, another to wait outside and flag down the ambulance and meanwhile cleared obstructions out of the way and administered the life-saving Heimlich maneuver.

This extreme example illustrates an important point: there is a world of difference in what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior depending on the situation. In particular, when dealing with a crisis, many behaviors which most people consider to be highly inappropriate become highly appropriate. In some emergencies, normal ethics are not applicable for a good reason. Where it becomes an issue is where faulty reasoning due to a Personality Disorder manufactures a sense of crisis and therefore justification for unacceptable behavior.

What it Looks Like in Genuine Crisis

  • Breaking a window – to escape a fire.
  • Assaulting a stranger – in self-defense.
  • Killing a person – in war time.
  • Driving through a red light – when rushing an injured person to a hospital.
  • Killing an animal – to shorten a painful death (euthanasia).

Situational Ethics are applied in most mainstream legal and religious systems because of a recognition that a strict or fundamentalist interpretation of rules, laws and moral codes can sometimes lead to injustices or may provide a person who has questionable motives with enough cover or justification to behave in an unjust manner. Most court cases are an exercise is evaluating the situational ethics surrounding a case in light of the applicable laws, available evidence and relevant circumstances.

Situational ethics also have considerable limitations and weaknesses. Since situational ethics attempt to justify actions and behaviors based on expected consequences they are dependent on the individual subjective judgment of each person, their interpretation of a situation and their current beliefs about the future consequences of their actions. When Personality Disorders are brought into the mix, and therefore the people involved have vastly different realities, the results can be explosive.

Now imagine you are back at that dinner party, and the same sequence of events takes place – but this time you were mistaken and you only believed or imagined that the person was choking. This time, you are not going to be considered a hero. You may be considered a trouble maker, a liability or a fool. You have brought a crisis response into a non-critical situation. People may begin to question your judgment, your motives, your reactions and your methods.

This is a scenario played out many times in the lives of people with Personality Disorders, as over and over they perceive a crisis and adopt a crisis response, where parents, children, siblings, family members, partners, co-workers, friends, acquaintances and bystanders see no crisis. This difference in perception is at the heart of many of the conflicts in a PD/Non relationship.

How it Looks when Situational Ethics are Applied by Personality-Disordered Individuals

  • A man’s friendly disposition towards a female co-worker is interpreted by his Personality-Disordered wife as an adulterous intent, triggering a fear of abandonment response and accusations of flirting, unfaithfulness and adultery.
  • A Histrionic mother consumed by fear feels her children desperately need emergency care and withdraws a large sum of money from the family bank account to get private treatment administered as quickly as possible.
  • A Narcissistic employee interprets the growing professional accomplishments of a peer as a personal threat, justifying a vindictive response.
  • A Borderline mother, feeling trapped, alone and draped in a sense of failure in her own life, feels worthless when observing the growing confidence and independence of her teenage daughter, who is younger, smarter, prettier than her, is not bogged down by the same overwhelming heap of constraints and responsibilities and is prone to challenge her mistakes in moments of adolescent pride. Feeling mocked and ridiculed, the mother decides to “hit back in self-defense”.
  • An Avoidant father, tormented by his children’s incessant demands for attention and praise, withdraws to a place where he feels he can take care of himself.

In all these cases, a change in priorities is justified by a perceived need to address a crisis. It’s not that the Personality-Disordered individual has no conscience or sense of morality. It is more that in their eyes, the lesser of two evils is being chosen.

And since the priorities are different for the people involved – the usual result is conflict.

Examples of Situational Ethics Applied by Nons

Situational Ethics can also play an important role in a Non individual’s responses to typical Personality-Disordered behaviors and the crises which result. In order to protect themselves and prevent further abuse, injury or damage, Nons sometimes have to break cultural protocols or social taboos, for example:

  • Going “No-Contact” with a parent – to avoid emotional or verbal abuse.
  • Forcing a person against their will into a mental care facility to get treatment.
  • Divorcing a spouse – to escape abuse.
  • Removing a parent’s custody rights or access – in order to protect children.
  • Avoiding family gatherings – out of fear that a family member will repeat past bad behavior.

These kinds of actions can sometimes lead other bystanders to misunderstand the motivations of the Non. For example, it is not uncommon for distant family members to scold adult children for going “No-Contact” with an abusive parent, or for non-custodial family members to accuse a protective parent of Parental Alienation, or for religious friends to look down on a Non who divorces their spouse.

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t ignore a real crisis where there is one, or play down an abusive situation.
  • Don’t make excuses for a person who is prone to behaving in dangerous, dysfunctional or inappropriate ways.
  • Don’t argue, complain, criticize or condemn. The other person is likely to respond simply by justifying their own behavior.
  • Don’t let yourself get isolated or try to deal with it on your own.

What TO Do

  • Surround yourself with people who understand the situation, understand personality disorders and can give you a reality check.
  • Protect and remove yourself and any children from dangerous or abusive behaviors.
  • Have an action plan prepared in advance for what you will do next time.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

 

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#4 The Silent Treatment

Definition:

Silent Treatment – A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.

Description:

The silent treatment is a common way of displaying contempt for another individual while avoiding confrontation about that contempt or without giving the target of the contempt an opportunity to resolve the issue or dispute. The goal is typically to invoke “FOG” fear, obligation or guilt – in the mind of the target individual.

Note that just being quiet or declining to have a conversation is not the same thing as the SIlent Treatment. Many times, exiting a conversation is a healthy and constructive thing to do as part of a conflict resolution strategy, to exit a circular conversation, to escape verbal abuse or just to compose yourself. The SIlent Treatment is different from a time-out in the following ways:

Time-Out Silent Treatment
Effect Constructive Destructive
Duration Time Bound Indefinite
Non-Verbal’s Neutral or Reassuring Contemptuous
Physical Posture Disengaged Engaged
Re-engagement Mutually Agreed Unilateral
Engagement of Third Parties To seek self-support To seek alliances in the argument.
Disposition Seeks self-improvement Seeks to improve others
Problem Focus To find solutions To apportion blame

Click Here for more information on Time-Out’s.

Silent Treatment is a technique often used by people who suffer from personality disorders, but it is also sometimes used by non-personality-disordered individuals when they are feeling angry.

The silent treatment is a classic form of passive aggressive confrontation. The silent treatment can last from as little as a few hours to months or even years.

Examples of The Silent Treatment:

  • For more than 24 hours, a mother speaks to every member of the family except one.
  • A husband is willing to talk to this friends on the phone but refuses to speak to his wife.
  • An employee openly talks to other co-workers but refuses to talk to one.

What it Feels Like:

The Silent Treatment is often designed to produce feelings of Fear, Obligation and Guilt (FOG) in people and successful in doing so.

Coping with The Silent Treatment:

The Silent Treatment is rarely a good approach to problem solving or problem resolution.

If you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment, it may be tempting to try to prod the person out of their silence. However, this is a form of control that rarely works. It is better to accept that the person is making a poor choice in their communication, accept that they have a right to be quiet and politely remove yourself from the “conversation” and the room if possible.

If you find yourself angry at another person and tempted to use the silent treatment on them, it is better to take the approach of having a healthy, constructive “Time-Out”. You can give them a verbal “I” statement and then exit the conversation until you feel more productive, e.g. “I am feeling upset and don’t want to talk right now. I’ll discuss this with you tomorrow.”

What NOT To Do:

  • Don’t use the silent treatment on others. It rarely improves communication.
  • Don’t escalate the situation or try to force a passive aggressive person who is using the silent treatment to snap out of it – you will likely turn them from passive aggressive to hostile aggressive.
  • Don’t blame yourself for it. Silent Treatment is a poor choice of communication strategy and that is not your choice.
  • Don’t stay in the same room or company of a person who is behaving in a passive aggressive way any longer than necessary.
  • Don’t try to find a logical explanation for a personality-disordered person’s strange behavior. IT’s better to chalk it down to the mental illness and move on.

What TO Do:

  • If possible, turn a silent treatment into a time-out and use the time to go work on yourself.
  • Express your feelings using “I” statements – but only do this once. “I feel uncomfortable right now”.
  • Exit the room or the environment so you can think more clearly without all the pressure.
  • Get Support from others who understand about personality disorders and can relate to what you are going through.
  • Remember that what the person is feeling is temporary and they will probably feel different in a few days or a few hours.

 

 

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#5 Shame & Shaming

Definition:

Shaming – The difference between blaming and shaming is that in blaming someone tells you that you did something bad, in shaming someone tells you that you are something bad.

Feeling Deeply Stained

Shaming is a technique used by abusive people to divert attention away from their own behavior and issues by putting pressure on a victim so they can maintain control. The victim is put into an impossible situation, where they feel they are inherently flawed and so can never measure up to the standards being imposed on them, and therefore must dedicate themselves to attempting to make up for their ‘badness’.

As a tactic, shaming is often used by Personality Disordered parents who misdirect their anger at their children. Unchosen children and adult children of Personality-Disordered parents are often made to feel worthless, useless, unloved and unappreciated.

Some examples of shaming statements include:

  • “You were a mistake”
  • “You could never do what he/she does”
  • “You’ve ruined my life”
  • “We are all disappointed in you”
  • “Shame on You!”

How it Feels

If you have been subjected to Shaming or Emotional Blackmail then it is likely that you have been living in a FOG of Fear, Obligation and Guilt

Fear – that if you don’t do what this person wants there will be hell to pay.

Obligation – you are somehow made to feel indebted to this person – you believe you owe them something even though you have taken nothing from them.

Guilt – you are unworthy – you have broken some unwritten rules – rules which you never agreed to and which were never fully justified or explained to you.

Characteristics of Adults Shamed In Childhood

The following is quoted from Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middelton-Moz, Ph.D.

  1. Adults shamed as children are afraid of vulnerability and fear exposure of self.
  2. Adults shamed as children may suffer extreme shyness, embarrassment and feelings of being inferior to others. They don’t believe they make mistakes. Instead they believe they are mistakes.
  3. Adults shamed as children fear intimacy and tend to avoid real commitment in relationships. These adults frequently express the feeling that one foot is out of the door, prepared to run.
  4. Adults shamed as children may appear either grandiose and self-centered or seem selfless.
  5. Adults shamed as children feel that, “No matter what I do, it won’t make a difference; I am and always will be worthless and unlovable.”
  6. Adults shamed as children frequently feel defensive when even minor negative feedback is given. They suffer feelings of severe humiliation if forced to look at mistakes or imperfections.
  7. Adults shamed as children frequently blame others before they can be blamed.
  8. Adults shamed as children may suffer from debilitating guilt. These individuals apologize constantly. They assume responsibility for the behavior of those around them.
  9. Adults shamed as children feel like outsiders. They feel a pervasive sense of loneliness throughout their lives, even when surrounded with those who love and care.
  10. Adults shamed as children project their beliefs about themselves onto others. They engage in mind-reading that is not in their favor, consistently feeling judged by others.
  11. Adults shamed as children often feel angry and judgmental towards the qualities in others that they feel ashamed of in themselves. This can lead to shaming others.
  12. Adults shamed as children often feel ugly, flawed and imperfect. These feelings regarding self may lead to focus on clothing and makeup in an attempt to hide flaws in personal appearance and self.
  13. Adults shamed as children often feel controlled from the outside as well as from within. Normal spontaneous expression is blocked.
  14. Adults shamed as children feel they must do things perfectly or not at all. This internalized belief frequently leads to performance anxiety and procrastination.
  15. Adults shamed as children experience depression.
  16. Adults shamed as children lie to themselves and others.
  17. Adults shamed as children block their feelings of shame through compulsive behaviors like workaholism, eating disorders, shopping, substance-abuse, list-making or gambling.
  18. Adults shamed as children often have caseloads rather than friendships.
  19. Adults shamed as children often involve themselves in compulsive processing of past interactions and events and intellectualization as a defense against pain.
  20. Adults shamed as children are stuck in dependency or counter-dependency.
  21. Adults shamed as children have little sense of emotional boundaries. They feel constantly violated by others. They frequently build false boundaries through walls, rage, pleasing or isolation.

Characteristics of Shame-Based Adults in Relationships:

  1. We lose ourselves in love.
  2. When we argue, we fight for our lives.
  3. We expend a great deal of energy in mind-reading. We frequently talk to ourselves about what our partners are feeling and needing more than to our partners.
  4. We pay a high price for those few good times.
  5. We often sign two contracts upon commitment, one conscious and another which is unconscious.
  6. We blame and are blamed.
  7. We want them gone, then fight to get them back.
  8. We know it will be different but expect it to be the same.
  9. We often feel that our partners are controlling our behavior.
  10. We are frequently attracted to the emotional qualities in another that we have disowned in ourselves.
  11. We often create triangles in relationships.
  12. We seek the unconditional love from our partners that we didn’t receive adequately in a shaming childhood.

Source: Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middelton-Moz, Ph.D.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t believe what a Shamer tells you. Nobody who truly loves you will want you to feel bad about yourself.
  • Don’t argue or debate with a Shamer – if someone is trying to shame you then they are not interested in seeking the truth. Save your arguments for a time when they are ready to listen with respect.
  • Don’t stay in the same room with a person who is trying to shame you. Remove yourself politely and tell them you’ll be back when they are ready to treat you with respect.
  • Don’t give into their demands – if you give them what they want when they use shame you might as well say to them “keep doing it”. Instead wait until they are ready to speak respectfully to you and then tell them you will negotiate on what you BOTH want.

What TO do

  • If you find yourself questioning the shame another person is dumping onto you then it is quite likely that the problem is with them – not with you. Healthy people don’t go around dumping shame on others.
  • Confront the Shamer gently and tell them, “I am choosing not to accept what you have said because I believe it is not true. Please stop speaking this way as it hurts me and I will be compelled to remove myself from your presence whenever you speak this way.” Then end the conversation right there.
  • Surround yourself with healthy people who will tell it like it is with kindness. Find a few supportive friends or trusted acquaintances who can reality check both your self-perception and any shaming statements you have internalized.
  • Get out from under the control of a Shamer if at all possible. Remove yourself from their influence, their poison tongue or their manipulative behaviors – that’s not a healthy place to be for anybody and shame never brought out the best in anybody.
  • Write down the qualities you like about yourself. Remind yourself you have gifts and talents and that you are unique in this world.

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#6 Sexual Objectification

Definition:

Sexual Objectification – Viewing another individual in terms of their sexual usefulness or attractiveness rather than pursuing or engaging in a quality interpersonal relationship with them.

Description:

Sexual Objectification is a particular type of objectification which manifests itself in the area of sexual relations. It occurs when any person – including those with Personality Disorders – disregards another person’s feelings, personal needs or dignity and instead focuses exclusively, inappropriately or excessively on how the target can be used to in terms of their own sexual desire or gratification. It is one of the major elements of many forms of domestic abuse, and is also one of the primary causes of crimes including rape, child molestation, child pornography and sexual harassment.

What it Looks Like

  • A husband or wife physically hurts or verbally berates their partner and then, without reconciling, expects sexual intercourse at bedtime.
  • An individual threatens to hurt or punish their partner if they do not have sex with them or provide sexual services.
  • A woman has sex with a friend for whom she has no care or respect.
  • A family member engages in rape or incest.
  • A boss sexually harasses a subordinate or requests sexual favors from them.
  • A parent pays excessive attention towards their child’s sexuality.

How it Feels

The victims of sexual objectification can feel humiliated, devastated, confused and in severe cases, traumatized. Rape and incest victims may suffer from a range of mental health issues including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, and eating disorders.

In milder cases, confusion and inner turmoil sets in, as part of you may possibly be grateful the person seems to be attracted to you. You may be tempted to think that you can handle inappropriate attention, or that you can give as good as you get (the classic “no strings”). But engaging on the basis of objectification is no recipe for a happy-ever-after ending. The gratification and confidence is often short-lived as lack of commitment, respect and care for you will eventually show through, and that’s when you can be left feeling used, cheap, discarded and taken advantage of.

And your confidence around potential genuinely loving partners may be shaken if you resign yourself to the idea that, “this is maybe the best that I can expect”.

How to Cope

Domestic sexual objectification is a form of sexual assault and may also include rape. This is a serious crime. The vast majority of such rapes and sexual assaults occur at the hands of close relatives, partners and friends. If this is happening to you, it may be hard for you to think clearly. That’s why it is important to reach out and get help from a caring person from outside the situation who can help you think and see things more objectively, and to report any incidences of sexual assault to a rape crisis line, police or domestic violence shelter.

What we know from the experience of OOTF members is any form of domestic assault or sexual abuse usually continues and often escalates. It is vitally important to get help, support and guidance, and also vital to report it.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t keep quiet about the situation.
  • Don’t stay in the room with someone who is touching you in a way you do not feel comfortable with.
  • Don’t tell yourself it doesn’t matter or that you can handle it.
  • Don’t retaliate or try to hurt the person who is abusing you.
  • Don’t blame yourself or take responsibility for the way another person is behaving towards you.
  • Don’t forget about it or assume it is over if the abuse stops. Most abuse patterns are cyclical and most abusers are kind, generous and charming in between acts of abuse or aggression.
  • Don’t tell yourself it isn’t sexual assault because you are married or in a romantic relationship with the other person – or because you consented on a previous occasion. No means no, and there are no exceptions to that.
  • Don’t stay to discuss it or try to shame or guilt-trip your abuser into treating you right. Acts of abuse are illogical and are often the product of mental disorders. Logic will not solve it.

What TO do

  • Quickly, calmly and without drama, leave the room, the house and the company of anyone who subjects you to unwanted sexual contact.
  • Immediately reach out for support from someone who cares for you and who understands about personality disorders.
  • Get your children, pets and valuables to a safe place too.
  • Talk to others who have been in your situation.
  • If necessary, call a domestic violence, rape or child abuse hotline, or call the police.

Related Personality Disorders:

Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic

 

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#7 Sense of Entitlement

Definition:

Sense of Entitlement – An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

Always asking for more

When someone with a Personality Disorder experiences the extreme ups and downs of mood swings, they can sometimes believe their own emotional needs are of the utmost importance. They may appear sometimes to care only about their own desires and needs – at the expense of other people around them – or they may habitually prioritize their own needs. This trait is often referred to as a Sense of Entitlement.

Some people with Personality Disorders seem to have a no sense of shame or scruples. They are not afraid to make a fool out of themselves; or they may believe anything that goes wrong is always someone else’s fault. They may appear to lack much awareness of how others might perceive their actions, which can lead them into behavioral territory most people would avoid.

An acute sense of entitlement is often interpreted as selfishness by Nons. However, some Personality-Disordered individuals will forcefully defend their position and their “wants” are expressed as “needs”. This often occurs when a Personality-Disordered person misinterprets their Feelings as Facts, sometimes to a point where they attach a sense of desperation or crisis to everyday desires. This often results in conflicts and Circular Conversations.

The “Compromise Effect”

If you are the type of person who usually tries to meet people halfway, you may be susceptible to giving away too much to someone who has a sense of entitlement. If they make ten unrealistic demands of you, you might agree to five of them to satisfy your sense of fairness. This is known as the “compromise effect” and it’s a bit like the way some parents with poor boundaries deal with a demanding toddler. (“No you can’t have a pony, but you can have chocolate instead of vegetables for supper.”)

Compromising with a person who has an acute sense of entitlement is a form of Intermittent Reinforcement. When rules, rewards and personal boundaries are enforced inconsistently, this usually encourages the other person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior. The lesson they learn is that it works some of the time, so they should keep pushing harder.

The “Surprise Effect”

If you think – consciously or unconsciously – that you are some kind of princess, rock star, leader or VIP, you’ll also tend to think that first class service is your right… so you just go there boldly as if you were entitled to be there. And it works! It works through the “surprise effect”. Until someone realizes that you are not supposed to be there, you have already arrived at your destination and the champagne is sipped.

It works mainly with strangers or superficial relationships. You can take someone by surprise once or twice, but you typically can’t go back to the same person with the same game over and over again. People who are familiar with a person who has an acute sense of entitlement often become resistant to them. Therefore, people with a sense of entitlement are often on the lookout for new friends and acquaintances who may be more open to their demands.

What Entitlement looks like

  • A mother feeds herself while letting her children go hungry.
  • A spouse frequently spends money from the joint account on luxury items.
  • A teenager defiantly uses drugs and expects his parents to bail him out when he gets caught.
  • A woman shows up at a function or party she has not been invited to.
  • A middle aged man makes no attempt to save for his retirement, assuming his family will pay for everything.
  • An irate customer demands products and services that they have not paid for.
  • An angry parent wants a school to make impractical concessions or arrangements for their child.

How it feels

When you’re in relationship with someone with a sense of entitlement, it can look and feel like they are incredibly selfish. They may prioritize trivial comforts and pleasures for themselves over basic needs that you have, like balancing the budget, putting food on the table, paying the rent, getting enough sleep, keeping up with work commitments etc. Your own desires and interests will often be relegated to the bottom of the pile.

This can leave you feeling taken for granted, devalued, angry, resentful and taken advantage of.

Your frustration is may come out in all sorts of negative ways including sarcasm, skepticism, name-calling, anger and depression. You may intermittently become angry and rant, then disconnect or give in just to end the drama.

How to cope with a Sense of Entitlement

What NOT to do

  • Don’t give in to unrealistic demands just to keep the peace.
  • Don’t expect a personality-disordered person to reciprocate favorable treatment you show them.
  • Don’t try to use logic to argue your way out of it. That will only be interpreted as invalidating their feelings and result in a Circular Conversation.
  • Don’t stay in any situation or room where your basic needs such as food, sleep, shelter, medical attention, supportive relationships and safety from violence is threatened or withheld.
  • Don’t feel rushed into making or denying commitments or decisions. It’s OK to say “I’ll have to think about it”.
  • Don’t fall into black and white thinking. People with a sense of entitlement also have some legitimate needs and concerns.

What TO do

  • Recognize the characteristics of a sense of entitlement and understand where it comes from.
  • Accept that you are not going to be able to meet all of the needs of any person. That is especially true in the case of people who have a Personality Disorder. Acknowledge the good you do, without beating up on yourself for having sensible limits.
  • Take care of your own needs as well as the needs of others. It is just common sense to establish patterns and choices that are healthy in the long run.
  • Talk to others whom you trust about what is being asked before saying “yes” or “no”.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

 

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#8 Self-Victimization

Definition:

Self-Victimization – Casting oneself in the role of a victim.

Tying Oneself to the Tracks

We’ve all seen a small child do it – crying crocodile tears, pouting or sulking when they don’t get exactly what they want, when they want it. Some folks, however, never grow out of using the “poor me” strategy.

Part of the passage to healthy adulthood is learning to take responsibility for our own situations and our own mistakes, and learning not to blame others for things which aren’t their fault. We also learn that most people can see through insincere attempts at manipulating their emotions.

Some people with Personality Disorders, however, do not achieve this level of self-responsibility and continue with exaggerated, even blatantly dishonest campaigns to arouse the sympathies of others, even to the point of appearing ridiculous to observers around them.

Sometimes, these campaigns continue to get them what they want, as exasperated family members with weak boundaries try to appease them in the hope that they will just give it a rest. This is similar to spoiled children, who learn to get what they want from parents with poor boundaries by throwing tantrums, whining, nagging or making ultimatums and threats.

In some cases, playing the victim is also used strategically by abusers to divert attention away from their own behavior and place responsibility for any wrong-doing on the victim, the government, or some other scapegoat. This is, for example, a fairly common defense strategy for assault and murder trials.

Self-Victimization is also sometimes used quite strategically to elicit sympathy from others and gain their assistance in supporting, enabling or hiding abusive behaviors. This is a common tactic used for proxy recruitment.

It is very common for perpetrators of abuse to engage in self-victimization for two main reasons:

  1. Justification to themselves – as a way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance which results from inconsistencies between the way they treat others and what they believe about themselves.
  2. Justification to others – as a way of escaping harsh judgment or condemnation they may fear from people whom they wish to please or impress.

What it Looks Like

  • A spouse, challenged over emptying the joint account, complains the other partner is neglecting their needs.
  • A husband hits his wife and then, when confronted with his actions, complains that he is treated worse in other ways.
  • A mother beats or neglects her children and diverts challenges about it by only discussing her own medical complaints.
  • A spouse is having an affair and claims the other partner drove them to it.
  • A person spreads false accusations about physical or sexual abuse in the home.
  • A thief caught red-handed tells stories about how they were abused as a child.
  • A narcissistic boss mistreats a subordinate and then claims the subordinate’s behavior was hurting the company as justification.
  • A teenager starts a fight with a sibling then complains about the resulting bruises.
  • A young girl overdoses and then says she did it because nobody listens to her.

How it Feels

If you are in a relationship with someone who plays the victim, it is easy to feel like you are in the classic “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario. No matter how hard you try, how well you behave, or how much you sacrifice, your actions and efforts can never fill the bottomless pit of “need” that is presented to you. . Once you solve problem A, problem B suddenly appears.

This happens because the true “need” is inside the mind of the person who is playing the victim. What they really need is to address their own illness with treatment programs that work, which also requires effort and rigorous work on their own part. It has nothing to do with you. Even if you had the character of Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Saint Francis rolled into one, you could never fill the void – because you cannot change what their mind creates. At some point, you are likely to feel resentment and frustration as you realize your efforts are being consumed and not reciprocated. Worse still, you may find you are the focus of the Personality-Disordered individual’s resentments and complaints.

It is important to understand that getting angry or hitting back is not going to help you – all it will do is feed into the self-victimizer’s scenario that you are unfair or abusive towards them and give them further “justification” to abuse you.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t react to every false accusation you hear from a Personality Disordered individual. It just makes it worse.
  • Don’t try to justify yourself or your actions to a person who is casting themselves as the victim. It’s their illusion, you do not have to engage with it.
  • Don’t admit to or apologize for anything that you haven’t done wrong. Stick to the truth, and say it once calmly and clearly.
  • Don’t try to compensate for a self-victimizer’s complaints by increasing your own effort. Spend your energy on what works.
  • Don’t give a self-victimizer a “free ride” just because they claim they deserve one. . Everyone, regardless of their personality, gets to deal with their own stuff.
  • Don’t retaliate or strike back at someone who cast themselves as a victim. You are just pouring fuel on their fire.
  • Don’t assume that everyone who hears a self-victimizer’s complaints believes them. Most people can smell a rat when a story doesn’t ring true.

What TO do

  • Try to be as unemotional as possible. Try to judge based on facts rather than feelings.
  • Acknowledge that everyone, even a self-victimizer, is entitled to believe what they want without validation or judgment.
  • Surround yourself with friends who are not self-victimizers and who can help you figure out what is real and what is not.
  • Keep doing what you know is right – regardless of what a self-victimizer tells you.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Borderline, Histrionic, Dependent

 

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#9 Self-Loathing

Definition:

Self-Loathing – An extreme hatred of one’s own self, actions or one’s ethnic or demographic background.

Their own worst critic

Self-Loathing, also known as “Autophobia” or “Self-Hatred”, is a thought pattern where individuals believe they are inferior, bad, worthless, unlovable, or incompetent.

Self-Loathing is one of the central characteristics of people who suffer from Avoidant Personality Disorder and is also a common occurrence among other Personality Disorders – particularly Borderline Personality Disorder. It is also sometimes linked to self-harm and suicidal behaviors.

Sometimes this way of thinking is also described in less stern terms as a “lack of self-esteem” or “stinking thinking”.

There are two common categories of Self-Loathing

  1. Hatred of one’s own self, actions and characteristics; and
  2. Rejection of one’s demographic origin – such as ethnic origin, religious orientation, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.

This destructive form of self-perception is not only common in certain Personality Disorders, it is also common among people who grew up in an unsupportive family environment and endured child abuse, neglect, emotional trauma or chronic criticism.

Symptoms of self-loathing include chemical dependency, alcohol and drug abuse, self-harm, self-destructive promiscuity, fits of rage and Dissociation.

The feeling may be intermittent, and it may be suddenly triggered by disappointments, struggles, painful memories or anxiety about the future. These triggers can create an overwhelming flood of feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and powerlessness which can lead to self-destructive behaviors, emotional withdrawal or aggressive behaviors towards loved ones and family members.

What it Looks Like

  • “Nobody loves me”
  • “Things will never get any better.”
  • “I’m useless. I always screw everything up.”
  • “He/she could never really love the real me.”

Related Personality Disorders:

Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant

 

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#10 Self-Harm

Definition:

Self-Harm – Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

The Wounding

Self-harm, self-injury, self-abuse or self-mutilation typically refer to behaviors which are not suicidal in nature, although attempts at self-harm occasionally result in death.

Reliable statistics about these behaviors are not easy to find, partly because self-harm has received relatively little attention from the scientific community and partly because a large proportion of self-harm events are believed to be performed in secret.

Self-harm is generally considered to be most common among adolescents and young adults, although there is little scientific data to back this up.

Self-harm does not have its own listing in either the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) or in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), although there are some who believe it should. Self-harm is included as one of the nine possible DSM Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder.

British Medical Journal 2002 Study on Self-Harm in Adolescents

A 2002 survey of 15 and 16 year old students in 41 schools in England found that 6.9% reported acts of deliberate self-harm in the previous year, with a significantly higher prevalence in females (11.2%) than in males (3.2%).

Incidents Reported Total respondents (%)
Deliberate self harm: 398 5801 6.9%
Male 98 3078 3.2%
Female 299 2703 11.2%
Gender Unspecified 1 20 5.0%
Suicidal thoughts(no self harm): 863 5737 15.0%
Male 258 3025 8.5%
Female 602 2692 22.4%
Gender Unspecified 3 20 15.0%
No self-harm or suicidal thoughts: 4476 5737 78.0%
Male 2669 3025 88.2%
Female 1791 2692 66.5%
Gender Unspecified 16 20 80.0%

Source: Deliberate self-harm in adolescents: self-report survey in schools in England, Keith Hawton, Karen Rodham, Emma Evans & Rosamund Weatheral, British Medical Journal, 2002

12.6% of incidents of self-harm resulted in a hospital admission.

Methods used:

Method Occurrences %
Cutting 257 64.6%
Overdose/Poisoning <122 30.7%
Other 19 4.8%
Total 379 100.0%

Source: Deliberate self-harm in adolescents: self-report survey in schools in England, Keith Hawton, Karen Rodham, Emma Evans & Rosamund Weatheral, British Medical Journal, 2002

A Cry for Help?

One of the more common responses to an episode of self-harm is to view it as a cry for help. While this is a more compassionate interpretation than simple condemnation of the person, this interpretation leaves a problem. Most people who want help are also willing to help themselves. However, people who are engaging in self-harm are clearly not engaging in self-help.

A Cry for Attention?

Another common misconception about self-harm is that it is a cry for attention. The problem with this interpretation is the large number of people who engage in secretive self-harm, such as cutting in areas generally kept clothed.

Why do people Self Harm?

When asked why they do it, there are two common reasons given:

  1. Some say they feel a sense of numbness or emptiness and do it because it feels good to feel “something.”
  2. Some say they are under acute stress and do it as a diversion.

How it affects loved ones

When a Personality-Disordered individual engages in self-harm or suicidal behavior, most Nons react with a mixture of guilt, alarm, betrayal and/or anger. They will often look for reasons for the behavior, based on their own logic, and may blame themselves, or their own inability to solve the Personality-Disordered individual’s discontent.

Some Nons may also feel a sense of relief as the self-harm incident gives them legitimate “cover” to seek external help and substitute a more assertive action plan for the unresolved conflict, and also it gives them evidence of major mental health issues which may be more “believable” to friends and family.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t ignore it. Most self-harm incidents are signs of a serious underlying problem and will be repeated.
  • Don’t try to deal with this yourself. Self-injury is a serious problem and needs the engagement of expert trained professionals.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Self-injury is just that – self-inflicted. It is not abuse by another.

What TO do

  • If someone you know threatens self-harm or commits an act of serious self-harm, call 911 immediately. Police and ambulance officers have the skills and resources to deal with the situation and will see that the person is given an immediate medical and mental health assessment, which is the first step towards possible therapeutic intervention.
  • Protect any innocent children or bystanders.
  • Be supportive but firm.
  • See our Emergency Page for more information.

Resources

 

 

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#11 Self-Aggrandizement

Definition:

Self-Aggrandizement – A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.

Toxic Delusions of Grandeur

Self-aggrandizement is a colloquial term which broadly describes Narcissism, the most defining trait of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It differs from general boasting, which most of us indulge in now and then, in that it can often manifest in aggressive, ruthless or manipulative patterns of relating.

Being able to form teams of some kind, and build lasting committed relationships, is one of the behaviors which distinguishes intelligent beings from sea cucumbers and other lower life-forms. To do that, a human (or swan, or dolphin, or elephant) has to regularly choose between their instinctive lower-brain “kill or be killed” impulse and the more reasoned “what is the long-term risk and reward of this course of action” thought process.

Some psychologists believe that Narcissists are people whose emotional centers have fewer connections to the higher reasoning parts of the brain located in the frontal cortex – so they lack that filter most of us use to keep our basic instincts in check.

Despite their facade, self-aggrandizers often suffer from low self-esteem themselves. They live in a dog-eat-dog world of fear where being anything less than being number one is regarded as failure – a world where nobody can be trusted.

What it Looks Like

  • A person engages in false accusations, smear campaigns, distortion campaigns, character assassination attempts and malicious gossip.
  • An employee habitually gravitates to or assumes positions of power, authority or leadership while disregarding the existence of more qualified individuals.
  • A friend amplifies their own image, or behaves in a pompous, arrogant manner.
  • A team member tenaciously avoids playing anonymous roles or engaging in thankless tasks.
  • A family member frequently speaks out inappropriately, drawing attention to themselves.
  • A parent inappropriately puts their own needs or interests above the needs of their children.

How it Feels

Being in a relationship with a self-aggrandizer can feel a little like being on a fast moving freight train. You can’t steer because someone else is driving it and you’re left to choose between a ride to somewhere you don’t want to go to or jumping off while the train is still in motion and potentially getting hurt.

There are two ways you can be a victim in this kind of relationship:

  1. You may be the direct victim. Your needs and goals may get put down or stomped upon by the other person to make them look or feel better. You may feel anger, despair or resentment as you see your money getting squandered, your reputation being torn, your time being wasted and your optimism evaporating.
  2. You may be guilty by association with the perpetrator. Other people who get hurt by them may partially blame you for enabling and supporting them. You may feel under pressure to “take sides”. You may feel a sense of shame or humiliation as you wonder “what must he/she think of me?” and struggle to find ways to non-verbally convey to the rest of the world “I’m really not like that!”

Most people on the outside of such a relationship stand far enough back that they can see who is driving the freight train and who is being taken along for the ride. Although they may not blame you, it’s rare that outsiders will try to step in and help you, because few people want to get run over themselves. The safest thing for outsiders to do is keep their distance and watch the freight train speeding by, wondering “how long before that thing turns into a train wreck?”

How to Cope

Whether you are in a relationship with a self-aggrandizer or dealing with one in a business context, you are already in a conflict zone, where there is only one winner allowed and ideas like trust, loyalty and faith are secondary. You will need to have your wits about you. You may need to be willing to cut some losses to get out of the conflict zone.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t feel sorry for a self-aggrandizer. They often use guilt as a diversion from their own behavior and as a means of getting public support.
  • Don’t listen to promises from a self-aggrandizer or believe every word they say. Trust is built on track records.
  • Don’t become a false prophet. Self-aggrandizers love to recruit and deceive unwitting bystanders to sing their praises.
  • Don’t stand in front of a freight train unless you want to get hit. It’s easier to derail a train than to stop it cold.
  • Don’t become intoxicated by the thrill of being taken on board by a self-aggrandizer. Eventually they will not want to share their glory with you.

What TO do

  • Figure out who your real friends are and be loyal to them. Self-aggrandizers often use a “divide and conquer” technique to gain control over people.
  • Get off the freight train if you can, as quietly and uneventfully as possible. You may feel attracted and intoxicated by the thrill of riding the fast lane, climbing the social ladder, shooting to the top but it’s better to go through life at your own pace safely than to hurtle towards disaster.
  • Remember that what goes up must come down. As people climb social and corporate ladders there’s less and less room at the top and more and more competition for it. That’s a guaranteed recipe for future conflict.
  • Remove yourself and any children from any situation which you are physically or emotionally threatened.
  • Make sure your needs are being met. Establish a list of “bottom line” needs that you have and boundaries that must not be crossed. Write them down. It can be so very difficult to remember them in the heat of the moment.
  • Handle minor disagreements with a self-aggrandizer as unemotionally and briefly as you can. It is usually more helpful to let them “think they have won” than to stand your ground on minor disagreements.
  • Find your own support network, a group of people who understand what you are living with and know the “real” you.
  • Seek out healthy, validating environments for yourself, away from the influence and control of a self-aggrandizer.
  • See a therapist who can explain Narcissism, and can help you build your own self-esteem and develop techniques for dealing with it.

 

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#12 Selective Competence

Definition:

Selective Competence – Demonstrating different levels of intelligence, memory, resourcefulness, strength or competence depending on the situation or environment.

Description:

Selective Competence

Demonstrating different levels of intelligence, memory, resourcefulness, strength or competence depending on the situation or environment.

When Can-Do Turns to Can’t

We’ve all experienced times when our ability to perform a particular task has been greatly enhanced or significantly hampered by our level of motivation, confidence and conviction. This is normal. Personal variations in skills and abilities are also normal, because not everyone is great at everything.

However, variations in competence become dysfunctional when there are clear inconsistencies in someone’s abilities in a way which becomes chronic and destructive towards self, friends or family. It’s a level of fluctuation which extends beyond the normal ebb and flow of coping with life’s “ups and downs” and can at times appear downright strategic.

For some people with Personality Disorders, unregulated emotion can lead to extremes or systematic levels of selective competence or incompetence depending on the task at hand or the people around them.

What it Looks Like

  • A man is a successful business manager at work but says he cannot successfully balance his personal check book.
  • A woman can organize a wedding with 500 guests but claims she can’t arrange a birthday party for her children.
  • A man is an expert at fixing cars and motorbikes yet he cannot hold down a mechanics job.
  • A teenage girl is habitually late for school but never misses the start of her favorite TV show.
  • A co-worker selectively remembers facts and information which confirm a particular bias.

Selective competence often appears similar to hypocrisy or laziness. And sometimes it is. We are all capable of hypocrisy and people with Personality Disorders are no different from the rest of us in that regard. Most people draw the line on hypocrisy and laziness at the point where they think they will no longer safely get away with it.

However, when you are dealing with a person with a Personality Disorder, you will occasionally discover examples where their selective competence cannot be rationalized away simply as selfish behavior:

  • A man will suddenly not allow himself to eat a food that he usually loves, because he believes it will make him sick.
  • A girl has trouble remembering certain teenage years although her childhood is easily remembered.
  • A woman is afraid to ride in green cars.

Genuine selective competence which can’t be explained just by hypocrisy or laziness is an example of dissociation – when a person’s feelings about a particular task take precedence over any scientific truth they may know to logically apply to the situation.

How it Feels

When a person you are close to exhibits selective competence, the most common reaction is frustration, anger and accusations of fraud. You may be tired of making concessions for a person who appears to be quite capable of dealing with a particular aspect of reality, yet right now seems to be choosing not to.

How to Cope

It’s important to understand that Personality Disorders are real mental health disorders. If a person is dissociating and believing things that you know not to be true, the temptation may be there to “talk sense into them”, argue with them, try to rationalize or debate with them, reason and cajole. You may bring all of your powers of persuasion to bear on the situation, because you believe it is “good for them” or you believe their beliefs are dangerous.

One danger is that this can cross over into Thought Policing or Mind Control, which is not a healthy solution. Imagine if someone started trying to convince you that something you knew to be true wasn’t true. You would perhaps become defensive, indignant, scared, annoyed. The same goes for people who dissociate. They have feelings too and will not respond well to being told what to believe.

People need to be allowed to believe what they want to believe and think what they want to think. You don’t have to agree and you don’t have to control them. At the same time, you are not under an obligation to take responsibility for anything another adult can reasonably be expected to do for themselves, especially when they have at other times shown clearly that they can.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t try to control another person’s beliefs or thoughts. That’s their property and their right to think and feel what they want.
  • Don’t allow that person to control your thoughts and beliefs. That’s yours.
  • Don’t use ultimatums, threats, violence or any other form of dysfunctional control strategies to try to control that person.
  • Don’t ignore threats to your own safety and the safety of any children present.
  • Don’t make yourself responsible of fixing the problem of what another person believes about themselves. That’s their job not yours.
  • Don’t put your own fate and wellbeing in the hands of a person who is not reliable, or make your own happiness contingent on a mentally ill person “getting better”.

What TO do

  • Protect yourself and any children first. Remove yourself from any threatening or dangerous environment.
  • Assert your own right to your own beliefs. Say “I will respect your beliefs about this and you must respect mine”.
  • Separate the person from the problem. Say “I don’t agree with you but I still care about you”.
  • Take care of yourself in such a way that you will be OK no matter if this person gets better or not.

 

 

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#13 Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia

Definition:

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Description:

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia are common among all people. We all remember certain events and situations differently. Our ability to remember with clarity events from a favorite early childhood vacation or birthday party can often greatly exceed our ability to remember our commute to work yesterday.

Scientists and psychologists are still unlocking the secrets of exactly how memory works in the human brain. Much has been learned about the neural networks, neurons, synapses and etc.

However, what is clear is that emotion forms an important component of what we can remember and how well we can remember it. It is thought that adrenaline plays a role. This helps explain why we can remember details of an exciting event (such as that childhood vacation) much easier than an uninteresting one (such as the commute to work) .

People with personality disorders often suffer from extremes of emotion – sometimes referred to emotional dysregulation or emotional regulation disorder. These unregulated emotional highs and lows perhaps help to explain why some people with personality disorders experience vastly inconsistent memory functioning.

Additionally, this may also help to explain why some people who suffer from personality disorders experience extreme forms of selective memory known as Dissociation. Dissociation is the process whereby a person’s feelings and emotions can override a person’s tactile recollection of the facts – known as “Feelings Create Facts” Refer to our Page on Dissociation for More Info on Dissociation.

 

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#14 Scapegoating

Definition:

Scapegoating – Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Picking a Target

Everyone has some relationships that feel less comfortable, natural or rewarding than the others. Some people simply annoy us more, tire us more or challenge us more than others.

For example, many parents struggle to show equitable treatment to their children, who usually have different interests, abilities and behavior patterns, just as employers typically find a broad spectrum of abilities and attitudes within their staff. Teachers find they aren’t able to relate to every student in the same way. Some relationships just take more work than others. That’s life. It’s not possible or practical to treat everyone as if they were exactly the same, all the time.

Differential treatment becomes dysfunctional, however, when it translates into actions such as inequitable systems of reward and punishment or inequitable access or denial of access to opportunities, resources and liberties. It becomes a form of abuse when one child, employee or member of a group is singled out for special punishment, undeserved negative treatment or arbitrarily denied some benefit available to the others.

People with Personality Disorders are particularly susceptible to showing dysfunctional differential treatment because they sometimes allow their feelings to override facts. This means their feelings become so intense that what they feel about a person or situation can receive more of their attention or take a higher priority than what they know about that person or situation. This can then lead to distortions in how they interpret a given situation which are then used to rationalize or justify the way they feel and the way they behave as a result.

Scapegoating can occur in all aspects of life, however, it is most clearly demonstrated and can be most destructive when the person showing favoritism has some form of power or authority over others, such as in parent-child, teacher-student and boss-subordinate relationships.

In the US workplace, various laws such as The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Equal Pay Act, The Age Discrimination Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act and The Civil Rights Act of 1991, prohibit discrimination based on ethnic origin, appearance, gender, religion and disability. Other countries have also passed similar legislation. However, these laws only protect against favoritism which can be objectively verified in a court of law and where an objective criterion for the discriminatory behavior (for example refusing to serve members of a particular ethnic group in a restaurant) can be demonstrated. Negative treatment based on a person’s subjective “gut-feel” judgment about someone’s personality, character or appearance is much harder to regulate or prove in court.

The term “scapegoat” has its origins in the traditional Jewish feast of Yom Kippur – in which the transgressions of the people were ceremonially transferred by the High Priest onto the head of a sacrificial goat – the “escape goat” – which was then banished into the wilderness, taking the sins of the people with it

Scapegoating is the opposite of favoritism as it involves punishments rather than rewards, although they are essentially similar kinds of dysfunction. They both involve judgments which are not based on objective ideas of fairness. Other names for scapegoating include reverse-favoritism, bullying, prejudice, discrimination, bias and partiality.

What Scapegoating in the Home Looks Like

  • A parent who systematically singles out one child for blame when things go wrong in the family.
  • A parent who punishes one child more severely than their siblings.
  • A parent who assigns undesirable responsibilities and chores etc. to just one child in the family.
  • A parent who routinely speaks more negatively to or about one child in the family.
  • A parent who refuses to intervene or take notice when other siblings bully, hurt or abuse one child in the family.

What Scapegoating in the Workplace Looks Like

  • A boss who systematically denies raises and promotions and benefits to just one employee, despite them demonstrating equal or superior performance or merit to others.
  • A teacher who gives poorer grades to one particular student than their work merits.
  • A boss who routinely assigns less pleasant or desirable tasks to one employee while giving the more desirable jobs to others.
  • A boss who covers up or shields other employees from responsibility or accountability while allowing one to face the consequences.
  • A boss who denies access or time and attention to one employee while giving extensive access to others.

How it Feels

Children who grow up as the scapegoat in a family are likely to develop trust issues, resentment and low self-esteem. Children often blame themselves for such treatment and look for rationalizations for the way they are treated. They may begin to feel worthless, ugly, stupid or incompetent. They may struggle academically and avoid competitive situations or opportunities. Adult children who have been scapegoated may struggle with explosive anger, pessimism and resentment in relationships, employment, and friendships.

Some children who are victims of scapegoating may try to prove their worth by becoming over-achievers, often to the detriment of their own aspirations and interests in life.

Children who are victims of parental scapegoating often seek validation outside of the home can be vulnerable to predatory groups and individuals who seek to take advantage of them. Religious cults, criminal gangs, terrorist organizations, thieves and violent or sexual predators often lure their victims by initially offering validation to people who have low self-worth.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t blame yourself or assume that you did anything to deserve the way a person with a Personality Disorder treats you.
  • Don’t accept scapegoating as normal or allow it just to “go with the flow”.
  • Don’t persecute someone else who is being scapegoated. That is participating in abuse.
  • Don’t ignore it when someone else is being scapegoated. That is condoning abuse.
  • Don’t try to justify your worth by becoming an over-achiever. Don’t work yourself harder to earn the love of a parent or family member. Real love is a free gift; it doesn’t require people to jump through hoops.
  • Don’t immediately trust everybody or every organization who offers you validation. Save your trust for people who will treat you well and don’t have a hidden agenda of their own.
  • Don’t waste your time and energy trying to change another person’s opinion of you. As painful as it is to admit, you have almost no power or control over another person’s thoughts, words and actions.
  • Don’t retaliate or try to hurt a person who scapegoats you. Try, as best you can, to disengage from them.

What TO Do

  • End the conversation and remove yourself from the room and the house if possible whenever anybody treats you badly.
  • Call the police if anybody physically hurts you, threatens or bullies you. If you are young, report it to a responsible caring adult.
  • Try to base your own opinion of yourself based on your merits – your own unique strengths and weaknesses – not on other people’s emotions.
  • Speak up for what is right when you see injustice. Say it once and then don’t say it again or argue about it. Agree to disagree if necessary. Just saying it once can sometimes help.
  • Get support. Find validating and healthy friendships and relationships where people will appreciate your worth and encourage you to be the best that you can be.
  • If you are in an employment situation, you might want to try to find an alternate position or another group or employer.
  • If you are the recipient of inequitable treatment, politely decline the favor and request inclusion of your peers.

 

 

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#15 Sabotage

Definition:

Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Like Living with Land Mines

In a healthy relationship, everyone is generally doing their best to maintain peace, calm and mutual kindness. However, some people with Personality Disorders will engage in relationship sabotage, by lobbing some kind of manufactured chaos or crisis into the heart of the relationship with the explicit aim of causing damage.

Some of the ways this may occur are through sudden verbal accusations or rages, feigning illness, quitting a job, having an affair, wrecking a car, spending a large sum of money, destruction or theft of property and self-destructive behaviors such as self-injury or suicide.
Passive forms of sabotage also exist, including withdrawal of co-operation, failure to keep promises, silent treatment, prolonged physical or emotional absence, abandonment of shared values or inappropriate exposure of shared property and finances to risk.

There are three primary motivations for sabotage:

  1. Narcissistic Sabotage – any action designed to hurt, or damage the interests of another person or group for the purpose of making a direct, personal gain.
  2. Provocative Sabotage – any action designed to hurt or damage the interests of another person or group for the purpose of provoking a reaction from them.
  3. Histrionic Sabotage – any action designed to hurt or damage the interests of another person or group for the purpose of drawing attention to oneself or to earn a reputation.

Narcissistic Sabotage is easier to comprehend, since there is a clear and immediate payoff for the saboteur (even if it is short-lived). Some narcissists may secretly sabotage another person so they can feel more powerful and successful themselves. Others may do it more openly.

Provocative Sabotage is more complex. The gain for the saboteur comes from the ensuing conflict or chaos – usually a conflict which the provocative saboteur has calculated that they can “win” or make indirect gains from.

Histrionic Sabotage is less obvious. The gain for the saboteur is the attention itself. The histrionic saboteur may seek infamy, fame, recognition or significance in the eyes of the victim and in the eyes of any witnesses. The loss the victim suffers is rationalized as a means to an end.

Acts of sabotage are usually tools a person will use in an attempt to try to feel better about themselves. The net result of all three types of sabotage is the same: the saboteur gets something they want and the victim loses something they wanted to keep.

What it Looks Like

Narcissistic Sabotage –

  • A teenage son steals your money to buy drugs.
  • A co-worker secretly gives a bad report about you to your boss.
  • A spouse spends the household monthly budget on a luxury purchase.

Provocative Sabotage –

  • A co-worker publicly insults you in a meeting
  • You arrive home to find your music collection ransacked and destroyed.
  • A former girlfriend sends you 20 insulting text messages in a day.

Histrionic Sabotage –

  • A schoolyard bully hits you to look tough in front of his friends.
  • A former girlfriend throws a drink over you at a party.
  • Your girlfriend picks fights with your ex-wife.

Coping With Sabotage

Acts of Sabotage are forms of abuse – plain and simple. If someone sabotages you or sabotages something important to you they are abusing you.

Acts of Sabotage are clear signals from an individual that it is time to stop working on “us” and time to begin working on “you”. You can’t live at peace with a saboteur any more than a hamster can live at peace with a cat.

If a person’s intent is to “beat” you or run right past you – then probably your best reaction is to let them go. Narcissists are fighting a war for superiority in their own heads and the sooner they feel superior to you, the sooner they will leave you alone. Protect your assets and get yourself out of the fast lane.

Provocative Saboteurs and histrionic saboteurs are more of a problem. If someone is looking for a fight, you can’t just reason with them that you don’t want to fight. They will just up the ante and increase the stakes until you are forced to engage. You will either have to give them the fight they want or disappear.

Disappearing is by far the easier of the two options – if a provocateur can’t find you they can’t fight with you. Remove yourself and any assets or treasures you may have from a provocateur – as far as is possible and remove yourself from their company. Many people who have had trouble dealing with persistent provocation from a person with a Personality Disorder have decided to go “No Contact” – where they cut off all forms of personal contact including text, phone and internet correspondence. Some people also obtain legal restraining orders to protect themselves and their families from a saboteur.

If you feel you are being victimized by a saboteur and feel unable to disappear from them, you may need to get help. Many people stay in abusive situations for many years because they feel trapped.

Here are some of the more common reasons people give for staying in an abusive relationship:

  • I can’t afford to leave – I have no money of my own.
  • I don’t believe in divorce – I made a vow.
  • I am staying for the kids. I don’t want them to grow up in a broken home.
  • Most of the time things are fantastic. It’s just once in a while…
  • They are my parents. I can’t abandon them.
  • He/she needs me and has made great progress. It would really destroy him/her if I left.

These are arguments that are used over and over again by abuse victims to justify their position in staying and sometimes for keeping their own children exposed to an abusive environment. Most abusers are intelligent enough to know you probably have these feelings, and are relying on them to sustain the status quo.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t stay in an abusive environment. Get yourself and any children away from an abuser.
  • Don’t argue or try to reason with an abuser. Abusers aren’t looking for the truth. They want to feel better about themselves.
  • Don’t retaliate with an abuser. You will only give them cover – or justification for their own abusive behaviors.
  • Don’t compete with an abusive person. Healthy competition is great. Unhealthy competition damages both parties.
  • Don’t pretend it’s not that big a deal. It takes very little abuse to hurt a person significantly.
  • Don’t let yourself become isolated. Talk to people who care and share your story.
  • Don’t just do nothing and hope “it will go away”. Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes.
  • Don’t pretend to yourself that you can “fix” another person who has a Personality Disorder.

What TO do

  • Get support. Talk to people who care and who understand personality disorders.
  • Promptly remove yourself and any children from any abuse you may be experiencing.
  • Remove any important assets and properties from harm’s way.
  • Forgive yourself for your past mistakes and move on to a healthier set of choices.

 

 

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#16 Riding the Emotional Elevator

Definition:

Riding the Emotional Elevator – Taking a fast track to different levels of emotional maturity.

Going Down…

As we grow older, we develop the ability to think more rationally and less emotionally. We appear to do more of our thinking with the outer region of our brain, known as the cortex and less with the lower regions which appear to be more closely attached to the emotions and the pleasure and pain functions. We still possess those lower regions and have emotions, but with maturity we tend to regulate those emotional impulses with rational thought.

The lower regions in our brains contain the pleasure and pain processing centers and are responsible for our emotions – these include the parts that fire off electrical impulses and release chemicals that make us feel pleasure, ecstasy, fear, anger etc. The outermost region of our brain, known as the cortex, is what differentiates us most from the animal kingdom and is responsible for complex thought, language, planning, calculating etc. Most of us understand that people occasionally take a break from more rational decision making to making choices purely on emotional thought. We all have the ability to temporarily shut off or throttle back the signals that our frontal cortex sends to us and hand command and control back over to our lower, emotional brains. We call this “Riding the Emotional Elevator”.

At these times, we are far less likely to think about the consequences of our actions, plan for the future, or consider the effects that our actions might have on others. We may temporarily live in the moment and do what feels good rather than doing what we know is good for us in the long run. This is why deferred gratification activities like dieting, healthy lifestyle or education can be so difficult for some of us. We may speak of our “heart ruling our head”. However, the battle for control is not between our hearts and our heads – it is between two competing parts of our mind that compete for our attention, our higher-functioning cortex and our lower-functioning emotional mind.

What pushes the buttons of the Emotional Elevator

Certain situations, holidays and anniversaries trigger emotional memories make people more susceptible to riding the emotional elevator down.

When we remember something, our minds store not just the event data but also the emotions – the way we felt when something happened or when we learned about something. When we recall old memories, we are recalling more than just the facts, we are also recalling the way we felt and feeling those feelings again. This is partly why some bad memories are painful to remember and why some good memories make us feel good to remember. In our minds we are recreating some of those feelings again. This helps explain why certain people are susceptible to emotional triggering.

Examples of Riding the Emotional Elevator

Here are some examples of “floors” people ride to on the emotional elevator.

  • Age 21 – I’m smart and I’m strong and I’m going to rule the world someday.
  • Age 18 – I’m beautiful and I want the world to notice me.
  • Age 15 – I’m so ugly and the whole world hates me. I just want somebody to love me!
  • Age 12 – Yeah, right, whatever, (roll eyes) I can read and write and multiply and I’ve seen it all!
  • Age 8 – I don’t want to do any of that boring stuff – I just want to play, play play!
  • Age 5 – Someday I’m going to own every toy at the toy store!
  • Age 3 – (steals candy from other kid) I want your candy!
  • Age 2 – I want candy and I’m going to break this vase if I don’t get it now!
  • Age 1 – I want mommy!
  • Age 0 – waaaahhhh!

Here are some examples of people riding the emotional elevator down:

  • A man gets frustrated at his wife and puts his fist through a wall.
  • A housewife spends the grocery budget on a luxury item.
  • A parent disagreeing with their child resorts to name calling.
  • A teenager is jealous of her school friend and tries to spoil her reputation.
  • A man refuses to go anywhere without his wife.
  • A salesperson throws a tantrum at a customer.
  • A teenager shoplifts from a music store.

Those who have a relationship with a person with a Personality Disorder may immediately begin to recognize some favorite floors they tend to descend to. You may also notice that they can transition fairly quickly from a lower floor back up to greater maturity.
If we are honest with ourselves we will also recognize that sometimes we Nons ride the elevator down too. Sometimes it just feels better to spend a little time on a lower floor. Sometimes Nons will take the bait and ride the elevator with someone who is already going down. Sometimes they will go down all on their own.

What It Feels Like

Most people who take the emotional elevator down are aware of what they are doing. They may feel a certain amount of guilt or know that “I will probably regret this” feeling. Sometimes, people will seek out a way to justify their thoughts. Some people will use a religious argument for abandoning rational logic – this is sometimes seen in extreme religious fundamentalism. Sometimes the justification will be put on another person or a circumstance – “He said X so I did Y” or “Life is so hard I’ve got no other choice”

Coping with People who Ride the Emotional Elevator

Here at Out of the FOG, we believe everyone has the right to have and control their own thoughts and feelings. Everybody rides the emotional elevator to some extent, so the goal is not to transform ourselves into a society of “Mr. Spock’s”. However, at the point when another person’s thoughts and feelings become behaviors that hurt you it is time to take action.

What NOT to Do

When someone close to you takes the emotional elevator down…

  • Try not to ride down with them. It can be tempting to use another person’s bad behavior as justification for behaving badly yourself, but generally the pleasure is short-lived and the regret is everlasting.
  • Try not to communicate with them on the level they are taking. If a 40 year old is communicating like a 2 year old, wait until they take the elevator back to maturity before having discussions about it.
  • Don’t judge yourself by the words and actions of a person who has decided to take the elevator down. Your worth is not accurately represented by their words and actions.

What TO Do

  • Protect yourself and any children and valuable property from any violent or abusive behavior. Remove yourself if necessary.
  • Get help and support. Discuss what is happening with someone who understands and can help you cope. Communicate to the person who frequently takes the elevator down that you need to discuss the situation.
  • Learn about Personality Disorders and what is affecting your loved-one. Some situations can feel a lot less threatening when you understand what is going on and what to do about it.

 

 

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#17 Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression

Definition

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression – Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Off the Charts

Rage and Impulsive Aggression are different from anger. Anger is a feeling. Rage and impulsive aggression are actions orbehaviors. Rages are also unprovoked however, in most cases a person who commits an act of rage will find an excuse which puts the blame for their behavior on others – usually the victim.

While some rages are brief, lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes, others can last for hours. However, it is not the duration but the intensity which makes a lasting impact on the victims and the relationship. In some case, fits of rage are bridged together by longer, passive-aggressive spells of contempt or silent treatment.

Rages occur most often in private settings such as the home, where there are no witnesses other than the victim, and are also more likely to occur after dark.

What it Looks Like

  • Two people are involved in a heated argument and one person suddenly reaches out and strikes the other.
  • One person is sleeping and the other wakes them up to begin arguing.
  • During a heated discussion one party takes a glass object and smashes it.
  • A person deliberately destroys an item belonging to another family member while they are out of the house.
  • One person unexpectedly begins to berate the character of another who is silent.

How it Feels

When a person with a Personality Disorder whom you have known for a long time suddenly goes into an aggressive rage you may feel that sickening “Here we go again” feeling. You may find yourself quickly scanning your recollections of what happened the last time you went through this. Chances are you will know that these rages are temporary things and often blow over after a few hours or a few days, but you may still feel an intense sense of fear, anxiety or perhaps even your own, milder anger that the productive day at work, recreational activity or pleasant evening you had planned will now be interrupted, disrupted and invaded by someone else’s emotional tsunami.

All of it will make you feel trapped and powerless, as you face the “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario and realize you have to choose the lesser of two evils – stay and fight or leave and fight.

If you stay – you know you are in for a rough ride. It may take hours. You may not get to sleep. As you witness the most outrageous affronts on your dignity, you will have to listen to the same well-worn record of reasons why this person’s behaviors are justified, what’s wrong with you, why if you just were more of this and less of that, this person would be able to stop abusing you. Staying during a rage is pure hell.

If you leave – you will keep more of you dignity but you need to have real nerve as you walk out the door. You know you’re going to hear something awful on the way out – maybe you will be called the most horrible names, maybe you will hear the smash of glass or the sound of a slanderous 911 call being placed. And once you’re out – where will you go? You may be all alone with nowhere to go and nothing to do but sit and fret about what will happen when you return. Leaving during a rage is pure hell.

How to Cope with Violence, Raging & Impulsive Aggression

When confronted by rage – you are faced with two unattractive choices – fight or flight. It is a time to choose the lesser of two evils. In the short run they are about equal in pain but in the long run, leaving during a rage is better for the following reasons:

  1. Leaving during a rage makes it impossible for you to do something stupid yourself (such as retaliate);
  2. Leaving during a rage makes it impossible for anything worse to happen directly to you (although the PD person my still try to hurt you by making slanderous phone calls, destroying a favorite possession, emptying your bank account, etc.);
  3. Leaving during a rage sends a clear “This is not OK” message. It won’t be appreciated at the time but it will not be forgotten quickly either;
  4. Leaving during a rage helps to remind you that YOU are in control – not the person with the Personality Disorder;
  5. Leaving during a rage gives you an opportunity to talk to a supportive friend to help you calm down.

We strongly urge you to have a plan of what you will do and where you will go the next time a rage hits. This will make it emotionally easier to make a gracious exit the next time you are confronted with a rage or impulsive aggression. If you have a friend or family member you can pre-arrange with that it’s OK to show up at a moment’s notice and spend the night that is ideal.

If not, maybe you can find a local low-cost hotel where you can show up at a moment’s notice and get a safe room for the night.

Perhaps you want to have a ready-kit which has your credit cards, essential medications, and important documents already packed so you don’t need to linger when you need to get out in a hurry.

If at all possible, pre-arrange with a friend whom you can call (even during the night) just to talk to if you find yourself in a situation like this. Just having someone on the end of the line who doesn’t judge you for the way you feel or say unhelpful things like, “But X really does love you”, is an enormous relief. If you have pre-arranged earlier you won’t feel so stupid calling them or showing up at the door at 2 in the morning – so talk to them now.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t remain in the same room with a person who is raging. Remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you safely can.
  • Don’t try to handle it on your own. Call the police or get a third party involved.
  • Don’t try to reason with someone who is raging. When you are confronted with aggressive behavior there can be a temptation to stand your ground, explain your position and argue for what you feel is right. A person who is raging is not thinking rationally and is unlikely to see reason.
  • Don’t fight fire with fire and reciprocate the aggressive behavior. You will regret it and still be apologizing for it years later if you do.
  • Don’t ignore it, steel yourself and tell yourself that you can handle it and that it does not affect you. Unless you are a robot your feelings are going to be hurt and your behavior is going to change far beyond the moment of rage, whether you admit it or not. The reality is that when your boundaries are being crossed you are being hurt. Ignoring it greatly increases the likelihood that the situation will repeat itself.
  • Don’t hide it from others. Most long-term cases of abuse stay that way because the victim stays silent.

What TO do

  • Get yourself and any children out of the room and out of the house as quickly as you can safely do it.
  • If violence or threats of violence have occurred, call the police immediately.
  • Stay away from the situation until you have assurances that the bad behavior.
  • If any of your personal property is threatened with harm, come back later with a friend and remove it to a safe place.
  • Call at least one trusted confidant and tell them what has happened.
  • Refer to our Emergency Page for more info.

 

 

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#18 Push-Pull (Push me Pull you, Push You Pull Me)

Definition:

Push-Pull – A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

The Emotional Boomerang

Push-Pull describes the feeling many of us experience being in a relationship with someone who suffers from a Personality Disorder – sometimes they draw us close, other times they push us away either overtly or through behaviors which drive us away.

Because people with Personality Disorders have an inner world where strong and ever-changing feelings create the facts, they often treat people they come into contact with according to the way they are feeling, good or bad, regardless of what that person may truly deserve.

How It Feels

What often confounds the person on the receiving end of Push-Pull treatment is they can clearly see inconsistencies in the cyclical arguments and behaviors they are dealing with, yet the person with the Personality Disorder may be completely blind to the contradictions. This difference in perceiving reality can often lead to Circular Arguments between the PD Sufferer and the Non, which generally only pours more fuel on the dysfunctional fire.

It can be hard not to take a hit to your self-esteem as you try to guess from one day to the next what kind of mood your PD will be in when you wake up, or when you arrive late from work, or when you go to a social gathering. It’s entirely normal for humans to try to find patterns in a person’s behavior such as “Last time I said xyz it really pleased her,” or, “Every time I try <—> he always does <—->”.

However, when the behaviors are driven by the feelings of a PD the same actions do not always produce the same result.

How it Looks

  • A woman cycles between telling her husband she wants a divorce and begging him not to leave her.
  • A man hits his girlfriend and then tells her she means the world to him.
  • A mother tells her son he is the smartest kid in the world while telling his siblings he is stupid.
  • A father repeatedly spends the grocery money on entertainment and then begs his family for forgiveness.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t seek logic where it doesn’t exist – try not to look for a logical reason for every illogical thought, word or deed of a person with a Personality Disorder.
  • Try not to play the guessing game, where you try to change your own behavior in an attempt to control the reactions of another person.
  • Don’t assume anyone else’s bad behavior is based something YOU have said or done. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.
  • Try not to react emotionally in anger or revenge when you don’t get what you want or deserve.

What TO do

  • Learn everything you can about the Personality Disorder your loved-one suffers from, and how that is likely to affect their behavior, their thoughts and their moods.
  • Develop an emergency plan for any scenario that may include violence or abuse being directed towards or your children.
  • Discover ways to get what you need/want, ways that are not solely dependent on your loved-one having a “good day”.

 

 

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# 19 Proxy Recruitment (Also called “Contract Writing”)

Definition:

Proxy Recruitment – A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Puppet-Making

Sometimes attempts to control someone or abuse them are fairly obvious, with Proxy Recruitment however, manipulation of others is used to achieve the same aim in a highly secretive way.

Friends, colleagues, or family members may be drawn into the perpetrator’s game plan through false accusations of abuse, smear campaigns or distortion campaigns, and these people are then encouraged to take up the perpetrator’s cause against the victim.

What it Looks Like

  • A woman asks a marriage therapist to talk to her husband about his non-existent “problems with infidelity”.
  • A mother seeks support from siblings, her spouse, friends and neighbors over untrue claims her daughter has “behavior problems”
  • A teenager falsely tells his sister that other people are saying horrible things about her.
  • A teenager files a false police report about one of her parents abusing her.
  • A leader or manager in an organization directs his subordinates to ostracize one of their colleagues.

How it Works

Proxy recruitment can be an extremely powerful way of establishing control over another person. It forces the victim into a defensive posture – justifying themselves or denying false claims to friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances and authority figures. It often attempts to reverse roles in the eyes of others – casting the abuser as the victim and portraying the victim as the real abuser. It also deflects attention away from the abuser and provides cover or justification for further abuse to occur.

Proxy Recruitment is much easier if the abuser assumes a position of authority. Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram demonstrated that people will often perform an irrational act if instructed to do so by an authority figure, even if that act is unkind or cruel to another person.

Proxy recruitment isn’t just a tactic used by people with Personality Disorders. It is a universal reaction to recruit allies when engaged in a conflict situation – however when it involves misrepresenting the truth or causing deliberate harm, it is a form of toxic and abusive behavior.

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t believe everything you are told by a person who suffers from a personality disorder. They may just be telling you something false as a means to an end.
  • Don’t react quickly to surprising news. You have the prerogative to think for as long as you want and to react how and when you want.
  • Don’t lose your temper or lose control of your emotions. You can’t control other people but you always have control over your own words and actions and that is where you have the most power.
  • Don’t sit still and allow someone to rain down on you insults or criticism in the name of another person. If the room is a painful place to sit, then it is perhaps a good time to go sit in a different room.
  • Don’t make promises, commitments or contracts that will hurt your relationship with people whom you trust, you love, people whose company you enjoy, old friends, and trusted relatives. No-one who truly loves you will want to take healthy, supportive, positive relationships away from you.

What TO do:

  • Objectively verify anything you are told before acting on it.
  • Keep in touch with those you love and trust and tell them about any problems or issues you are hiving.
  • Maintain a healthy balance between family, friends, work and play. You need them all in the right measure to keep a healthy balance.
  • Politely refuse to engage in Divide and Conquer without starting a fight about it. Remove yourself from a conversation if it is an unhealthy or dysfunctional one.
  • Maintain your self-control. This is how you keep your power and demonstrate that you are not going to be manipulated like that.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic

 

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#20 Projection

Projection – The act of attributing one’s own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Wearing someone else’s stuff

Because people with Personality Disorders have an unstable view of themselves, sometimes they can lose track of where their own identity ends and someone else’s begins. In psychological terms, this is known as an Identity Disturbance.

As these Identity Disturbances blur the lines between the self and others, sometimes people with Personality Disorders will attribute their own personal and psychological characteristics to others. This practice is known as projection.

In some forms it’s relatively harmless, such as a Personality Disordered person believing their own likes, dislikes, feeling, opinions or beliefs actually belong to another person.

It can however become malignant when it involves attribution of the Personality Disordered individuals own actions, words, blame, fault, hatred, liability or flawed character onto another. This is especially the case when the Projection then becomes justification for some form of punishment or abuse.

Projection can either be conscious – where the perpetrator knows they are deliberately deflecting blame or liability onto another person – or subconscious – where the perpetrator is unaware they are distorting or dissociating the facts.

Sometimes it is simply the result of good old fashioned Blaming – where blame or responsibility for a problem is conveniently attributed to another person. Projection can also occur as a result of Dissociation and a departure from reality-based thinking. It’s extremely difficult to prove if a Personality Disordered person believes their own statements of Projection, which also means it is generally an exercise in futility trying to argue the case for your own reality.

How it Feels

Nobody likes to be told a falsified version of what they think, feel or believe – even about benign issues. And whenever someone is falsely accused, slandered or held in disrepute, great harm can be done to that person’s relationships, self-confidence and sense of well-being.

Acts of projection commonly result in defensiveness, indignation, annoyance, argument or even retribution and retaliation on the part of subjects or victims.

What it Looks Like

  • A mother assumes her children only like the same food she likes.
  • An abusive father hits his children and blames his teenage son for the bruises.
  • A wife empties the joint checking account and accuses her husband of wasting resources.
  • A mother who is embarrassed about her weight problem repeatedly calls her eldest daughter “fat”.
  • An employer who lacks financial discipline accuses his employees of squandering resources.

How to Cope

Coping with Projection is very similar to coping with episodes of False Accusations, except sometimes the false statements may initially appear “nice” or “neutral”. Even these can still be irritating and annoying, and when they veer into negative territory or make inflated or untrue claims, they can also in the long-term be damaging to your credibility or self-esteem.

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t accept any responsibility, blame or criticism which you know is wholly undeserved.
  • Don’t give a Personality Disordered person power over your self-image.
  • Don’t attempt to argue the point, state the truth quietly and clearly ONCE.

What TO Do

  • Know yourself – emotional clarity and understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses is your best self-defense against the erosive power of Projection.
  • Honor your own experience and spend time with people who give you an honest reflection of who you are.

 

 

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#21 Physical Abuse

Definition:

Physical Abuse – Any form of voluntary behavior by one individual which inflicts pain, disease or discomfort on another, or deprives them of necessary health, nutrition and comfort.

Description:

Many people who are victims of verbal abuse live in homes or environments where they have become so accustomed to the abuse that they consider it normal and do not consider themselves to be victims of abuse.

Examples of Physical Abuse:

Bunny Boiling – Bunny Boiling is a reference to an iconic scene in the movie “Fatal Attraction” in which the main character Alex, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, kills the family’s pet rabbit and boils it on the stove. Bunny Boiling has become a popular reference to how people sometimes exhibit their rage by behaving destructively towards symbolic, important or treasured possessions or representations of those whom they wish to hurt, control or intimidate.

Child Abduction – Child Abduction is a serious, yet common occurrence when people who suffer from personality disorders become involved in a custody dispute. Approximately 82% of more than 200,000 child abductions every year are perpetrated by family members.

Cruelty to Animals – Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.

Domestic Theft – Consuming or taking control of a resource or asset belonging to (or shared with) a family member, partner or spouse without first obtaining their approval.

Favoritism – Favoritism is the practice of systematically giving positive, preferential treatment to one child, subordinate or associate among a family or group of peers.

Frivolous Litigation – The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.

Imposed Isolation – When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Munchausen’s and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome – A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression – Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Sleep Deprivation – The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person’s sleep cycle.

Stalking – Any pervasive and unwelcome pattern of pursuing contact with another individual.

Threats – Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

 

What it feels like:

Abuse can have a confusing, hurtful and frightening effect which makes you feel isolated and emotionally unsafe.

You may begin to doubt yourself, your senses, your opinions, memories, beliefs, feelings, abilities and judgment. You may begin to express your opinions less and less freely and find yourself doubting your sense of reality.

Abuse victims often become isolated from others, fearing that others might blame them for provoking, mishandling or failing to fix the situation.

Abuse victims sometimes think that their situation is unique or rare and that others would not understand.

Abuse victims often believe that their situation doesn’t qualify as abuse because it only happens occasionally and there are no horrific visible scars.

Abuse victims often keep silent about their situation for fear that their abuser will find out and get angry.

Abuse victims are often told by their abuser that they are to blame for provoking or not understanding the abusers needs.

You are likely to feel vulnerable, insecure, increasingly trapped and powerless. This may lead you to become defensive and increasingly depressed.

Abuse victims often find themselves “walking on eggshells” around the abuser, hyper vigilant and afraid of when – and how – to say something.

You may find yourself constantly on your “best” behavior around an abuser, unable to relax or enjoy the moment because you are always anticipating the worst. Even when the abuser is in a good mood, you are likely to keep waiting for “the other shoe to drop”.

You may also begin to blame yourself for their bad mood, behaviors or actions and hope things will change, especially through your own love and understanding.

People who are abused often long for the nicer, caring side of their partner, family member, friend, boss or co-worker to come back. You may find yourself making excuses for their bad behavior and choosing to focus mainly on getting them back into their good behavior state.

Why abuse victims don’t leave:

TED Talks – Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave

 

Coping with Abuse:

If you are abused, get to choose between 2 bad choices:

  1. Staying through an episode of abuse.
  2. Leaving during an episode of abuse.

Which one is the lesser evil?

In the short run they are about equal in pain but in the long run, leaving during an outburst is better for the following reasons:

  1. Leaving during an outburst makes it harder for you to do something stupid yourself (such as retaliate).
  2. Leaving during an outburst makes it impossible for anything worse to happen directly to you after you leave (although the personality-disordered person may still try to hurt you by making slanderous phone calls, destroying a favorite possession, emptying your bank account, etc.)
  3. Leaving during an outburst sends a clear “This is not OK” message. It won’t be appreciated at the time but it will not be forgotten quickly either.
  4. Leaving during an outburst helps to remind you that YOU are in control – not the person with the personality disorder.
  5. Leaving during an outburst gives you an opportunity to talk to a supportive friend to help you calm down.

It’s a good idea to have a plan of what you will do and where you will go the next time an outburst hits. This will make it emotionally easier to make a gracious exit the next time you are confronted with abuse. If you have a friend or family member you can pre-arrange with to show up at a moment’s notice whenever necessary that will make it easier.

If not, maybe you can find a local low-cost hotel where you can show up at a moment’s notice and get a safe room for the night.

Perhaps you want to have a ready-kit which has your credit cards, essential medications, important documents already packed so you don’t need to linger when you need to get out in a hurry.

If at all possible, pre-arrange with a friend whom you can call (even during the night) just to talk to if you find yourself in a situation like this. Just having someone on the end of the line who won’t attack or judge you harshly for the way you feel is an enormous relief. If you have pre-arranged earlier you won’t feel so stupid calling them or showing up at the door at 2 in the morning – so talk to them now.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t remain in the same room with a person who is abusing you. Remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you safely can.
  • Don’t try to handle it all on your own. Call for supportive help and call the police if any threats or violence occur.
  • Don’t try to reason with someone who is abusing you. When you are confronted with aggressive behavior there can be a temptation to stand your ground, explain your position and argue for what you feel is right. A person who is trying to hurt you is not thinking rationally and is unlikely to see reason at that time.
  • Don’t fight fire with fire and reciprocate. You will regret it and probably find yourself still apologizing for it years later.
  • Don’t ignore it, steel yourself and tell yourself that you can handle it and that it does not affect you. Unless you are a robot your feelings are going to be hurt and your behavior is going to change far beyond the moment, whether you admit it or not. The reality is that when your boundaries are being crossed you are being hurt. Ignoring it increases the likelihood that the situation will repeat itself.
  • Don’t hide it from others. Most long-term cases of abuse stay that way because the victim stays silent.

What TO Do:

  • Get yourself and any children out of the room and out of the house as quickly as you can safely do it.
  • If violence or threats of violence have occurred, call the police immediately.
  • Stay away from the situation until the abuse stops and you feel calmer and safe.
  • Call at least one trusted confidant and tell them what has happened.
  • Refer to our Emergency page.

 

 

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#22 Perfectionism

Definition:

Perfectionism – The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Description:

Perfectionism in its Adaptive form is often seen as a compliment in reference to diligence and the pursuit of excellence. But the Maladaptive (or neurotic) form is a destructive, dysfunctional type of persistent perfectionism which is ultimately damaging both to the perfectionist and to those closest to them.

Perfectionists Often:

  • Strive for flawlessness and exactness where those qualities cannot be attained.
  • Intentionally set goals they know are almost impossible to reach.
  • Have unrealistically high standards for themselves and for others.
  • Feel frustrated when they fail to meet their goals.
  • Blame themselves (or others) when things go wrong even if not directly involved in or responsible for a given situation.
  • Experience deep dissatisfaction with their own performance, (or that of other people.
  • Procrastinate. Perfectionists fear they won’t be able to complete the task at hand perfectly, so they attempt to put it off as long as possible. In this way, procrastination contributes to chronic tardiness, missing deadlines, and even hoarding.

The Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS), devised by Hewitt & Flett (1991), and published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology 100 (1): 98–101, doi:10.1037/0021-843X.100.1.98, PMID2005279 is a 45-item gauge which identifies and rates three aspects of Maladaptive Perfectionism.

In Self-Oriented Perfectionism, the individual has unreasonable expectations and standards for his/her own person that lead to a perfectionistic behaviors. For example: being fixated on achieving an ideal physical appearance, which leads to compulsively working out or developing an addiction to plastic surgery. Or: obsessively editing a writing assignment or tweaking a resume so that one fails to meet important deadlines.

Other-Orientated Perfectionism is having unreasonable expectations and standards for others. Examples include the “Tiger Mother” who pushes her child to excel academically, artistically and/or athletically to the detriment of the child’s social development and emotional growth. The father who is unable to accept any physical or cognitive limitations in his offspring and pushes the child into an endless cycle of trying (and failing) to please his parent. Or: The manager who monitors and assesses every step of the business process, refuses to delegate any responsibility to his subordinates or co-workers, then blames them when an important account is lost.

Socially Prescribed Perfectionism is the development of perfectionist behaviors resulting from the belief that society expects the individual to be perfect. The behaviors stem from a fear of failure or a desire to avoid embarrassment, shame and guilt. In athletes, dancers, models, actors, and many teenagers and young adults, body-image dissatisfaction and avoidance of social situations that focus on weight and physical appearance has been associated with Socially Prescribed Perfectionism. This can in turn lead to eating disorders, substance abuse, shame-based acting out and other body dysmorphia sensitivities.

Additional Examples of Dysfunctional Perfectionism:

  • A woman rejects the possibility of friendship with a person in whom she detects a minor character flaw.
  • A man decides to sell his house and move because he discovers it needs a basic repair.
  • A woman is unwilling to compromise with a family member over a minor detail of a planned social event to the extent that she becomes hostile and combative.
  • A customer repeatedly returns identical items to a store for an exchange claiming a flaw that nobody else can detect.
  • A man cannot sleep unless objects in the house are arranged in a particular way.
  • A woman discards her entire wardrobe after detecting a garment in her closet on which she detects an unpleasant aroma or blemish.
  • A mother repeatedly takes her child to the doctor with exaggerated claims of illness or symptoms. (Also see Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome)

 

What it feels like:

Maladaptive perfectionists often feel unyielding pressure to meet their own high standards, which creates cognitive dissonance when they are unable to achieve their own irrational expectations.

Living with a perfectionist can be frightening and frustrating experience because vast quantities of valuable resources such as time, money, social goodwill and friendships seem to be squandered on seemingly meaningless or trivial details. It can be frustrating when no amount of discussion, logical argument or reasoning seems to get through to the perfectionist.

Perfectionism is a manifestation of a common personality disorder trait known as Dissociation – where feelings create facts. Logical arguments often do not convince a person who dissociates because logical arguments do not change the way they feel and the way they feel is accepted as the way things really are.

Perfectionism is also sometimes a manifestation of Projection – where the confusing feelings and chaos which exist in the mind of a person who suffers from a personality disorder that they are unable to control are projected out into the tangible world around them where they can feel they have some sense of control.

Coping with Perfectionism:

It’s important to understand that many cases of dysfunctional perfectionism are a manifestation of OCD, depression, or a personality disorder, and therefore it is typically not possible to talk someone out of perfectionism just as it is not possible to talk someone out of having a mental illness..

What NOT To Do:

  • Don’t try to use logic or reason to talk someone who suffers from a personality disorder out of their perfectionism. This is a recipe for a circular conversation.
  • Don’t share a joint checking account or other valuable resource with someone who has a habit of spending large sums of money in vain attempts to make themselves feel better.
  • Don’t thought police a person who has a personality disorder just because you don’t agree with their conclusions. It’s OK to validate their feelings while at the same time disagreeing with their facts or conclusions.
  • Don’t assume personal responsibility for fixing a perfectionist. You will frustrate yourself and the person you are trying to help.
  • Don’t give in to pressure to conform to a standard that is dangerous, unrealistic or unattainable. State your decisions one time, calmly and firmly and maintain your boundaries.
  • Don’t apologize for being yourself
  • Don’t isolate yourself or succumb to the pressure to become isolated.
  • Don’t allow a perfectionist to hurt or abuse children. Seek legal or professional help if necessary.

What TO Do:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your children.
  • Maintain your outside interests and recreation.
  • Spend some time every day away from the attentions and the observations of a perfectionist.
  • Be yourself regardless of how much approval or disapproval you get from a personality disordered individual.
  • Get support from others who understand personality disorders and understand what you are going through.
  • Seek professional help for advice on confronting a perfectionist.

 

 

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#23 Lies, Liars and Lying

—-o—-

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

– Sir Walter Scott

—-o—-

Lies and liars come in all shapes, and in shades of white, grey and black. What distinguishes the more extreme forms of lying is the degree of harm they cause and the extent to which the behavior becomes habitual or uncontrollable.

White Lies

So-called “white lies” generally mean deliberate lies which have no victim or no intended victim. For example:

  • Telling your children about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.
  • Telling your kids that they did a great job the first time they tried to dress themselves.
  • Telling your girlfriend that those jeans don’t make her look fat.
  • Telling your host that she served a delicious meatloaf – when she didn’t.

—-o—-

“It is always the best policy to speak the truth – unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar.”

– Jerome K. Jerome .

—-o—-

Self-Serving Lies

This is your basic, old-fashioned fib. The most common form of lying is self-serving and infrequent. This kind of lying is done by just about everybody and is usually motivated by a desire to get something you want or to get out of something you don’t want.

Children instinctively learn to lie from about the age of 4 or 5 when asked loaded questions like “did you wash your hands already?”, “did you eat that cookie?” or, “did you hit your brother?”. Most of us develop the skill of lying into adulthood. We don’t do it any less – we just get better at hiding it.

—-o—-

“A liar should have a good memory”

– Quintilian

—-o—-

 

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#24 Dissociative Lying

Dissociation– A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.

People who dissociate believe – at least in part – what they are saying to be true. Dissociative liars can be thought of as people who also deceive themselves when they tell a lie. As they are speaking, they may not be fully aware that what they are saying can be shown to contradict objective truths, verifiable facts, or statements they may have made in the past.

—-o—-

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”

– Mark Twain

—-o—-

Compulsive Liars and Compulsive Lying

Compulsive Lying – Compulsive Lying is a term used to describe lying frequently out of habit, without much regard for the consequences to others and without having an obvious motive to lie. A compulsive liar is someone who habitually lies.

A compulsive liar is a person who is addicted to lying. Compulsive liars are people for whom lying feels like emotional safe ground compared to telling the truth. Compulsive lying is less self-centered or manipulative in nature than other kinds of lying. Compulsive lying is not oriented so much toward serving a person’s long term self-interest as it is doing what feels good at the time. Compulsive liars may tell lies, exaggerate, distort or bend the truth in ways which get themselves and others into unnecessary trouble.

—-o—-

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

– Vladimir Lenin

—-o—-

Pathological Liars and Pathological Lying

Definition:

Pathological Lying – Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Description:

Pathological lying is similar to selfish lying, while being more pervasive. A Pathological Liar has a greater disregard for the effect their dishonesty has on others, resulting in a more destructive impact. A Pathological Liar may often be accused of being self-centered, manipulative and controlling.

 

What it feels like:

When you discover that you have been lied to, it can make you feel as though you have been taken advantage of, made to look foolish, had something stolen from you. You may feel anger, disappointment and fear all at the same time. You may feel the urge to get even, get justice, settle the score, clear your name.

You may also turn some of that negative energy inwards upon yourself. You may begin to question yourself – “Why was I so easily deceived?” “Am I too naive?”, “What other lies have I been told?” Your sense of security may be damaged.

Over time, if you are lied to repeatedly by a pathological liar, this loss of self-security and sense of injustice can severely beat you down emotionally. You may begin to believe very negative things about your own self-worth and your place in society. You may become depressed and feel hopeless and powerless. If you are related to or in a committed relationship with a person who is a habitual compulsive or pathological liar you may feel isolated and trapped. You may begin to consider extreme options to free yourself from your situation.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t confuse intelligence with honesty. Just because someone has an articulate, respectable appearance it doesn’t mean they are trustworthy.
  • Don’t enter into contracts with people who you do not know well. Don’t marry someone, sign a business deal, open your home or your bank account to anyone who you have not known for a considerable time and seen a track record of honesty in their dealings with you and others.
  • If you see a person lying to others, stealing from others or speaking ill of others, chances are they are doing or will do the same to you.
  • Don’t let anyone intimidate you into giving them your trust. Remind them that trust can only be earned – not taken. If someone tries to make you feel bad for not putting your trust in them stand your ground. Chances are your initial instincts are right on the money.
  • Don’t let yourself become isolated from people whom you DO trust. One of the ways pathological liars retain control is to keep their victims isolated from people who might tell them the truth. Don’t give up any healthy relationships with family, friends and acquaintances or let them slip away because of pressure from another person. Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.
  • Don’t give up a good job, good habits, career, hobbies or interests for the sake of another person. What is good for you makes you stronger and is good for your loved-ones. True Love never asks a person to sacrifice something that is good for them.

What TO Do:

  • Try to judge people by their behavior rather than by their appearances.
  • If someone makes promises of change or pleads with you to give them one more chance, judge them by their track record rather than by what they say. If a person truly is reforming they will understand your need to do that.
  • Talk to trusted friends and family about what you are dealing with. This helps to compare your thinking with other people who can perhaps see things in a different light and can tell you if what you are dealing with sounds reasonable.
  • Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Develop an emergency plan for any scenario that may include theft, violence or abuse being directed towards or your children.
  • Report all acts of theft, violence, threats of violence or self-harm to the authorities immediately every time.
  • Maintain your healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships. You will need them. Explain to your loved one gently, if necessary that you have made your decision and that is that and then move ahead. If they really do love you they will be happy to support you in what is good for you.

 

Articles & Resources:

Into The Mind of a Liar – interesting NPR article about how people who lie a lot have differences in their brains from the rest of us

—-o—-

“Men are so simple, and yield so much to necessity, that he who will deceive will always find him who will lend himself to be deceived.”

– Niccolo Machiavelli

—-o—-

Some Famous Presidential Lies:

“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”– George W. Bush

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” – Bill Clinton

“We did not–repeat, did not–trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we” – Ronald Reagan

“I am not a crook” – Richard Nixon

“The North Vietnamese regime had conducted further deliberate attacks against U.S. naval vessels operating in international waters” – Lyndon B. Johnson

“The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.” – Harry S. Truman

 

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#25 Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.

When defense is an attack

When resentment and contempt lurk beneath the surface of a dysfunctional relationship, Passive-Aggressive behavior is like a residue which rises to the top. It is a form of behavior where anger is not expressed openly, rather, it emerges in sometimes subtle ways which avoid direct confrontation.

It is common for someone who feels they are in a position of relative disempowerment to express their anger at the more powerful person through Passive-Aggressive behavior. They may feel inferior, or afraid of the person they are angry with, who may also be an authority figure such as a parent, older sibling, employer or teacher. Or, the person may be a peer such as a spouse, partner, sibling or friend who dominates or assumes the lead position in the relationship.

Passive-aggressive behavior is a common feature of relationships between people with Personality Disorders and Nons. People with Personality Disorders often feel a great deal of pain over their own situation. Because of the way their emotions can overwhelm their rational thinking, they are prone to destructive behaviors, emotional outbursts, making poor choices and having feelings of self-loathing, powerlessness and discontent.

Faced with this, it is common for them to look for a person who is willing to share the burden, help clean up the mess and help them feel better about themselves. Family members, spouses, partners and friends are prime candidates for this role – a role which they sometimes accept willingly; hoping to make a positive difference in their loved one’s life.

However, the Non may hold over-optimistic expectations about the degree to which they can ‘help them change’. For the person with the Personality Disorder, the Non’s inevitable failure to solve all the problems and fill all the voids can create feelings of disappointment, disillusionment and even resentment . Filled with anger towards those who have disappointed them, yet consumed by fear that they will be abandoned by them , the Personality Disordered person may develop a pattern of Passive-Aggressive behavior towards the Non.

On their part, Nons are often confused about the erratic state of mind of the Personality Disordered individuals in their lives. They may respond to poor treatment with feelings of anger and hurt while at the same time they may become afraid of future outbursts. The Non may be fatigued from taking the “high ground” over contentious issues while also managing their feelings of anger towards a Personality Disordered person who appears to be taking the “low road” or taking advantage of them. Nons may themselves develop a pattern of Passive-Aggressive behavior as a way of registering their disapproval while not provoking further conflict.

What it Looks Like

  • Withdrawal – of material support, contribution to shared goals, Re-prioritizing alternate activities and goals, “go-slow’s”, procrastination or targeted incompetence.
  • Silent Treatment inappropriate “one-word” answers, inattention, making yourself generally “unavailable”.
  • Off-line Criticism – propagating gossip or criticism to a third party in an attempt to negatively influence the third party’s opinion of a person.
  • Sarcasm, Critical and “Off-Color” Jokes – Humor which targets a specific individual is a form of Passive-Aggressive communication.
  • Indirect Violence – shows-of-strength such as destruction of property, slamming doors, cruelty to animals in the sight of another is passive-aggressive.

The Bottom Line

Passive-Aggressive behaviors and communication styles are rarely effective in getting people what they want, and are more likely to add fuel to the fires already burning. An assertive approach to managing conflict is far more likely to get both parties in a relationship what they want. Where there are episodes of abuse involved, assertiveness can also involve setting firm, healthy and appropriate boundaries which protect the Non from further abuse.

What NOT To Do:

  • Don’t respond with a passive-aggressive approach of your own.
  • Don’t feel responsible for another person’s passive aggressive words or actions.

What TO Do:

  • Speak the truth, clearly, accurately and simply, then leave the conversation if that is not enough.
  • Do something healthy and productive for yourself.

 

 

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#26 Parentification

Definition:

Parentification – A form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional or physical needs of the parent or of the family’s other children.

Leaning on Little People

Some parents with Personality Disorders attempt to delegate part of the responsibility for meeting either the parent’s own emotional and physical needs, or the emotional and physical needs of other family members, to one of their children.

The usual target is the eldest or most emotionally or physically mature child in the family. . In some cases, a child of the opposite sex is chosen to meet the emotional and physical needs of the parent and assume the role of a “surrogate spouse”. For these Parentified children, there may be expectations they will sacrifice normal childhood needs like play, friendships with peers, sleep or schooling.

There are two common types of Parentification – physical and emotional.

Physical Parentification (Also Called Instrumental Parentification) occurs when a child is given the responsibility of looking after the physical needs of the parent and/or the other siblings. This can include duties such as cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, paying bills, managing the household budget, getting kids ready for school, supervising homework, dispensing medications or imposing discipline on younger children.

Physical Parentification is different from assigning a normal, healthy level of household chores to children, as it involves an unfair level of responsibility and allows the actual parent to abdicate part of their own responsibility for care of the children. It also becomes dysfunctional when the task assigned is beyond the developmental maturity of the child or where the assigned duties leave little or no time for the child to engage in normal childhood activities.

Emotional Parentification happens when a child is made responsible for looking after the emotional and psychological needs of the parent and/or the other siblings.

This can include cases where the parent begins to confide in the child, discussing their own adult problems and issues, and effectively using the child as a surrogate spouse or therapist. This kind of Emotional Parentification is sometimes referred to as “emotional incest”.

Other siblings, taking their cues from the parent, may also attempt to unburden themselves on the child.

 

How it Feels

Children are often anxious to please their parents and a Parentified child will often take their responsibilities very seriously. They may even feel honored initially by being treated like a ‘grown up’ and entrusted with responsibility for other family members or their parent. However, the child will generally suffer from having his or her own emotional needs neglected and from being compelled to live up to the burden of expectation.
Parentified children may struggle with lingering resentment, explosive anger and difficulty in forming trusting relationships with peers, issues which often follow them into adulthood. Forming close, trusting romantic and spousal relationships may be particularly difficult.

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t feel guilty about your situation. You are/were a child. It’s not your fault.
  • Don’t second-guess yourself with “what if’s”. Focus on what you can do today to make your situation more tolerable.
  • Don’t accept your situation as normal. Don’t apologize for being a child or for having child’s thoughts, feelings and reactions.
  • Don’t be ashamed or feel compelled to keep family secrets.

What TO Do

  • Try to find opportunities where you can be a kid again, and situations where you are accepted for who you really are.
  • Reach out to responsible adults, such as a therapist who is accountable to others.
  • Recognise you have a right to keep abusive family members at arm’s length once you are an adult.
  • Forgive yourself for any negative feelings you hold about your childhood or parents, and find ways to process them.
  • Seek advice from people you know are/were good parents for ideas about how to parent your own children.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid,,Borderline, Histrionic,Dependent

 

 

#27 Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome

Definition:

Parental Alienation Syndrome – When a separated parent convinces their child that the other parent is bad, evil or worthless.

Annihilating Trust

Alienation generally means interfering with or cutting off a person from relationships with others. This can occur in a number of ways, including criticism, manipulation, threats, distorted reporting or control. One of the most widely reported forms of alienation is Parental Alienation, where a parent tries to sabotage the relationship a child has with their other parent. During a divorce, this is a common tactic for many persons with Personality Disorders, usually as a means of hurting their former spouse.

How it Happens

Some of the ways a situation of Parental Alienation is created include:

  • Verbal criticism of the other parent – derogatory comments, telling stories about the other parent, portraying their bad side, picking up on their faults, highlighting their mistakes, drawing unfavorable comparisons between them and others.
  • Withholding or discouraging contact with the other parent – not allowing visits or keeping visits inappropriately short. Moving to another geographic location to limit contact, forgetting or impeding visitation rights, forcing the other parent to jump through hoops or meet inappropriate criteria or conditions in order to see the children.
  • Denying phone contact – sabotaging phone contact by not picking up the phone, turning the phone off, being out when the phone call comes, etc.
  • Intimidating the child – making the child feel bad for loving the other parent, criticizing or mocking the child’s interest in the other parent or discouraging the child from spending time with the other parent. Forcing the child to meet stringent criteria, perform extra chores or pass certain tests in order to be “rewarded” with contact with the other parent; or, punishing the child by removal of affection or privileges after spending time with the other parent.

How it Feels

Parental Alienation is a form of emotional child abuse. Children instinctively love both parents and identify with both as part of themselves. They feel immense stress when that love is threatened. Therefore, when a child is told that one of their parents is bad, they feel as though they themselves are bad. This arouses in them feelings of shame, uncertainty, fear and guilt.

It is critical to a child’s sense of security and self-esteem that they be allowed to love both of their biological parents. This doesn’t mean you have to condone bad behavior. It does mean though that you have to allow the child to love who they love and feel what they feel without shame or punishment or control or manipulation.

It is common for divorcing parents to feel anger at the other parent. However, expressing that anger in front of the children is inappropriate. If you need validation for the way you feel towards your ex-spouse you should talk to a friend or a therapist about it – not the children.
It’s also common for people with Personality Disorders to launch distortion campaigns about the other parent and involve the children either directly or indirectly. This is toxic and highly destructive.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t verbally berate your child’s other parent in front of them – no matter what they have done. When a child hears that his parent is bad he hears you say that he is bad.
  • Don’t try to discourage your child’s love for their parent. Separate your feelings from your child’s feelings and allow them to make up their own mind about what they think.
  • Don’t limit your child’s contact with the other parent – except when they are in danger of abuse.
  • Don’t lie to your children. Be honest with them if they ask a question – but don’t take it as a license to say more than you really need to. For example, if your child asks you, “did mommy do something wrong?” you can say, “I think mommy made a mistake.” And leave it at that.
  • Don’t discuss grownup’s issues with children.
  • Don’t interrogate your child about what the other parent says or does. If they want to tell you something let them, otherwise remember their relationship with the other parent is essentially their own business unless there are genuine reasons to believe abuse is taking place.
  • Don’t try to compensate for a parent who is trying to alienate you with gifts or strange behavior. Just be you. Your child is able to separate fact from fiction in cartoons, and they can do it in real life too.

What TO do

  • Put the best interests of your child ahead of any personal feelings you may have.
  • Allow your child to freely express their love for their other parent, regardless of how much they deserve it.
  • Affirm your child. Tell them you love them. Praise their accomplishments; encourage them to be all they can be.
  • Be consistent and reliable. Keep your promises.
  • See our article on Talking to Kids about Personality Disorders.
  • Document any incidents where you feel the other parent is trying to alienate your children from you.
  • Consult with a competent attorney about your options. In general, courts do not look favorably on parents who try to alienate their children from the other parent. However, your complaints should be specific and unemotional, with the best interests of the child at heart.
  • Communicate with the other parent unemotionally and clearly, in writing if possible. Keep a record of what you have written.
  • Report any acts of violence, threats of violence or self-harm immediately to the authorities.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

 

 

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#27 Panic Attacks

Definition:

Panic Attacks – Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.

When Terror Takes the Reigns

Panic attacks are brief moments when the fearful part of a person’s thoughts take momentary control of their physical and intellectual capacities.

Panic is the instinctive last resort instinct to change something – anything – in the face of an otherwise certain death. As the human race evolved through the millennia, the panic attack is a survival skill which we have evolved to assist with survival in the wild.

However, an instinctive reaction to danger which was useful to avoiding a sabre-toothed tiger in the prehistoric Savannah is often less helpful in dealing with the typical domestic problems of 21st Century life.

Emotional Avalanche

Emotional Avalanche is the cognitive process where the more primitive, emotional part of the brain temporarily takes control over the more deliberate, thoughtful, logical part of the brain. When a person is experiencing a momentary loss of reason in favor of unbridled courage, love or fear, it is often because they are experiencing an emotional avalanche. During this time, oxygen supply to the frontal cortex is restricted, and diverted in an adrenaline-charged surge to the amygdala – the emotional, impulsive region of the brain.

What It Looks Like

  • A man becomes unresponsive and refuses to communicate in the face of bad news.
  • A young woman starts shaking and shivering uncontrollably when remembering a difficult situation.
  • A young man begins thrashing violently when asked a difficult question.

DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic criteria for Panic Attack

The American Psychiatric Association has identified a number of manifestations of panic attacks as follows:

A discrete period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms developed abruptly and reached a peak within 10 minutes:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Chills or hot flashes

What if Feels Like

To the bystander, a panic attack only makes sense if they feel can simultaneously feel the same level of threat that the panic attacker feels. However, since most modern day threats are not immediately visible to the eye of the bystander, most view the physical and emotional response of someone who is having a panic attack as exaggerated, irrational, counter-productive and even dangerous.

How to Cope

When someone is experiencing an emotional avalanche, they temporarily shut off their thinking brain. It is a time to get yourself, vulnerable bystanders and the family china out of the way. Most panic attacks last only a few minutes and subside in less than an hour. Many people who experience a panic attack will feel exhausted and may become placid – needing to nap or sleep it off in the immediate aftermath.

What NOT To Do:

  • Don’t argue, question or interrupt another person’s panic attack.
  • Don’t stay in a dangerous environment.

What TO Do:

  • Get yourself, your kids and your valuables to a safe place
  • Go find a safe place where you can think
  • Talk to a friend who can speak objectively to your situation

Related Personality Disorders

Paranoid,Borderline, Histrionic, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

 

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#28 Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

Introduction

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is characterized by an inflexible adherence to rules or systems or an affinity to cleanliness and orderly structure.

OCPD is sometimes referred to as Anankastic Personality Disorder.

OCPD people may be mistrusting of others who may not hold the same convictions or understand their need for things to be just right. They may have trouble delegating, trusting others, sharing responsibilities or compromising. They may be obsessively clean or hygienic.

OCPD vs OCD

Although they may be similar, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is a different condition from the more commonly known Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is often characterized by a repetition or adherence to rituals. OCPD is characterized more by an unhealthy adherence to perfectionism.

Characteristics & Traits

Every relationship between a Personality-Disordered Individual and a Non Personality-Disordered Individual is as unique as the DNA of the people involved. Nevertheless, there are some common behavior patterns.

The following are descriptions of characteristics and behaviors which may be observed in an individual who suffers from obsessive compulsive personality disorder. This list includes direct traits which occur in OCPD sufferers and comorbid traits from other related personality disorders which may also occur in an OCPD sufferer. The list below contains descriptions as observed by family members and partners. Examples are given of each trait, with descriptions of what it feels like to be caught in the crossfire and some good (and bad) ideas for coping.

Please note that these descriptions are not intended for diagnosis. No one person exhibits all of the traits and the presence of one or more traits is not evidence of a personality disorder. See our disclaimer for more info. For a list of traits used in clinical diagnosis of OCPD refer to the OCPD DSM Criteria section below.

These descriptions are offered in the hope that non-personality-disordered family members, caregivers & loved-ones might recognize some similarities to their own situation and discover that they are not alone. Click on the links to read more about each trait.

Alienation – The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual’s relationships with others.

“Always” and “Never” Statements – “Always” and “Never” Statements are declarations containing the words “always” or “never”. They are commonly used but rarely true.

Anger – People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.

Avoidance – The practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.

Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Catastrophizing – The habit of automatically assuming a “worst case scenario” and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

Circular Conversations – Arguments which go on almost endlessly, repeating the same patterns with no resolution.

Denial – Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Depression – People who suffer from personality disorders are often also diagnosed with symptoms of depression.

Sense of Entitlement – An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

Hoarding – Accumulating items to an extent that it becomes detrimental to quality of lifestyle, comfort, security or hygiene.

Hysteria – An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.

Manipulation – The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.

Mood Swings – Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.

No-Win Scenarios – When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options

Objectification – The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Panic Attacks – Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Expressing negative feelings in an unassertive, passive way.

Perfectionism – The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Projection – The act of attributing one’s own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Proxy Recruitment – A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Push-Pull – A chronic pattern of sabotaging and re-establishing closeness in a relationship without appropriate cause or reason.

Ranking and Comparing – Drawing unnecessary and inappropriate comparisons between individuals or groups.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Selective Competence – Demonstrating different levels of intelligence, memory, resourcefulness, strength or competence depending on the situation or environment.

Splitting – The practice of regarding people and situations as either completely “good” or completely “bad”.

Thought Policing – Any process of trying to question, control, or unduly influence another person’s thoughts or feelings.

Triggering -Small, insignificant or minor actions, statements or events that produce a dramatic or inappropriate response.

Tunnel Vision – The habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.

 

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) – The DSM Criteria

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM) as a Cluster C (anxious or fearful) Personality Disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is defined by exhibiting at least four of the following:

  1. Preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
  2. Showing perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met).
  3. Excessive devotion to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).
  4. Being over conscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification).
  5. Inability to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value.
  6. Reluctance to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things.
  7. Adopting a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
  8. Shows rigidity and stubbornness.

OCPD Treatment

Treatment of OCPD is usually centered around a combination of psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Secondary symptoms such as depression and anxiety are often treated using antidepressants. See out Treatment Page for lots more information about treatment of personality disorders

Movies Portraying Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Traits

Strictly speaking, these movies portray individuals with the closely related Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

As Good As It Gets – As Good As It Gets s a 1997 romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson who portrays an obsessive-compulsive author and Helen Hunt, who plays a waitress who has to deal with him.

Mommie Dearest – Mommie Dearest is a 1981 biography of Hollywood Actress Joan Crawford, played by Faye Dunaway, who, according to the account in the movie, exhibited Obsessive Compulsive, Borderline and Narcissistic Traits.

Sleeping With The Enemy – Sleeping with the Enemy is a 1991 psychological thriller starring Julia Roberts, who tries to escape from her abusive husband, who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.

The AviatorThe Aviator is a 2004 drama film starring Leonardo DiCaprio based on the life of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, a successful inventor, film producer and aviation pioneer who exhibits a number of severe obsessive-compulsive traits.

OCPD Support Groups & Links:

Out of the FOG Support Forum – Support for family members and loved-ones here at Out of the FOG.

http://ocpd.freeforums.org/index.php – Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Support Group – for those with OCPD and their loved ones.

 

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#29 Objectification

Definition:

Objectification – The practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.

Being Treated Like a Thing

It’s quite common for people with Personality Disorders to prioritize their own needs and concerns above those of the people around them. This is the essence of Objectification – a lack of concern or in many cases recognition, of the feelings and rights of others.

Even though it feels emotional to those on the receiving end, in reality, it is the opposite. It is lack of compassion for or perception of the feelings of others which is the driving force. They are literally living inside their own heads.

The term “objectification” is often associated with gender discrimination, as-in “objectification of women” which refers to the practice of treating women as domestic servants or as sexual property (see the section on Sexual Objectification). However, objectification also has a broader meaning.

University of Chicago Professor Martha C. Nussbaum classified Objectification into the following categories:

  • Instrumentality – when a person is treated like a tool for another person’s own purposes.
  • Denial of autonomy – when a person is denied the right to make decisions for themselves.
  • Inertness – An Assumption of Inertness means a a person is treated as if they lack the capacity to act for themselves.
  • Ownership – A condition where a person is treated as if they are owned by, or are a slave to, the other person.
  • Fungibility – Where a person is treated as if they are dispensable or can be traded or discarded by another person.
  • Violability – A situation where a person is treated as if it is ok to hurt, or destroy them.
  • Denial of subjectivity – A condition where a person is treated as if there is no need to show concern for their feelings.

Acts of objectification typically enrich the perpetrator at the expense of the victim. What the perpetrator fails to recognize is the cost to themselves in the form of long term personal security. People who objectify others build their own form of solitary confinement, because by sacrificing the trust and good will of others, they are vulnerable to eventual demise of their power. Just as dictatorships can last for years or decades but typically collapse very quickly at the end.

What it Looks Like

  • A young adult only contacts their parents as a means of extracting money.
  • A spouse is forced to work as a domestic slave against their will.
  • A company owner drops a key business partner after a long relationship causing the other to go bankrupt.
  • An elderly person is neglected.
  • Children are forced into labor.
  • A tyrant throws his/her political opponents in jail.
  • Violent crimes and incidences of theft are often a form of objectification.

How it Feels

If you have been the subject of objectification, you are probably familiar with the emotions of fear and anger. The anger comes from having your dignity and rights violated by another person who has considered their own needs to be more important than yours, and you may also feel an urge to retaliate or get even. The fear comes from knowing that they may hold a certain degree of authority or influence and that if they did it once, they are likely to do it again.

A secondary but perhaps more significant effect of being objectified is a loss of self-worth. Many of us derive a significant portion of our self-worth from the validation that comes from other people. This loss affects all victims of objectification and it is especially true of children who live with a Personality-Disordered parent.

It is very difficult for a victim of objectification not to look at themselves and ask “What did I do to deserve this?” or “What is wrong with me that they treat me this way?” Victims of any form of abuse often become vulnerable to blaming themselves for the actions of the abuser and “normalize” the abuse by convincing themselves they somehow deserved it, and that it is inescapable and inevitable.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t beg or plead with someone who objectifies and ask them to be kind. Ask for what you want once – if they don’t give it to you, then n you have your answer.
  • Don’t allow yourself to become isolated from others by a person who objectifies you.
  • Don’t make alliances with a person who objectifies others. If they do it to others they will someday do it to you.
  • Don’t become envious of the apparent rapid success of a Narcissist. Work to build the kind of success that lasts a lifetime, which is founded on treating others with respect and kindness.
  • Don’t take objectification personally – it is the act of a disordered individual. It says nothing about your own value or worth as a person.
  • Don’t try to gain control over a person who mistreats you. Focus on controlling yourself.
  • Don’t react with indignation, anger or retribution. If your feelings are being disregarded, your reaction will not have a big impact and it may even trigger more overt kinds of abuse.
  • Don’t think of mistreatment at the hands of another as some sort of investment that will pay off in the long run. If someone is deliberately choosing to hurt you, there is no ultimate payoff, just more pain in store.
  • Don’t accept treatment that is anything short of respectful, considerate and appropriate.

What TO Do

  • If possible, accept small sacrifices to remove yourself from the influence of a person who objectifies you.
  • Build relationships with people who respect you, admire you, treat you well and who give as much as they take.
  • If you see someone else being abused or neglected, report it.

Related Personality Disorders:

Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic

#30 No-Win Situations and Lose-Lose Scenarios

Definition:

No-Win Scenarios – When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options

Damned if you do and Damned if you don’t

Misery loves company, which is why it is so common for a Personality-Disordered individual who is feeling strong negative emotions such as anger, jealousy or contempt to try to act out their feelings and hurt or manipulate another person in an attempt to feel better about themselves. One of the common ways they may do this is creating a “no-win” or “lose-lose” scenario.

What they Look Like

  • A woman accuses her spouse of not wanting to spend time with her but greets him with hostility if he stays home.
  • A man tells his partner he will have an affair unless she engages in sexual activities she finds physically and/or emotionally degrading.
  • A family member complains they need help but refuses to participate when solutions such as therapy etc. are offered.
  • A spouse spends excessively from the family budget and says they will only stop if the spouse gives up one of their main interests or hobbies to ease the situation.
  • A husband is frequently combative and hostile in couple’s therapy sessions but accuses his wife of not wanting to work on the relationship if she refuses to go.
  • A mother is frequently hostile and critical of family members at traditional family gatherings but accuses them of abandoning her if they don’t show up.

How it Feels

No-Win and Lose-Lose scenarios often play on our own sense of FOG – Fear, Obligation and Guilt, keeping us trapped in a situations where we are afraid or reluctant to set boundaries for self-protection. We may feel like we will be breaking some taboos or unwritten laws of decency or morality if we refuse to at least try to give the Personality-Disordered individual what they say they want.

The trouble is we know if we give them what they want, often they may not be satisfied by that and we will have squandered our efforts, our resources, our time and our own dignity. Nons often feel “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.

How to Cope

If you recognize that you are being presented with a “no-win” or a “lose-lose” type of scenario by a person with a Personality Disorder, it is helpful to understand that the source of the conflict and anguish is their own mental health, not you.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t blame yourself for the conflict you are facing if the source of the conflict is really in the disordered individual.
  • Don’t enable a disorder by giving in to unreasonable demands or pressure. You will only hurt yourself as well as the other person.
  • Don’t avoid the issue altogether to avoid conflict or you may create an “elephant in the room”.
  • Don’t feel obliged to explain yourself or your actions every time you set or maintain a boundary or try to protect yourself from emotional abuse. You may just be being baited into a Circular Conversation. Give your answers once, and then end the conversation.

What TO do

  • Learn about Boundaries and how to use them.
  • Promptly remove yourself and your children from verbally or physically abusive environments.
  • Remember that you are dealing with a person who has a mental health disorder and doesn’t always make good choices for themselves and for others.
  • Recognize that you can’t always make another person like you, be happy with you or appreciate you. Sometimes people just want to fight and may be baiting you to go first.
  • Make choices for yourself that will produce the best long term results for you and your family.
  • Get support from people who understand your situation and are knowledgeable about Personality Disorders. You will feel better when others understand your situation and support your decisions.

 

 

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#31 “Not My Fault” Syndrome

Definition:

“Not My Fault” Syndrome – The practice of avoiding personal responsibility for one’s own words and actions.

Don’t Blame Me

It’s common for those who are closest to Personality Disordered individuals to be shocked and taken aback by what appears to them to be shameful or outrageous behaviors. It can be made even worse when they appear to be utterly unashamed, or become defensive when the negative behavior is pointed out.

Part of the issue is the Non expects the personality disordered individual to “think like I think” and anticipates an apology for angry outbursts, episodes of abuse, including verbal or physical assaults. Sometimes these apologies will come, and sometimes, they will not.
This lack of an expected apology can lead to further conflict and resentment in the relationship.

For the Personality Disordered individual, often their own behavior seems justified in light of the strong emotional motivation they have. They may feel justified in hurting others because they themselves feel hurt, or they may feel justified in disregarding other’s feelings because their own feelings are not soothed. This often makes Personality Disordered individuals appear thoughtless, selfish, cruel and sadistic to others, however, they often feel misjudged by others who don’t validate the disordered thinking which arises from their intense feelings.

What it looks like

  • A man behaves violently, destroying objects in the home, and feels he was justified in doing so because his wife doesn’t listen to him
  • A young woman cheats on her boyfriend and feels unapologetic for it because she thinks he looks at other women too much.
  • A parent spends the month’s grocery budget on luxury items and is unapologetic for it.
  • A teenager refuses to speak to a friend and feels justified in that action because she fears that friend does not love or respect her.
  • A man steals from a colleague and believes it is justified because his colleague is more successful than him.
  • A woman slanders her neighbor because she feels like that person deserves it

How it Feels

Nons often feel exasperated, shocked and outraged that the Personality-Disordered individuals in their lives can behave so callously or hatefully.

They may begin to hit back because they feel so hurt or taken advantage of. Or they might feel depression that they are treated so poorly and have failed to convince the other person to treat them with respect.

How to Cope

If you are in a relationship with someone who suffers from a Personality Disorder, it’s important to remember that they don’t think like you do, have the same feelings you do, or see the world the way you do. Any attempt make a Personality-Disordered individual see things your way might just lead to frustration all around.

The best approach you can take is to detach emotionally from them and focus on taking care of your own physical and emotional needs.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t assume that the personality-disordered individual sees things the way you do or thinks the way you do.
  • Don’t try to correct another person’s way of thinking.
  • Don’t blame yourself or take responsibility for how the other person feels or how they behave.
  • Don’t get angry and try to force them to apologize. Even if you have a legitimate complaint, chances are your concerns are like a foreign language to the Personality-Disordered individual.
  • Don’t allow abuse to go on in a sustained way.
  • Don’t try to fix the problem -or try to change yourself to solve everything.

What TO do

  • Remove yourself from any dangerous or abusive situation.
  • Remember that people with Personality Disorders have strong emotions that often make sense to them – even if they don’t make sense to you.
  • Let the other person have their own feelings and preserve the right to maintain your own feelings.
  • Get support and discuss your concerns with someone who cares about you and who understands personality disorders

Related Personality Disorders:

Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

 

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#32 Normalizing

Definition:

Normalizing – Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.

Description:

Aggressors often work to make their victims feel less sensitive to, or more accepting of. offensive behavior by minimizing, down playing or mocking any negative reaction to inappropriate acts. In turn, victims often normalize bad behavior (the other person’s and their own) by buying into the aggressor’s logic and lowering their own standards. They learn to accept as normal what they once believed to be unacceptable, wrong, or dangerous. Normalizing is achieved when the victim no longer questions a behavior as inappropriate and starts to accept the perpetrator’s assertions that a questionable behavior is, in fact, normal and “healthy.”

Examples of Normalizing:

  • A cheating spouse who convinces their partner that affairs are harmless to the marriage.
  • Someone who enlists the help of a friend to destroy their own property in order to collect the insurance.
  • A pedophile grooming a child for sexual activity: “It’s not wrong if we love each other.”
  • The slacker boyfriend who sells pot out of your house: “This shouldn’t even be illegal… who is it hurting?”

What Normalizing Sounds Like:

  • “Stop being so judgmental.”
  • “Your friends never had any problems with it.”
  • “What a stick in the mud You need to lighten up!”
  • “Why can’t you just let it go?”
  • “Just relax… if you don’t like it, you don’t ever have to do it again.”
  • “Don’t you trust me?”
  • “This is God’s plan for you …”

What it feels like:

The process of normalizing (usually a sustained effort over time) may touch off deep inner conflict in the person who is the target of normalizing efforts. The reason for this ambivalence is that normalizing requires a person to adjust their personal standards, and accept, participate, or collaborate in bad behavior in order to receive a payoff or reward.

In other words: the target knows the behavior is inappropriate or wrong, but is motivated to indulge it, because doing so generates the promise of some desired object or situation that the target yearns for (or already has), and does not want to lose. The motivation could be anything: money, sex, grades, acceptance, favor, or the promise of love. Normalizing is in many ways a type of mutual extortion, and can not work if there is nothing of value at stake.

Being in a relationship with a personality-disordered individual has sometimes been compared to an addiction. One of the side effects of being addicted to another person is the lengths some non-personality-disordered individuals might go to in order to preserve their connection to the very person who is doing them harm. Denial about the extent of the abuse often becomes core to the non-personality-disordered individual’s own psyche. He or she may begin to normalize, or justify abnormal behaviors in the other person in order to make those behaviors seem less disturbing, The non-personality-disordered individual thus adopts codependent and enabling behaviors, and may even begin mirroring some of the bad actions they once objected to. In this way, the addicted person is able to increase their own tolerance and negative coping skills, and stay connected to their drug of choice.

Losing perspective on what is acceptable behavior weakens your own self-esteem and judgment. Once bad behaviors are normalized and accepted in your own mind, you will be vulnerable to further abuse and at risk for engaging in activities that are unhealthy, harmful or illegal yourself.

What NOT To Do:

  • Don’t fall for false flattery, or verbal seduction.
  • Don’t let someone else convince you to engage in any activity you know to be dangerous or wrong.
  • Don’t compromise your boundaries.
  • Don’t become blind to the negative consequences of bad behavior.
  • If someone is trying to coerce you in to doing something you are uncomfortable with, do not try to argue with them – get up and leave.
  • Don’t blame yourself for how the other person is behaving
  • Don’t stay in the room if the situation becomes physically, verbally or emotionally unhealthy.
  • Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.

What TO Do:

  • Do recognize that normalizing for what it is: Manipulation.
  • Do listen to your inner voice. Learn to distinguish between what you know is right and what someone else asks you to accept.
  • Do work on boundaries. If someone is pressuring you to accept something you are uncomfortable with, walk away.
  • If it’s illegal, dangerous, or has the potential to harm yourself or others, report it to the proper authorities.
  • Do discuss what you are going through with supportive, understanding friends, family, therapists or a support community

 

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#33 Neglect

Definition:

Neglect – A passive form of abuse in which the physical or emotional needs of a dependent are disregarded or ignored by the person responsible for them.

Doing Harm by Doing Nothing:

Neglect is a form of abuse where inaction rather than direct action leads to the harm of an individual or object. As is the case with other types of abuse neglect may be intermittent, sporadic or inconsistent, and in-between times may be filled with periods of adequate care or sometimes an overwhelming or overcompensating showering with gifts, attention or favors.

Child Neglect

Children are the most vulnerable to neglect, and child neglect is by far the most common form of child abuse recorded in the US, accounting for 71% of reported cases in 2008:

Child Maltreatment 2008

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2008

Elder Neglect Prevalence

  1. S. Administration on Aging, National estimates of the incidence of abuse, neglect, and self-neglect of persons 60 years and older, 1996 are as follows:
Type Estimated Incidences
Abuse 402,287
Neglect/Abandonment 182,368
Self-Neglect 138,980

Source: U. S. Administration on Aging, National estimates of the incidence of abuse, neglect, and self-neglect of persons 60 years and older, 1996

Examples:

Common forms of neglect include:

  • Malnourishment
  • Insufficient supervision
  • Inadequate medical care
  • Failure to provide education, maintenance or means of financial support.

Common victims of neglect include:

  • Children
  • The Elderly
  • Victims of Mental Illness
  • Physically Disabled Individuals
  • Dependent Spouses and Partners
  • Property deemed important to these victims
  • Pets and Livestock

What it feels like:

Neglect toward a dependent individual challenges that person’s sense of self-worth. They may blame themselves for the treatment they are experiencing, may feel worthless or guilty, and may try to win the favor of their caregiver through performance, bargaining or favors.

Individuals who are exposed to episodes of neglect may begin to go through stages of grief as they come to terms with the sense of loss caused by having their genuine survival and wellbeing needs being ignored.

Long term or sustained, sporadic neglect of an individual will often lead to that person feeling trapped like a prisoner and may result in symptoms of Complex PTSD. In the case of people who are physically vulnerable such as young children, profoundly disabled persons or frail aged people, it can also result in serious medical consequences, or even in extreme cases, death.

Learning to Cope:

Neglect is a serious and often illegal form of abuse. The victim is often a dependent who needs outside help to confront or stop the abuse.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t try to fix it by yourself.
  • Don’t ignore it or write it off as minor or unimportant.
  • Don’t stay in an abusive environment if you can choose otherwise
  • Don’t appeal to the abuser’s logic or reason. A pattern of neglect is a symptom of a mental disorder, it is not the action of someone who is thinking clearly.

What TO do

  • Accept that your body and your emotions are important.
  • Get out of a situation of neglect as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Report situations of neglect that you witness to competent local authorities.
  • Get emotional support. Talk to somebody who understands.

Neglect Links

US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2008

  1. S. Administration on Aging, National estimates of the incidence of abuse, neglect, and self-neglect of persons 60 years and older, 1996

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

Links:

US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2008

  1. S. Administration on Aging, National estimates of the incidence of abuse, neglect, and self-neglect of persons 60 years and older, 1996

 

 

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#34 Narcissism

Definition:

Narcissism – A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.

When the Self Drowns Out All Else

The term Narcissism comes from the Greek mythological character Narcissus, who rejected love from others and fell in love with his own reflection in the water.

The characteristic patterns of narcissistice behavior include egotism, an unhealthy need for attention, an inflated sense of entitlement, and obliviousness to the rights, needs and wants of others – unless they are somehow useful. These self-centered ways of relating to others can be common in people who suffer from personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

What It Feels Like:

Contributed by Aames

Living with or being involved with a narcissist can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.

It can feel like you have to perform “mental gymnastics” from dealing with the lying (even when confronted with undeniable proof), the gaslighting, the triangulation, the projection, the constant contradictions, the manipulation, blame-shifting, the charm they lay on, the inflated sense of self – even subtle forms of torture, such as sleep-deprivation these people inflict on their victims – appears to be conscious and calculated to push the target of their “affections” past their limits, into surrender – and ultimately into total compliance – as a source of Narcissistic Supply. Children, spouses, friends, lovers – those closest to the Narcissist – are not considered individuals in their own right by the Narcissist – but rather extensions or, in the worst cases, the property of the Narcissist.

Even after finding out that you are dealing with a mental disorder, if you don’t protect or remove yourself from the situation, you may find yourself entering into a state of mind where you instinctively try to fix or fight the narcissist’s illogical attitudes and behaviors. You may find yourself becoming hyper-vigilant, trying to second guess them, trip them up, lay down ultimatums, call them on their lies, or constantly trying to stay one-step ahead of their ever-changing rule-book. You may even find yourself trying to mirror their behaviors to some extent in order to manipulate them, as they have manipulated you. This can be both futile and attractive to the narcissist, as they often relish the challenge. If you ever do manage to get “one-up” on a narcissist, it is likely to be a hollow “victory” at best. They may rage, play the victim, or disappear. None of these outcomes gives the victim any true satisfaction.

More than any other disorder on the PD spectrum, narcissists are like psychological vampires, attaching themselves to you in a way that drains you of your resources (emotional, mental and financial) and leaves you questioning your own worth and sanity. Often, narcissists are able to imitate or approximate caring about others when it is convenient for them to do so. However, they typically do not perceive that anything outside of their own sphere of wants and needs matters. It simply doesn’t occur to them to consider the needs of anyone else, or the long-term consequences of their own behaviors. Narcissists can be highly intelligent, witty, talented, likable, and fun to be around. They can also elicit sympathy like nobody’s business. Narcissists are opportunistic. They can make a show of being “generous” but their generosity usually has strings attached.

They tend to isolate their victims, sucking up their time and energy, many times robbing their own families, spouses and partners of an external support system.

Narcissists are excellent liars and many prefer to lie, even when telling the truth would be more beneficial to them. This suggests that lying is a hallmark of this pathology.

They are often highly competitive and argumentative. They lash out when presented with opinions that contradict their own or when confronted with their own lies or bad behaviors.

They can be calculating and extremely persuasive and susceptible to erratic thinking and impulsive decision making.

Narcissists can be self-destructive as often as they are destructive to others. They have a great deal of trouble accepting responsibility for their own actions, under any circumstance.

Narcissists are addictive personalities and narcissism is commonly co-morbid with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, spending and gambling. It has been suggested that Narcissists have a higher rate of ADHD than the general population.

Narcissists are rarely alone. They like to feed on the energy of others, and to have an audience to reflect back to them the person they want to see themselves as.

Narcissists are good at pretending, but typically do not feel compassion or empathy or consider the feelings or well-being of others. They tend to be singularly focused on getting their own needs met, at the expense of the needs of others.

While narcissists generally portray a lack of conscience, they typically have an intellectual awareness of what they are doing and how they hurt others. They simply do not care.

Being kind to a Narcissist in the face of their maltreatment is a common approach of family members and partners. However, this can result in further frustration as it is rarely reciprocated and tends to feed their sense of entitlement, opening the door for more abuse.

Other feelings you may experience when dealing with a narcissist in the home or at work:

  • You may feel like this person readily puts you down just to elevate themselves.
  • You may find yourself avoiding them because trying to communicate with them leaves you feeling confused, put-down, reduced to a lesser status and emptied of all that you know you really are.
  • You may feel overwhelmed, “out-gunned”, tongue-tied or overpowered in their presence.
  • You may feel blown away by their powerful personality, self-assuredness, self-belief and self-confidence.
  • Your own legitimate needs may be taking a back seat to their own frivolous, self-serving ambitions.
  • When receiving a compliment or apology, you may be left feeling patronized, demeaned, brought down to size and even humiliated.
  • You may attempt to compromise with them – only to realize later you are the only one who gave any substantial ground.
  • You may feel like your hard work and contributions are only being used, abused and distorted to meet the selfish ambitions of another.

Living with a person who has NPD can have a devastating effect on the self-esteem, confidence and quality of life for family members, friends and partners. Nons sometimes feel as though the Narcissist is refusing to “grow up” or will revert back to childish ways whenever it suits them. The Non often feels used, cheated and taken advantage of by the NPD in their life.

How to Cope

Living with a narcissist can be tough. It’s generally best to focus on taking care of yourself instead of trying to fix the narcissist.

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t take it personally. Narcissists are far more focused on themselves than on you.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Narcissists operate in a self-serving mode and when they mistreat you, it’s usually not because of anything you are, said, did, or failed to do.
  • Don’t compete. Narcissists live for the competition and fight dirty. They are not typically gracious losers.

What TO Do

  • Take care of yourself. Taking care of a narcissist can be like feeding a black hole, so take care of your own needs first.
  • Find support. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you just as you are.
  • Get out of the way. Try to position yourself so as to side-step the attentions of a narcissist.

Related Personality Disorders:

Schizoid, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic

 

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#35 Name-Calling

Definition:

Name-Calling – Use of profane, derogatory or dehumanizing terminology to describe another individual or group.

Labels Designed to Hurt

Name-calling is one of the most common tactics people use to hurt others or disparage them. It often occurs when someone has an emotional argument to make with little or no supporting logical argument.

The emotional mind can often have a “mind of its own” or “emotional intelligence” which operates independently of the logical mind, and name-calling is a product of this emotional mind, an explosion of feeling in the form of barbed words.

Most people who indulge in name-calling know that the label or name they choose to describe another individual is not factually accurate. The label is often regarded as hyperbole or as a metaphor. Something which more accurately describes how the speaker feels about the other person than what the speaker actually thinks about the other person.

How it Looks

  • “You little —–”
  • “You are worthless”
  • “My sister is totally useless”
  • “You’re a help rejecting complainer”
  • “You’re a _____”

How it Feels

It’s normal to feel hurt and defensive when a person starts labeling you or calling you names. When you are on the receiving end you lose in two ways.

The first way is in loss of self-esteem. You receive the message that someone important to you does not like you or thinks less of you than you actually are or deserve. You may begin to wonder “what is wrong with me that this person does not like me?”

The second way you lose is in discovering that after the insult, there is no path of resolution being offered to you. When a person is name-calling, they have abandoned intelligent conversation in favor of emotional outburst. In an indirect way they are informing you that they are not immediately interested in problem solving, compromise, personal improvement, meaningful debate or mutually beneficial conversation.

How to Cope

When a person resorts to name-calling, they have in that moment abandoned logic in favor of an exaggerated expression of their feelings. There is little to be gained by confronting them with any form of reasoned argument about what the facts are or if the name is warranted.
There are generally two constructive options open to the victim. The first is to stay and validate their feelings, but not their statements. The second is to leave and wait for a time when they are ready to engage on a more logical or constructive discussion. There are also a number of destructive options – including retaliation, and enabling.

Feelings validation can sometimes produce constructive effects in people who are going through an emotional storm. Sometimes once their feelings have been understood and validated a person will quiet down and be willing to discuss the facts more rationally. However, the problem with staying and validating their feelings is you may have to absorb a prolonged, ego-crushing series of insults for some time without retaliating. Most people have a limit of how much patience they have. It is hard to control a conversation with someone in the midst of an emotional firestorm without getting personally hurt yourself.

In general it is easier for therapists and other people not directly involved in a Personality Disordered person’s life to provide this kind of validation, since they are usually not the ones being insulted.

Since the resulting conflict rarely addresses the root problem – the way the Personality Disordered person suddenly feels so negative – these behaviors generally do not make them feel better. Furthermore, if the Non reacts defensively or destructively to name-calling, they may inadvertently turn a blaming episode into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The real problem is that the Personality-Disordered individual feels bad. They want to feel better. A discussion or argument about your list of faults – or anybody else’s is not going to solve it.

The other constructive option available when someone calls you a name is to politely decline to accept the label and exit the conversation, which also helps avoid a circular argument and, by refusing to accept the label, also asserts a firm boundary.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t become defensive and validate a label or projection by arguing about it or about what the facts are. That will often lead to a circular conversation. Name-calling is an expression of a person’s feelings, not the facts.
  • Don’t assume that the person really believes what they are saying or always feels that way. Don’t assume that there is a logical reason for why you are being called names.
  • Don’t assume or believe that other people agree with the name you are called.
  • Don’t try to play therapist or develop a fix-it syndrome. A person who has a Personality Disorder can’t be changed by changing yourself.
  • Don’t assume that because their blame is inaccurate, they are being deliberately manipulative or calculating. They may be so focused on their feelings that they are giving very little attention to their behavior.

What TO do

  • Remember that an episode of name-calling isn’t about you. It’s really all about the way the other person feels.
  • Pay attention to the feelings rather than the facts being expressed. While the facts may be way-off, the underlying feelings between the lines are often real and even honest – “I feel scared”, “I feel worthless”, “I feel weak” etc.
  • If you feel comfortable, you can model “I” statements in your responses – “I feel scared when you say that”.
  • Remember that what the person is feeling is temporary and they will probably feel different in a few days or a few hours.
  • If necessary, you can verbally validate the name-caller’s feelings while rejecting the label and try to redirect the person with the Personality Disorder to the real issue – so long as you are able to stay in the conversation without feeling threatened or getting hurt, and so long as you aren’t exposing others – such as children – to the abuse.
  • Politely, briefly and calmly refuse to accept the label and state the truth ONE TIME ONLY.
  • End the conversation by taking a time-out even if the other person doesn’t want to.

 

 

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#36 Munchausen’s and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome

Definition:

Munchausen’s and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome – A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

Description:

A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

Please, find these symptoms interesting

Both Munchausen’s Syndrome and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS), are strategies to gain sympathetic attention by either creating or faking symptoms of serious illness.

In Munchausen’s Syndrome, an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates their own illness or medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

In MBPS, an individual – typically a mother – deliberately makes another person sick (most often his or her own young child) or convinces others that the person is sick.

The parent or caregiver misleads others into thinking that the child has medical problems by reporting fictitious episodes, including exaggerating, fabricating, or inducing symptoms. As a result, doctors commonly order tests, experiment with medications and, in severe cases, may hospitalize the child or perform surgery to determine the cause.

Typically, the perpetrator feels satisfied because he or she has the attention and sympathy of doctors, nurses, and others.

In some MBPS cases, since the parent or caregiver appears concerned, wrongdoing is not suspected. Frequently, the perpetrator is familiar with the medical profession and is skilled at fooling medical staff. It is not unusual for medical personnel to overlook the possibility of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome because of the controversy surrounding it or because it goes against the commonly held belief that a parent or caregiver would never deliberately hurt his or her own child.

Children who are subject to Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome are typically very young, although there have been reported cases in children up to 16 years old. There are equal numbers of boy and girl victims of MBPS.

Statistically, 98% of the perpetrators of MBPS are female.

It should be noted that there is strong controversy over the existence of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. The originator of the term, British Pediatrician Roy Meadow, was discredited for misrepresenting statistical data in his expert witness testimony in the conviction of mothers of children who died from cot deaths (also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – or SIDS). In a nutshell, he testified that the likelihood of more than one incidence of SIDS in a single family was so remote as to warrant a conviction. Several cases in which he testified have since been overturned in British Courts.

Critics of the MBPS theory point out that there is no clinical criteria and that objective evidence of abuse must be produced prior to removing children from parental custody.

What it Looks Like

  • A man frequently returns to a health care provider with inconsistent medical complaints.
  • A parent observes symptoms of illness in a child that nobody else can detect, and insists that a battery of tests be performed.
  • A child contracts a common virus and the mother attributes the symptoms to an undiagnosed chronic condition.
  • A child is developing normally, but the mother insists she can detect symptoms of a mental disorder.

How it Feels

The child of a parent who is exposing them to MPBS may feel alarm or discomfort as a series of strangers intrusively examine and interrogate them looking for things that might be wrong. Therefore, they are frequently receiving the message from grown-ups that something IS wrong with them, and this can lead to developmental delay and fear of strangers – especially doctors – and a distorted world-view.

For third parties – spouses or relatives of people exhibiting MBPS-like behaviors – this can be a confusing and frightening experience. You may not have all the facts you need to judge what is really going on. On the one hand, you do not want to keep a child away from critical medical care when they need. On the other, you do not want the child to be exposed to unnecessary and intrusive investigations and diagnoses, or suffer the associated psychological and physical damage.

For doctors and health care professionals – it can be disturbing and frightening when confronted with a parent who is possibly manifesting MBPS. There is the underlying fear of a malpractice accusation when facing a parent who will not take “no” for an answer. There can also be the confusion of having to deal other family members who vehemently disagree on what the facts are. Many doctors ultimately err on the side of caution – referring to specialists and ordering additional tests and over-medicating and over-diagnosing just to protect themselves, which comes at the expense of the best interests of the child.

What NOT to Do

  • When dealing with a possible MBPS problem:
  • Don’t get into arguments with the perpetrator.
  • Don’t go it alone or try to solve the problem yourself.
  • Don’t interrogate a child or share with them your disapproval of their parent.
  • Don’t ignore the problem. Don’t abdicate the problem to others.

What TO Do

  • Seek advice from a well-qualified attorney, Guardian ad litem or children’s advocate.
  • Document all that you have observed as thoroughly and candidly as you can.
  • Report what you have seen. Be honest about what you know AND what you don’t know (it will be uncovered anyway). Be objective and sincere – remember – it is a child you are representing and you must put the best interests of the child ahead of your own.
  • If you have regular contact with the child, assure them of their value, and praise their positive qualities.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Borderline, Histrionic, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

Muchausen’s & Munchausen by Proxy Links:

Dr. Marc Feldman’s Munchausen Syndrome, Malingering, Factitious Disorder, & Munchausen by Proxy Page – Information Site about Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen by Proxy

http://www.msbp.com UK Site questioning the validity of MBPS/MSBP syndrome with links to news articles and cases where the theory has been discredited.

http://www.ashermeadow.com MBPS education & information site.

Site by MBP consultant & author Louisa Lasher

http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sick/munchausen.htm

 

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#37 Mood Swings

Definition:

Mood Swings – Unpredictable, rapid, dramatic emotional cycles which cannot be readily explained by changes in external circumstances.

Stuck on the rollercoaster

Mood swings are among the most disconcerting of all the characteristics of a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder, because they defy the reasoning or logic of the person who is trying to “figure them out”.

Mood swings are rarely an accurate reflection of reality. They are typically based on the feelings of the Personality-Disordered individual – not the facts. However, Nons sometimes fall into the trap of trying to interpret the moods of a Personality-Disordered loved one based on actual events.

Positive mood swings are as much a feature of personality disorders as negative mood swings.

Positive mood swings are welcome, however they can be just as destructive as negative mood swings. This is because positive mood swings often appeal to a Non’s sense of justice or clemency – as in: “if this person is being so nice to me then they can’t be the evil person I thought they were.” This can be just as counter-productive as over-reacting to a negative mood swing.

It is important to remember that if a person with a Personality Disorder has acted abusively in the past, then a sudden change to acts of kindness offers no bona fide explanation or reconciliation for past abuses – and provides little security against future abuses.

In many cases, a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder will occasionally be troubled by their own behavior, however, they then attempt to rationalize or draw attention away from their behavior by focusing on the shortcomings of others, continuing abusive dynamics.

The range of moods displayed by a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder can be dramatic – from suicidal tendencies to sublime bliss.

What it Looks Like

  • A successful businessman acts like everything is wonderful on Monday and attempts suicide on Tuesday.
  • A woman decides to stop nurturing her children one week but the next week enrolls them in a development program.
  • A bright young girl drops out of college and blames it on her parents’ nonchalant disposition. The next semester she makes straight “A’s”.
  • A colleague cycles between an approachable and unapproachable demeanor.
  • A mother oscillates between bedridden depression and domesticated perfectionism.

What it feels like

The tendency for Nons is to feel pressured to compromise their boundaries when they are suddenly met with a flood of good vibes from their Personality-Disordered loved one. However, it’s important to remember that boundaries are not vindictive – boundaries are worth preserving in stormy weather and fair – just as a seawall provides security whether the waves are gentle or threatening.

It’s also easy to assume other people are just like us, as we have a tendency to analyze our own feelings and reactions to explain the reactions and motives of others. We often look at their behavior and ask ourselves, “What circumstances or feelings would it take for me to act like that?”

However, some people react just like us – and many don’t. People with Personality Disorders represent one end of a spectrum of human behavior. They often react radically to their feelings, without taking time to think through the logic of their situation, their actions and the consequences of their actions. This can sometimes leave Nons wondering, “What on Earth did I do to deserve this/provoke that/make them act this way?”

The answer is often: “Nothing.”

Learning to Cope

It’s important to remember that you are never responsible for another person’s behavior – if a person you care about is behaving in a way you don’t like, that is simply their choice. In most cases, it has nothing to do with you or what you have done.

If another person claims “I did —- because you did —–”, or, “I said —- because you said —–” then they are making up excuses for their own behavior.

What NOT to do

When you are faced with a positive mood swing:

  • Don’t throw away your boundaries.
  • Don’t assume this lovely person is the real person or the true person. It is a part of them – and the whole person is the average of both the positive and the negative that you have experienced.
  • Don’t forget about the negative experiences – they are as much a part of the reality as the positive.
  • Don’t assume that this positive mood swing will last forever.

When you are faced with a negative mood swing:

  • Don’t blame yourself or take responsibility for the way the other person feels.
  • Don’t retaliate with bad behavior of your own.
  • Don’t assume that this nasty person you are confronted with is the real person or the true person. It is a part of them – but the whole person is the average of both the positive and the negative that you have experienced.
  • Don’t forget about the positive experiences – they are as much a part of the reality as the positive.

What TO do

  • Maintain your boundaries.
  • Keep yourself and your children away from any physical, verbal, emotional or sexual violence or abuse.

 

 

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#38 Moments of Clarity

Definition:

Moments of Clarity – Spontaneous periods when a person with a Personality Disorder becomes more objective and tries to make amends.

A Hint of Growth

Moments of Clarity are spontaneous, temporary periods when a person with a Personality Disorder is able to see beyond their own world view and can, for a brief period, understand, acknowledge, articulate and begin to make amends for their dysfunctional behavior.

What it Looks Like

  • A partner or spouse apologizes for their behavior and agrees to attend couples therapy.
  • A husband acknowledges he knows an infidelity accusation he has held over a spouse for years wasn’t really true.
  • Someone returns a stolen item to its rightful owner.
  • A mother confesses to her children that past episodes of abuse were not their fault and were not OK.

How it feels

Moments of Clarity can be both extremely gratifying and somewhat frightening. On the one hand, a Non may be hearing for the first time in a long time the very healing words they have longed to hear: “I’m sorry”, “You are a good husband and father”, “You are a good daughter”, “I’m proud of you”, “You didn’t deserve that”, “It’s not your fault”, “You are important to me”.

On the other hand, this sudden, unexpected change of heart, even in the right direction, can be disconcerting for a Non. There is inevitably the question of whether the change is genuine and permanent, and also whether there are strings attached.

A Moment of Clarity is a very emotional time for both the Personality Disordered person and the Non. Some changes or promises turn out to be just Hoovers. Others may be honest, whole-hearted and sincere attempts at Recovery. It is likely at such a time of emotional transition that neither the Personality-Disordered individual nor the Non is completely sure whether there will be follow-through on the intentions of change.

Therefore, sudden moments of clarity, while a welcome respite from cycles of abuse, are probably not the best time to make big life-changing decisions or commitments such as moving in, getting married, getting pregnant or opening joint accounts. It is probably best to maintain a supportive, yet safe environment and to take a wait-and-see approach for six months to a year. Most Hoovers will not last that long.

The other important aspect is to be careful about getting your hopes up too high. Personality Disorders are true mental health conditions over which the sufferer does not have complete control. Many Moments of Clarity are honest and sincere attempts by an individual attempting to reach a better place. However, it is very difficult to recover from a Personality Disorder and many do not make it. If we as Nons pin all our hopes on their ability to climb the mountain range of recovery, we may be asking them to be somebody they can’t be, and sow the seeds of future regret, disillusionment and resentment.

How to Cope

If you find yourself in a Moment of Clarity with a Personality Disordered loved-one, embrace it for what it is. If at all possible, accept those precious moments of validation and apology with gratitude and humility and without gloating. Then remember who you are. You are not defined by how a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder sees you or describes you. You are you. When you reach a place where you can say “if he/she recovers – that’s OK and if they don’t – that’s OK too”, you will be in the best position to offer support and validation, if appropriate, to your loved one.

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t jump to conclusions or try to predict future behavior based on current behavior.
  • Don’t make any big decisions or commitments.
  • Don’t make unrealistic demands for permanent change.

What TO Do

  • Try to maintain a complete picture of the whole relationship, acknowledging both the good and the bad elements.
  • Remember that a Personality Disorder is a medical condition.
  • Maintain your boundaries.
  • Enjoy the moment.
  • Keep doing the healthy things that are good for you.

 

 

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#39 Mirroring

Definition:

Mirroring – Imitating or copying another person’s characteristics, behaviors or traits.

Borrowing a Self-Image

Mirroring occurs when people with Personality Disorders have a vacant or distorted self-image, which can manifest itself as an imitation of another person’s speech, mannerisms, behaviors, dress style, purchase preferences or daily habits.

In more extreme manifestations of this behavior, the person doing the mirroring might begin to believe they actually are the other person, to the extent they might call themselves by their name, claim to be them or ‘borrow’ elements of the other person’s life such as relationships, past experiences, career or family history and claim these as their own.

Mirroring can be a form of Dissociation, where a person’s strong feelings create “facts” which are less than true.

A dramatic case of mirroring is portrayed in the movie Single White Female, in which the character Hedra Carlson (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) begins to imitate her new room-mate Allie in the way she looks, dresses and behaves, imitating her haircut, wearing her clothes and ultimately seducing Allie’s boyfriend.

What it Looks Like

  • A man switches accents to mimic a colleague.
  • A woman wears identical clothing to her friend.
  • A mother wears her daughter’s clothing.
  • A teenager makes phone calls in which she pretends to be her sibling or parent.
  • A secretary wears her boss’s wife’s perfume in an attempt to seduce him.
  • A man writes letters in which he forges his boss’s signature.

How it Feels

There is an old saying that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, and a little mirroring can sometimes be taken as a compliment at first. You may feel honored or flattered when someone begins to mimic your fashion sense, your behaviors or traits.

However, when this becomes pervasive, it can start to feel a bit “creepy”. It can become quite unsettling to realize someone is paying so much attention to you, yet isn’t behaving in the normal or healthy ways which are part of a reciprocal relationship. If they begin to see you as a representation of themselves you may find yourself in a situation of Engulfment, and be under extreme pressure to stay in the relationship.

If that person begins to pretend they are you, it can become downright frightening. You may fear other people will mistake them for you, that they will behave in ways which will embarrass you, get you into trouble, or make you unpopular.

How to Cope

There are no laws against imitation, and people who are unfamiliar with Personality Disorders may struggle to understand any complaints about mimicry and fail to take your fears seriously.

It is often best to detach as much as possible from a person who is mirroring you. Be aware that sometimes, when you try to cut off contact with a person who has been “super-nice” while mirroring you, they may Split you from ‘good’ to ‘evil’ , and you will possibly see some of their “not so nice” side come to the surface via False accusations, Fear of Abandonment, Emotional Blackmail, Threats or Stalking.. Do not let this prevent you detaching if you feel the relationship is unhealthy – get yourself some backup.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t allow yourself to be emotionally blackmailed into spending time with someone you feel threatened by.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated into just one relationship with someone who is mirroring you at the cost of other healthy ones.
  • Don’t give up things you love to do or healthy behaviors to try to navigate any kind of dysfunctional engulfment.

What TO do

  • Surround yourself with supportive friends who will understand and validate you in a healthy way.
  • Put some distance between you and a person who is mirroring you.
  • If you must spend time with someone who is mirroring you, take along a supportive friend.
  • Call the police at the first incident of violence or threat of violence.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Schizotypal, Borderline, Histrionic, Dependent

 

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#40 Masking

Definition:

Masking – Covering up one’s own natural outward appearance, mannerisms and speech in dramatic and inconsistent ways depending on the situation.

Convenient Cover-ups

People with Personality Disorders often suffer from low self-esteem, or have an inconsistent self-image which shifts depending on their inner emotional climate. Since that can change rapidly if they are susceptible to mood swings, they may sometimes represent themselves publicly in quite inconsistent ways.

This practice of altering our behavior or mannerisms is of course familiar to most people. Almost everybody consciously or subconsciously puts their best foot forward when they want to make a good impression on family, co-workers, authority figures or large social groups, and most of us adjust our behavior for different contexts such as cheering at a football game as opposed to sitting in a meeting. However, in some people with Personality Disorders there is a marked inconsistency, involving rapid cycling and an acute intensity of Masking which is beyond typical.

How it Looks

  • Sudden changes in voice, vocabulary or geographic accent;
  • Situational changes in physical mannerisms;
  • Wearing different clothes – copying exactly the appearance of another;
  • Using different names, depending on who is being talked to;
  • Changing taste in food, interests etc;
  • Rapid, inexplicable changes in political views or religious beliefs;

How it Feels

It can sometimes feel a little creepy to watch someone close to you morph right before your eyes when the phone rings or when someone else comes into the room.

It’s also common to feel they are being hypocritical or fake. You may feel angry if they are so nice or so humble and accommodating to one particular person while they show a less attractive side to you. It’s common for Nons to hope that the person who is Masking will be “found out” eventually.

Sometimes, it feels embarrassing to be a family member or spouse or partner to someone when their Masking is obvious to others. You may feel humiliated to be associated with them and fear a loss of respect, contempt or ridicule of others.

How to Cope

While it may be tempting to pull off the mask, it’s important to remember that each person has a right to their own thoughts and beliefs. It is important to remember your stuff is yours, and their stuff is theirs, and remain more focused on yourself and your own behavior. Where a person’s masking does not affect or harm you, it is best to leave it alone; if however a person’s masking does create harm for you (for example, involves either emotional or physical abuse), it is important to get yourself to safety.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t try to Thought Police or pull off another person’s mask.
  • Don’t waste energy trying to figure out which version of a person is the “real one”. The real person isn’t either the “good one” or the “bad one”, it’s the sum of them all.
  • Don’t stay in a room or a situation where you are being hurt or abused by another person. Politely and calmly move to a safer place.

What TO Do

  • Talk to others who understand Personality Disorders about the situation. Chances are they will recognize Masking.
  • Try to keep a stable and consistent view yourself and deal with the person as the sum of all their parts – not just the side you are seeing at any given time – good or bad.
  • Focus on your own behavior and build healthy relationships with others who will deal with you consistently and respectfully.

Related Personality Disorders:

Schizotypal, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Dependent

 

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#41 Manipulation

Definition:

Manipulation – The practice of steering an individual into a desired behavior for the purpose of achieving a hidden personal goal.

Collateral Damage

People with Personality Disorders often engage in behaviors which appear manipulative and controlling to those around them. While these manipulative acts may be deliberate and conscious on the part of the Personality Disordered individual, their focus is often not so much on the person they are controlling as it is on themselves. In many cases, the person is attempting to soothe internal feelings or fears by creating a focal point in a close relationship, rather than attempting to produce certain feelings in others – a bit like the way a puppeteer seeks an audience response through the puppet’s antics.

This helps explain why appeals for fairness or logical arguments are often ineffective in persuading people with Personality Disorders to behave more fairly or lovingly. For them, their own feelings take precedence, while the feelings and needs of others may appear small and insignificant. This can result in a dysfunctional Situational Ethic in the mind of the person with the Personality Disorder in which the end (resolving the internal feelings) justifies the means (controlling, manipulating or hurting someone close).

This does not qualify as an excuse for manipulative or hurtful behaviors. It can be helpful for Nons however to understand that this disconnect exists in the minds of some Personality Disordered persons, and that the manipulative or controlling behavior is not somehow deserved, or even on some levels personal.

How it Looks

  • Behaving in an outrageous or violent way in order to provoke an angry response – known as Baiting.
  • Casting oneself as a victim in order to evoke a sympathetic response – also known as Self-Victimization.
  • Overt acts of self-harm intended to generate a crisis for loved ones.
  • Overt cheating or flirting to evoke a sense of jealousy in others.
  • Withdrawal, avoidance or silent treatment designed to get the other person to pursue closeness.
  • Proxy Recruitment, or pitting two other people against each other in order to create conflict between others.
  • Chronic empty promises.
  • Raging with the intent of maintaining a state of conflict or to force another to pay greater attention.
  • Hoovering to persuade a withdrawing abuse victim to return to a state of closeness.

How it Feels

Acts of manipulation often evoke the greatest feelings of betrayal and anger in those who are affected by them. It is humiliating to discover that someone has been controlling you without your consent.

Learning To Cope with Manipulation

Your thoughts and feelings are your own property and nobody has a right to manipulate or control your feelings without your consent. Therefore it is important to establish boundaries to protect yourself and to detach emotionally from the manipulative person so that your own feelings cannot be used as a tool to control you.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t fly off the handle when somebody does something outrageous. Just get away from them.
  • Don’t take it personally when someone tries to manipulate or control you – chances are they are so focused on themselves that your feelings are insignificant to them.
  • Don’t argue or plead for compassion or justice from a controlling person. They may be looking at the situation through a very different lens than you and be blind to your logic.
  • Don’t retaliate or try to get revenge on a person who manipulates you. This will only make the situation worse, and you will likely regret it.
  • Don’t put yourself in a position where you can be easily controlled. If the manipulative person gets to you by spending your money or breaking objects which are valuable to you don’t allow them access to those things.
  • Don’t let your guard down when a manipulative person switches and starts being kind. Most abusive behaviors are cyclical and are based on the ebb and flow of the abuser’s feelings.
  • Don’t become isolated and suffer in silence. You need support to cope.

What TO Do

  • Quickly, calmly and without drama, leave the situation and get to a place where you are treated with respect.
  • Work on boundaries which will protect you, your loved ones and your property. Make people and things which are vulnerable off-limits to those who don’t have the ability to control their own behavior.
  • If appropriate, state clearly and calmly what the offending behavior is one time only – such as “when you do this, I feelthat”.
  • Get support and discuss your concerns with someone who cares about you and who understands Personality Disorders.
  • Spend time with people who will treat you with genuine respect and honor and uphold your dignity.

 

 

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#42 Low Self-Esteem

Definition:

Low Self-Esteem – A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.

Feeling like a Failure

People with low self-esteem often see themselves as unworthy of being successful in personal and professional settings, and in social relationships. They may view their successes and their strengths in a negative light, and may also believe others do too. As a result, they may develop an avoidance strategy to protect themselves from criticism.

Low self-esteem affects all kinds of people – not just those who suffer from Personality Disorders. However, people with Personality Disorders are often prone to an acute, consistent or pervasive form of low self-esteem which makes them behave in ways that are self-destructive – or destructive to those around them.

People will often try to hide their low self-esteem by trying to portray a facade of confidence, self-righteousness, or self-aggrandizement. They may also try to divert attention away from their own insecurity by highlighting or exaggerating other people’s weaknesses.

People who suffer from low self-esteem may behave in self-destructive, defensive or aggressive ways that can cause their fears to become self-fulfilling prophecies. For those with Personality Disorders, these feelings can be accepted as facts and all potentially competing positive thoughts disregarded or suppressed. This can lead to erratic mood swings from high to low.

Downward spirals of negative self-thought can be self-perpetuating. The emotional human mind often uses a form of shorthand which helps us to sort through the overwhelming clutter of data and competing thoughts which compete for our attention at any given time. Hence, we have the ability to broadly judge people and circumstances, political positions and religious views as “right” or “wrong” “good” or “bad”, “positive or “negative”, “safe” or “dangerous”, etc. even when there is only partial data or when the data we have is conflicted or compromised.

Taken to extremes, this type of judging can lead to Splitting, where a person views other people or circumstances as “all good” or “all bad”. Splitting is particularly common among people with Personality Disorders, and can also affect Nons who are close to them. Beaten down by a history of negative experiences and failures to bring about change in a loved-one, a Non may begin to see the situation as hopeless, and feel helpless and powerless. This is often not an accurate self-view, but an emotional exaggeration of the circumstances.

Low self-esteem is closely related to Depression and is a common form of Identity Disturbance.

What NOT to Do

When you are living with a person with a Personality Disorder who has unhealthy low self-esteem:

  • Don’t put yourself in the role of the “fixer” of a loved one’s mood or feelings. You will most likely just frustrate yourself and annoy the other person. You weren’t responsible for getting them into a negative thought pattern and it’s not your job to get them out of it.
  • Don’t feel obliged out of “love” or “commitment” to join in with a downward spiral of negative thought. They are free to have negative thoughts and you are free to have positive ones.
  • Don’t thought-police or unleash a barrage of criticisms about their attitude or their mood. You will only contribute to their sense of anxiety and low self-esteem.
  • Don’t nag, argue for hours, or get into circular conversations about it.
  • Don’t try to manipulate them “out of it” by trying to change the mood or the environment. Their sudden mood change was probably not caused by an external event and probably won’t be fixed by it.
  • Don’t blame yourself for what the other person is feeling or how they are behaving. Don’t look for ways to change yourself to try to fix another person. You are only responsible for your own words and actions.
  • Don’t stay in the room if the situation becomes physically, verbally or emotionally unhealthy.
  • Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.

When you are a Non-PD person who has an unhealthy low self-esteem:

  • Don’t immediately deny what you are feeling or ignore it. Some negative thought cycles are the result of “Depressive Realism” – a sober self-evaluation that things are really not that great.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of Splitting – if your thoughts are “purely” negative then they are probably not very accurate.
  • Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret. Try to avoid becoming isolated when you are facing negative self-thoughts.

What TO Do

When you are living with a person with a personality disorder who has an unhealthy low self-esteem:

  • Remind yourself that this may be related to a mental illness and that you are not to blame.
  • Detach yourself from being responsible for how another person is feeling, behaving or thinking.
  • Turn your attention on your own behavior and your own thought patterns. Discard the unhealthy and learn what is healthy for yourself and pursue it – regardless of what reaction you get from the person with the Personality Disorder.
  • Talk about it! Talk to trusted friends and family about what you are dealing with.
  • If you are ever confronted with violence or abuse, get yourself and any children immediately out of the room and call for help. Report all acts of violence, threats of violence or self-harm to the police immediately – every time.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle and positive thoughts. You will need them. If necessary, explain to your loved-one gently, but firmly that you are doing what you need to do for yourself and then close the conversation.

When you are a Non who has a low self-esteem:

  • Try to embrace the gray. In every circumstance, try to see both sides of your situation, the positive AND the negative.
  • Write down your fears and evaluate them with honesty and candor.
  • Share your concerns with wise, caring friends who can see what you are dealing with and will give thoughtful encouragement. Work hard to be around people who will encourage you to be healthy and help you to feel better about yourself. This can be a therapist, a teacher, a family member or a friend.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

 

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#43 Lack of Object Constancy

Definition:

Lack of Object Constancy – An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Lacking Faith in Reality

Object Constancy is a developmental skill which most children do not develop until two or three years of age. It takes time, and experience of the reliability of the key people in their world, for them to develop a sense that when Mommy leaves the room, she’s still on the same planet, and will reappear again.

When they are still very young, infants often experience Separation Anxiety whenever they are separated from a parent, even for a second. They may begin crying unless they are held or unless they can see their parent close by, terrified that they have “lost” their parent.

When toddlers become mobile and begin to explore their world, they often begin to take short excursions to explore their environment, turning their attention to an interesting object and checking back with mom or dad every few minutes to feel safe again. As the child develops, the time between “check in’s” tends to extend longer. By the time a child is 4 or 5 years old, most children can spend several hours at pre-school or school away from their parents without experiencing significant separation anxiety.

The ability to recognize that although they can’t see their parent, that their parent is still “there” and that they are still safe is sometimes referred to as Object Constancy.

Object Constancy is the ability to understand that some things or people remain constant – even when we can’t see them or verify that they are “still there”. Object constancy can apply to objects or to people and relationships. People who suffer from Personality Disorders sometimes experience a lack or a deficiency in object constancy. This can be at the root of issues such as Fear of Abandonment, as well as Selective Amnesia, False Accusations and Dissociative Memories.

What it Looks Like

  • A baby cries as soon as a parent leaves the room.
  • A partner calls or texts repeatedly – more than 10 times in a single day.
  • A parent assumes that their teenager has run away when they are 15 minutes late getting home from school.
  • A housewife has repeated affairs while her husband is at work because she feels abandoned.

 

 

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#44 Lack of Conscience

Definition

Lack of Conscience – Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.

The Missing Moral Compass

One of the things many Nons find especially painful is the way some people with Personality Disorders can appear completely oblivious to the pain and chaos they cause. This can range from the partner who is unconcerned about breaking promises repeatedly, to the physically abusive person who appears to have no concept of the need to change their behavior.

It’s like they just don’t ‘get’ that sorry is not just a word you say, it is something that involves acknowledging abusive or neglectful actions and then taking firm steps to change them. Accountability to some people is almost foreign concept.

Some PD/Non conflicts related to conscience can also be understood in terms of Situational Ethics, where the PD individual feels their end justifies their means.

What it Looks Like

  • A parent beats a child and then tells the child, “you made me do that”.
  • A sex offender shows no remorse, and goes on to repeat offences.
  • A teenager posts a video on-line of them beating up a homeless person.
  • A colleague sabotages a co-worker’s efforts and then bullies them for attempting to seek redress from management.

How it feels

When someone you care about abuses or neglects your basic human rights and needs, it can lead to feelings of low self-worth, doubt and depression. You might wonder what you’ve done to deserve it, or you might wonder what you can do to make them pay attention and take responsibility for their behavior. Sadly, if someone with a Personality Disorder lacks a proper moral compass, asking them to change is rarely successful.

What NOT to Do

  • Do NOT accept abuse, seek help from appropriate outside sources.
  • Do NOT blame yourself, nothing you did or did not do caused this situation.
  • Do NOT try to ‘fix’ the person. Speak the truth once, and once only, and then take steps to protect yourself if the person shows no signs of changing their behaviour.
  • Do NOT act in ways which are contrary to your own moral values, or go into ‘payback’ mode.

What TO Do

  • DO report abuse of yourself, children or animals to the appropriate authorities.
  • DO read up on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every one of those statements applies to you and your children.
  • DO take steps to protect the resources you need for your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of any dependents.

Related Personality Disorders

Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic

 

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#45 Invalidation

Definition:

Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.

The Distorted Mirror

Abusive people will often use invalidation as a means of diverting attention away from flaws in their own logic, character and behavior while pressuring others to yield control. It works by deflecting attention away from the subject or problem at hand, and focusing on a false surrogate topic which can be summed up as: “look what’s wrong with you”.

The victim is thus maneuvered into a position where in order to deal with the problem they want to discuss, they must first demonstrate to the perpetrator that they have fixed all the flaws in themselves. This means the perpetrator successfully avoids addressing the original problem or issue.

What it Looks Like

  • Statement: “You hit me!”
  • Invalidating Response: “There you go again – Why are you always angry at me?”
  • Statement: “I care about you.”
  • Invalidating Response: “I know you don’t believe that.”
  • Statement: “I like my friends and I want to spend time with them.”
  • Invalidating Response: “If you cared about me you would want to spend time with me.”
  • Statement: “I’d like us to share the chores.”
  • Invalidating Response: “You just don’t care about my bad back do you?”
  • Statement: “We can’t afford that.”
  • Invalidating Response: “We can always afford the things you want.”
  • Statement: “I don’t understand what you mean.”
  • Invalidating Response: “You just don’t get it do you?”

How it Feels

Invalidation often deals an unexpected blow to your self-esteem. You may approach a conversation looking to improve a relationship or work on a problem only to find yourself on the defensive, feeling lost, confused, scared and with no resolution in sight.
You may wonder “What’s wrong with me that I can’t get through to him/her?” or, “What’s wrong with him/her that they just won’t listen?”

Nons often reach for their instinctive fight or flight responses when confronted with an invalidating comment. That can lead them to respond in an inappropriately aggressive manner, with anger and exasperation, or they may feel a defeatist urge to just give in. Either way, the perpetrator gets what they want and the diversion is established. What generally works better is an unemotional, yet assertive response.

Coping with Invalidation

Invalidation is an aggressive form of emotional abuse. If someone uses invalidation on you it is important to recognize it and to understand that they are not looking for a compromise or a way to meet you in the middle at that particular moment. They are using a power play to win – to suppress your needs in favor of their own. Recognizing invalidation should be a cue to calmly reject the falsehood in the accusation and quickly exit the conversation.

When someone uses invalidation, you are temporarily released from any moral obligation to compromise or try to further resolve the problem. Instead, it is a time to focus your energy on protecting yourself, your children, your assets and your dignity. Compromises and resolution can be attempted later, if and when the other person decides to adopt a different approach and communicate with you in a respectful, validating manner.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t accept the premise of an invalidating statement or comment.
  • Don’t take the bait and be drawn into a fight or a circular conversation about an invalidating comment. Stay focused on the issues that really matter.
  • Don’t argue or debate or repeatedly go over the issues with someone who is invalidating you. You may end up arguing for a very long time and get nowhere, and, the harder you try the more opportunities they have to further invalidate you. State the truth once. Then save discussion for a time when they are ready to listen with respect.
  • Don’t stay in the same room with a person who speaks to you with anything less than the respect you are worth. Don’t wait for them to understand your point of view. Take a break. Remove yourself politely and tell them you’ll be back at a later time when you feel safe.

What TO Do

  • If you find yourself feeling shame over the statements another person is making about you then it is possible that the problem is them – not with you. Healthy people don’t go around shaming others.
  • Confront invalidation once, calmly with truth and without emotion.
  • End the conversation as soon as an invalidating statement is given.
  • Allow the other person their feelings and thoughts – without taking responsibility for making them see the truth.
  • Focus on seeing yourself in a validating way. Remind yourself of your qualities and strengths. Strive for excellence – not perfection.
  • Surround yourself with healthy people who will tell you with kindness what they see of your strengths and weaknesses. Find a few supportive friends who will lift you up when you are down and of whom you can safely ask – “Am I really that bad?”
  • Write down the qualities you like about yourself – remind yourself that you have gifts and talents – that you are unique in this world and there will never be another you.

 

 

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#46 Intimidation

Definition:

Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.

The Hint of Danger

Intimidation is a form of passive aggressive threat made when someone wants to scare you in a veiled manner which is hard to challenge or hold them accountable for. The underlying message is usually some variant of “I am stronger than you.”

What it Looks Like

  • Destruction or damage of an object which has some worth or significance to the victim.
  • Cruelty to animals in the sight of a victim.
  • Cruelty shown to another person in the sight of the victim.
  • Self harm in the sight of the victim.
  • Threatening language directed away from the victim but in their hearing.
  • Being “extra nice” to the victim while physically demonstrating violent or mock-violent behavior.

How it Feels

Intimidation is a form of threat and is designed to produce feelings of fear. It can also generate feelings of confusion, self-doubt and anxiety as it is form of violent behavior which may seem hard to substantiate or explain to others.

Learning To Cope

The best approach to dealing with intimidation is to remove the audience, and the victim, and recruit professional help to deal with the threatening behavior. It may also be helpful to document the incidents, so you have a clear recollection of what happened if you ever need it.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t stay in the same room with a person who behaves in a threatening way.
  • Don’t leave children vulnerable to violence.
  • Don’t play down threatening behavior or fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t hurt you or that you can deal with it.
  • Don’t try to deal with intimidation alone.

What TO Do

  • Quickly, calmly and without drama, leave the room, the house, the company of anyone who subjects you to intimidating behavior.
  • Call the police and report any acts of violence against you, property, animals or other people.
  • Get support and discuss your concerns with someone who cares about you and who understands Personality Disorders

 

 

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#47 Infantilization

Definition:

Infantilization – Treating a child as if they are much younger than their actual age.

Honey, will you please NOT Grow up?

Some parents with Personality Disorders feel an overwhelming compulsion to be loved or needed. In some cases, this manifests itself in a dysfunctional style of child raising which constrains the child’s normal mental, emotional and social growth.

As children mature, they progressively develop an increased sense of independence and capability, and as they do so, they naturally want to make more of their own choices and exert more control over their lives. This also means they gradually put more distance between themselves and their parents.

For some PD parents, this development of independent thoughts, actions and opinions can seem threatening. All parents naturally experience a degree of stress as their children become more self-directed – the PD parent however may respond by taking increasingly desperate actions to delay or hinder their child’s development.

What it Looks Like

  • A parent routinely and voluntarily shares the same bed as their 10 year old child.
  • A parent routinely speaks in a baby-style sing-song voice to a teenager.
  • A parent routinely assumes completely unnecessary responsibility for an older child’s wellbeing, including dressing, bathing and feeding.
  • A parent routinely buys their child age-inappropriate clothing and toys or arranges age-inappropriate activities.
  • A parent routinely and inappropriately cuts in and speaks for a child when someone else speaks directly to the child.

How it Feels

A child who is subject to Infantilization may be inclined to try to “let it go”, and not challenge a parent who is treating them in an age-inappropriate way in order to keep the peace. Some may develop the habits of Enabling or Learned helplessness. Others may act out in anger, become prone to avoidance, or commit acts of sabotage.

Children who remain infantilized into their teen years and beyond often feel shame and embarrassment in front of their peers, especially if their parent acts out the trait in public. Some may begin to avoid friendships and social interaction, or may be actively prevented from age-appropriate activities by the PD parent, further hindering their social and emotional development.

Children and youths who are infantilized may be at an increased risk of acts of Self Harm or Impulsiveness, experience academic difficulties, and may possess poor social skills in adulthood.

Sometimes, one parent will disapprove of another dysfunctional parent’s infantilization, yet fail to proactively address the problem in an attempt to keep the peace and avoid conflict. This is a form of Enabling.

Infantilization is a form of Child Abuse, which starves a Child’s emotional being to feed the PD parent’s emotional need. There is no known legislation which outlaws Infantilization. However, some observant child advocates, guardian ad litem’s, therapists and evaluators may recognize the abuse, and take it into account in their reporting and decision making.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t avoid a child who has been infantilized, or criticize them for being immature.
  • Don’t make a special case for an infantilized child, or single them out in front of peers.
  • Don’t criticize a child’s parent in front of the child. They will think that you are criticizing them too.
  • Don’t accept infantilization as normal, and “go with the flow”. Don’t immediately remove a task just because it is challenging. Give the child every opportunity to succeed and grow.
  • Don’t go on a crusade or set rigid benchmarks for a child’s emotional or physical development. You will only hurt the child. All children develop at different rates and not all cases of “late bloomers” are the result of infantilization. The goal is always to encourage each child to be the best that they can be.

What TO Do

  • Treat a child who is being infantilized in an age appropriate manner, and, if you are able provide them with opportunities to “flex their big kid muscles”.
  • If you suspect a child is being sexually or physically abused or neglected, report it to your local authorities.
  • Give the child honest sincere encouragement (not fake praise) for any job well done.

Related Personality Disorders:

Borderline, Histrionic, Dependent

 

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#48 Chronic Impulsiveness

Definition:

Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Impulsiveness is a normal form of human behavior. All of us make some decisions impulsively, based on “gut-feel”, “instinct”, mood or whim. And life would be very dull we didn’t!

Impulse can be a tremendous ally. Some people have made the best decisions of their lives impulsively, and many people make big decisions based on “gut feelings” – decisions such as which career to follow, who to marry, where to buy a house or where to invest their savings.

However, in some circumstances, impulse can be a tremendous liability. Some people have made the worst decisions of their lives impulsively based on that same “gut feeling”.

In his groundbreaking book “Emotional Intelligence”, psychologist Daniel Goleman explains how our emotional mind, which is based in the brain’s limbic system, is distinct from our intellectual mind which is based in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The emotional mind makes lightning-fast decisions about things we like and dislike, hate, love and fear. The intellectual, logical mind makes slower, more deliberate, rational decisions.

Most mature, mentally healthy adults learn how to regulate their impulsive urges with logical reasoning, applying the wisdom of experience to minimize risks and maximize potential rewards.

For example, a married woman who has children may have the urge to have an affair with a co-worker, and then reasons that the consequences of the affair would be devastating to her children and her husband, so she doesn’t. A young man may feel the urge to drive his car at 120 mph, yet restrains the urge because he knows he may wreck his car or may get pulled over by the police. An angry employee may feel the urge to hit a belligerent boss, and hold back because her ability to reason convinces her doing so would probably result in the loss of her job.

Not all impulsive urges are wrong. The impulse to duck and raise your hands to protect your head when an object is hurled at you could save your life. A couple may travel to a vacation in Las Vegas and, knowing the odds are against them, may gamble some of their hard-earned money, knowing they will probably lose but enjoying the thrill of the chance that they just might win a fortune. A young graduate may decide to forego a great job opportunity because he/she wants to head off and “see the world” for a year.

Impulsiveness starts to become dysfunctional when those spur-of-the-moment decisions are insufficiently regulated by rational thought, and chronically harm the decision maker, their immediate family or other innocent bystanders.

The frontal lobe, or prefrontal cortex, is the area of the brain located just behind the forehead. It has been shown by neurologists to be associated with predicting the consequences of actions, ethical decision-making and pattern recognition. In other words, the prefrontal cortex is the risk/reward-calculation zone of the brain. Experiments have shown that, in most people, the prefrontal cortex reaches full development at around the age of 25. The lag between full physical maturity and prefrontal cortex maturity is sometimes used to explain the apparent emotional immaturity in teenagers and young adults, who often make decisions which appear “reckless” to older adults.

In his best-selling book “Blink”, author Malcolm Gladwell gives a very readable overview of how impulsive decision making can, at the same time, be both a powerful asset and a costly liability.
There are four commonly used sub-categories for impulsiveness:

  1. Urgency – A desire to act immediately to avoid a threat or avoid missing a perceived opportunity;
  2. Whimsical – Little or no serious consideration of positive and negative consequences of actions;
  3. Procrastination – Unfettered acceptance of diversions to circumvent an undesirable task;
  4. Thrill-seeking – Experiencing a thrill associated with taking a big risk.

What Chronic Impulsiveness Looks Like

  • • A man spends the family’s monthly budget on a “sure thing” at a gambling institution.
  • • A woman wants to stay married yet still has affairs.
  • • A man repeatedly quits jobs for no adequate reason.
  • • A man starts a brawl while he has his children with him.
  • • An employee berates and insults her boss and co-workers when faced with a minor disappointment.
  • • A woman threatens her husband with a loaded weapon after he returns home late from work.

What it feels like

Depending on your situation, your own psychological make-up and your current mood, you may find episodes of impulsivity thrilling, exhausting, entertaining, frightening or threatening.

However, if you are a mentally healthy adult and you are living with a person who routinely exhibits a dysfunctional impulsiveness, you will likely be very concerned about your own safety and the safety of any children and/or innocent bystanders.

You may feel frustrated at your inability to “talk sense” into such a person. You may also feel torn between a desire to run to safety and a desire to stay and try to help the person who is behaving impulsively.

What NOT to do

  • • Don’t ignore any threats to your own personal safety or the safety of any children or bystanders.
  • • Don’t repeatedly try to talk sense into a routinely impulsive person. If they don’t listen to their own rational thoughts, they are unlikely to pay attention to yours.
  • • Don’t fight or retaliate or fight fire with fire.
  • • Don’t leave precious objects, keepsakes, documents, resources and bank accounts in the custody of a reckless person. Protect your assets.
  • • Don’t take responsibility or blame yourself for the reckless actions of an impulsive person.
  • • Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.

What TO do

  • • Protect your assets. Move important objects out of the reach of an impulsive person. Make copies of important documents, close joint bank accounts. Move precious items to a safe place.
  • • Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Develop an emergency plan for any scenario that may include violence or abuse being directed towards or your children.
  • • Protect your children and yourself physically from any impulsive acts of violence. Call the police if necessary.
  • • Talk about it! Talk to trusted friends and family about what you are dealing with. A reality check can help enormously in assisting you to make clear decisions for your own wellbeing.

 

 

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#49 Imposed Isolation

When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Sometimes, people with personality disorders use a technique of “Divide and Conquer” to retain control over the people closest to them. One of the most effective ways to maintain an abusive cycle is to ensure that the abuse victim does not have access to outside support. People who represent social rivals or who have a close relationship with Non-PD’s are often criticized, split black, and made unwelcome and the Non-PD is warned to stay away.

Often, those who are victims of abuse participate willingly in the isolation because they are afraid of what might happen if they reach out to others:

  • Other’s might not believe them
  • Other’s might spread embarrassing gossip about them.
  • Others might try to intervene in a counter-productive way.
  • The abuser may find out and punish them.

Examples of Isolation

  • A woman is afraid to spend an evening with her friends because she knows her husband is jealous of the relationship she has with them and is afraid of how he will react when she comes home.
  • A man is afraid to call his parents long-distance because he knows his wife is jealous of them and will complain about the cost.
  • A young girl is afraid to spend time with peers because she is ashamed of her family abuse and does not want others to find out what goes on in her home.
  • A mother of a girl who has attempted suicide does not attend social gatherings because she is afraid people might ask how her daughter is doing.
  • A man will not speak to others about his wife’s abuse of him because he is afraid he will look weak.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t assume you are the only person in the world who is going through what you are.
  • Don’t be ashamed of your situation.
  • Don’t blame yourself for someone else’s bad behavior.
  • Don’t let yourself become Isolated.

What TO Do:

  • Remember there are millions of people going through the same thing.
  • Find people who understand Personality Disorders and who understand what you are going through.
  • Find A friend, therapist, coach or mentor who you can trust and visit with them regularly.
  • Pick the lesser of two evils – it is hard to break the silence but it is even harder to struggle alone.

 

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#50 Identity Disturbance

Definition:

Identity Disturbance – A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view

Who Are You Today?

Identity disturbances involve an illogical or incoherent, inconsistent pattern of thoughts and feelings which go beyond logical pessimism, low self-image or a negative outlook. People with an Identity Disturbance may frequently speak, think or act in ways which are contradictory, even to themselves. They may think they are fabulous one day, and think nothing of themselves the next. Their actions or thoughts may flip from self-serving into self-effacing, or from healthy choices into self-destructive patterns for no apparent reason. They may excel in one activity and appear incompetent in another, or oscillate seasonally from energetic and enthusiastic to lethargic and withdrawn.

This arises partly because positive and negative thought patterns are not always based on facts. The human mind has an ability to simplify the complexity of the world with quick, emotional judgments about what we consider good and bad, desirable and undesirable. However, if a person’s emotional thoughts are not backed up by rational fact-based thoughts, this emotional “shorthand” can result in erroneous black and white thinking – known as splitting – which when applied to the self can lead to an inaccurate self-perception.
People who suffer from Personality Disorders are sometimes prone to think more emotionally than logically. This can lead to extreme emotional highs and lows in response to the natural ebb and flow of life’s circumstances, which can lead to make unsubstantiated, grandiose claims of superiority one day and self-condemning statements of worthlessness the next.

In a 2000 study of patients with identity disturbances, Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, and Drew Westen identified four types of identity disturbance:

  1. Role absorption (in which patients tend to define themselves in terms of a single role or cause),
  2. Painful incoherence (a subjective sense of lack of coherence),
  3. Inconsistency (in thought, feeling, and behavior),
  4. Lack of commitment (e.g., to jobs or values).

The researchers concluded that identity disturbance distinguishes patients with borderline personality disorder from other psychiatric patients and that it occurs in patients with BPD whether or not they have a history of being abused.

Source: Identity Disturbance in Borderline Personality Disorder: An Empirical Investigation by Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, A.B., and Drew Westen, Ph.D.

What it Looks Like

  • A woman frequently flips between describing herself as a “great catch” and as a failure in relationships.
  • A mother oscillates between seeing herself as indispensable to her children and rejected by them.
  • A man is a high-functioning, charismatic over-achiever at work and a depressed recluse at home.

What it feels like

People who live with someone who has an identity disturbance often find themselves wondering which “face” they will be presented with when they next walk through the door. They may try to find logical patterns in their behavior, or try to work out ways to control their mood.

Because of the inconsistencies in what the person with the Personality Disorder is doing and saying, Nons may accuse them of “faking it” or “putting it on”. They may begin to suspect that the person with the Personality Disorder is presenting a false negative view in order to excuse themselves for breaking promises, escape from consequences of their behaviors or to avoid responsibility.

When you are living with a person who has an Identity Disturbance, the only workable choice is usually to accept they have a psychological condition which is unrelated to external events and circumstances. It’s tempting to try to improve the situation by repeating arguments or reactions that have worked for you in the past – or in other relationships – however, this will generally result in confusion or frustration.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t put yourself in the role of the “fixer” of a loved one’s mood or feelings. You weren’t responsible for getting them into a negative thought pattern and it’s not your job to get them out of it.
  • Don’t feel obliged out of “love” or “commitment” to join in with a downward spiral of negative thought. They are free to have negative thoughts and you are free to have positive ones.
  • Don’t thought-police or unleash a barrage of criticisms about their attitude or their mood. Allow a person with a Personality Disorder to own their own thoughts and feelings. That’s their stuff.
  • Don’t nag, argue for hours, or get into circular conversations.
  • Don’t try to manipulate them “out of it” by trying to change the mood or the environment. Their sudden mood change was probably not caused by an external event and probably won’t be fixed by it.
  • Don’t blame yourself for what the other person is feeling or how they are behaving. Don’t look for ways to change yourself to try to fix another person. You are only responsible for your own words and actions.
  • Don’t stay in the room if the situation becomes physically, verbally or emotionally unhealthy.
  • Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.

What TO do

  • Remind yourself that this is a mental illness and that you are not to blame.
  • Detach yourself from being responsible for how another person is feeling, behaving or thinking.
  • Turn your attention on your own behavior and your own thought patterns. Discard the unhealthy and learn what is healthy for yourself and pursue it – regardless of what reaction you get from the person with the Personality Disorder.
  • Talk about it! Talk to trusted friends and family about what you are dealing with.
  • If you are ever confronted with violence or abuse, get yourself and any children immediately out of the room and call for help. Report all acts of violence, threats of violence or self-harm to the police.
  • Maintain your healthy lifestyle and thought patterns. You will need them. If necessary, explain to your loved-one gently, but firmly that you are doing what you need to do for yourself and then close the conversation.

Related Personality Disorders:

Schizotypal, Borderline

 

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#51 Hysteria

Hysteria – An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.

Being a Drama Major or Drama Queen

Many people enjoy 15 minutes of fame, however a Drama Major or Drama Queen has a constant need to seek out and hold the attention of others through manifesting extremes of emotion. Call it a hissy fit, a tantrum, or a case of hysterics – the effect is the same. The limelight is theirs, even if it was someone else’s catastrophe brought them on stage in the first place.

The goal of a hysterical person is to draw attention to themselves and to their plight – often from people who do not know them well and who are more likely to give a sympathetic response. It’s a behavior which can manipulate total strangers into serving the PD person’s emotional needs.

There is nothing inherently dysfunctional about desiring other people’s attention, except when the scale and context are inappropriate, and prevent someone with a genuine crisis or need from receiving the assistance they need.

How the script plays out

  • A parent’s behavior demands more attention at the emergency room than their injured child.
  • A cousin starts an emotional argument with relatives while the bride and groom are cutting the cake.
  • A widower needs to be carried out of the church behind the coffin at a funeral.
  • A parent rushes their child to the hospital with a minor complaint.
  • A man habitually calls the police when no-one is at risk.
  • A person calls or shows up unannounced when they have been politely asked not to, claiming a crisis makes it necessary they ignore your request.
  • A person always repeats the most outrageous, salacious, and dramatic gossip in order to get attention.
  • A man threatens a lawsuit when a waiter spills his coffee.
  • Someone seems to be more often than not in a state of crisis for no apparent or logical reason.

Hysterical people take everyday situations and elevate them to a level that is inappropriate, unhelpful and diversionary. They may sometimes appear more comfortable in a crisis than in a calm situation. They are the kind of people who threaten, bluster, overreact, take it up a notch and go to extremes, becoming like black holes for the emotional energy if those around them.

Like emotional addicts, they are constantly seeking another “fix” of sympathy, admiration, envy, respect, significance and attention.

One of the worst impacts of hysteria is that it often diverts resources away from real problems and puts the spotlight on the person who is acting hysterical.

People who know a hysterical person well are often inclined to become suspicious of them over time and withdraw their support. When this happens, hysterical people are commonly driven to recruit new sympathizers. It’s not uncommon for people who suffer from HPD to recruit whole new sets of friends every year or so. There may be a tendency to idealize these friends while they are new and sympathetic and to devalue them when they become withdrawn.

What it feels like

If you are a companion or family member to a Drama Major or Drama Queen, you are probably suffering from crisis fatigue. You probably yearn just to be a “normal” couple or a “normal” family, and long for mundane days, ordinary affairs and predictable events. You may wish you could just become invisible and let some other household get all the attention. In public, you may be wishing you could carry a sign that says “I’m not really like them” – except that to do so would just draw more attention.

You may find yourself trying to “clean up” the mess behind your loved-one. You may be familiar with the impossible task of trying to appear as though you are a reasonable rational human being and you understand other people’s skepticism about your loved-one’s behaviors while at the same time trying to behave supportively so it doesn’t look like you are part of the problem.

You may feel humiliated by their behavior. You may wonder what people must think of you and you may be thinking that people assume you’re probably at least half as bad as them.

The good news – most discerning people can differentiate between the characters that make up a family, and can recognize who are the balanced ones.

The bad news – most people will never tell you what they really think of your family member or partner, for fear that you might take it the wrong way and reject them. Unless you make the first move – such as move out or file for divorce and declare your independence most people will never tell you what they really think about the Drama Major or Drama Queen in your house. After you move out, a number of people will be only too happy to tell you what they always thought – once there is no personal risk for them to do so.

How to Cope

While you may find a Drama Major or Drama Queen’s behavior exhausting and frustrating, if you step in and try to control them or try to stand between them and the attention they crave, you will have about as much success as a concerned parent who tries to keep their teenage addict away from their next fix. You will not be successful and you may get hurt in the process.

Unlike cocaine or heroin, attention is not a controlled substance and seeking or grabbing attention is not a crime. Therefore you are not going to be able control how much attention another person chooses to draw to themselves. You will have to let them have it. Your main concern should be to consider if this behavior is hurting you or any children involved.

If they are hurting children by their behavior, do your best to protect those children – especially if you are their other parent. If you are not their parent then you are limited in what you can realistically do – beyond reporting any child abuse concerns to the authorities and offering those children a supportive environment whenever you are around them.

If they are hurting you, then you need to consider protecting yourself. This begins by working on your own boundaries, and considering removing yourself from any environment that is not healthy for you, if and when appropriate.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t stand between a hysterical person and the attention they crave. You might as well stand in front of a freight train.
  • Don’t try to “talk sense” into them – you can’t fight addiction with logic.
  • Don’t assume the responsibility of fixing a hysterical person.
  • Don’t try to “cover” for them – people are smart and will draw their own conclusions regardless of your efforts.
  • Don’t blame yourself for the behavior. Drama is addictive, and you are peripheral to the Drama Major or Drama Queen’s need for a fix.

What TO do

  • Protect yourself and any children from harm as best you can.
  • Promptly report any incidents of neglect or child abuse to the authorities.
  • Talk to trusted friends about what you are experiencing. Level with them so they will be comfortable in telling you what they can see and help you to see things “from the outside looking in”.
  • Detach yourself from feeling responsible for a loved-ones behavior. Let it go. You are not responsible for their actions. You are only responsible for the way you have behaved. Resolve that you are going to detach yourself from anybody else’s behavior and just be responsible for your own behavior from now on.
  • Forgive yourself for your past mistakes. If you live with a drama major, chances are you have “lost it” a few times. That’s not the best way but that is in the past. Resolve to learn better ways to react to and protect yourself from your loved-one’s addiction.
  • Forgive yourself for the way other people behave in your life. Resolve to be the best “you” that you can be.

 

 

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#52 Relationship Hyper Vigilance

Relationship Hyper Vigilance – Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.

Putting Life under the Microscope

When someone’s internal world is chaotic and unbalanced, as it is for many Personality Disordered people, they may feel the need to scrutinize others, or analyze things to a point which is beyond what’s healthy or balanced. It can verge on invasive if you are the one being put under the magnifying glass.

Another form of relationship hyper vigilance stems from feelings of paranoia or persecution, where the person is overly concerned with potential ‘threats’ and is constantly on the lookout for them.

Note that the term “hyper vigilance” classically refers to a sensory response experienced by people who suffer from PTSD. The term is being used metaphorically in this article.

What it Looks Like

  • A man spends several hours analyzing a casual comment made by an acquaintance.
  • A man drives two miles out of his way to avoid driving past the home of a person who knows him.
  • A woman makes far reaching assumptions on the moods of her husband based on his body language.
  • A man reads about a disease in a magazine and immediately suspects that he suffers from it.

What It Feels Like

If you are in a relationship with a hyper vigilant person you are probably familiar with the frustration of watching vast quantities of personal energy and time being squandered over seemingly trivial events and the opinions of others.

You may find yourself biting your lip to keep the peace some of the time only to explode in frustration with an angry tirade. This rarely results in a change in your situation.

Or it may be your every expression, word, movement and outside relationship which is being watched and asked about. This can lead to feeling like you are not trusted, or have you ‘walking on eggshells’ to try and stay out of the way of the PD person’s laser-vision.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t spend your energy trying to fix or change a hyper-vigilant person.
  • Don’t thought-police or chastise them for their personal choices. Their thoughts are their own property – and yours are yours.
  • Don’t give in to any pressure to conform to a standard that is unrealistic or unattainable.
  • Don’t apologize for being yourself.
  • Don’t isolate yourself or succumb to the pressure to become isolated.

What TO do

  • Maintain healthy outside interests and recreation.
  • Spend some time every day away from the attentions and the observations of a hyper vigilant person.
  • Be yourself regardless of how much approval or disapproval you get from a Personality Disordered Individual.
  • Get support from others who understand personality disorders and understand what you are going through.

 

 

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#53 Hoovering

Definition:

Hoovers & Hoovering – A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Here We Go Again

Many Nons have experienced the phenomenon we call Hoovering, which is a metaphor derived from the popular (and effective) brand of vacuum cleaners. And just as dust gets caught up in the vacuum cleaner, many Nons get sucked back in to the status quo when they attempt to escape an abusive situation.

It is most likely to happen when:

  1. There has just been an emotional outburst, episode of violence or other extreme period of abuse; at the point where the perpetrator realizes the victim is likely to leave, retaliate or seek help from others.
  2. The victim starts to pull away from the relationship, leave the relationship or establish firmer boundaries within the relationship.
  3. The abuser internally feels unworthy and fears the loss of the relationship.

The abuser may shower their victim with gifts, compliments, promises, demonstrations of love and acts of affection in order to win back the victim’s trust or faith, and therefore maintain the status quo.

Hoovering is one of the key components of an Abusive Cycle. It is the tactic which ensures many abusers do not have to live alone. It can also act as the ‘plus’ side when the victim calculates the emotional balance sheet, manipulating them into sustaining the abusive relationship.

Like a tango, it takes two: the person doing the hoovering and the person being sucked in.

How it Feels

Hoovering feels good -and that’s the point! When you are being hoovered, your warm-and-fuzzy buttons are all getting pushed, your feelings are getting validated, your needs are being met, your wildest dreams are coming true, your opinions matter, you are the most important person in the world to that certain person.

It often feels like vindication. You might find yourself thinking “Finally! The message is getting through! I’m not crazy after all! Now THAT is what I’m talking about! They really DO love me!” But watch out…

When you are starving for any emotional food, just about any kind of personal validation tastes wonderful. However, just because it tastes good, doesn’t mean it’s actually healthy or nourishing.

Manipulative abusers are often adept at giving their victims enough of what they want to keep them where they want them. Even slave owners know that they have to feed them enough to keep them healthy and productive.

How do I know if a hoover is “real”?

It can be a struggle to work out whether a hoover really is a hoover, because it initially looks like it could be a sincere attempt at change by the personality-disordered person whom they care about. And as Nons, that’s what we want!

The mistake in that logic is that it assumes that it can’t be both. Many abusers and personality-disordered people really are sincere and really are trying when they also are hoovering. People who are hoovering you may not be consciously trying to manipulate you or deceive you. They may sincerely be trying, even hoping, to make it “better this time”. They may not be consciously lying when they make promises of change and put them into practice. They may be so convincing because they are so convinced, at least right now.

You are going to have to be like the adult in a parent-child relationship, who listens to their child’s black-and-white promises and says “Hmm, we’ll wait and see”.

If you’re not sure if you’re being hoovered you should wait and see. Take the long-term view. A person’s character is like an average of their behaviors over their lifetime. People can and do make positive changes in their lives sometimes, deciding to change their behavior for the better. Wait a year and see.

If you feel you can’t wait a year, it could be your relationship balance sheet is deeply in the red, which is an alarm bell worth listening to.

How to Cope

If somebody who has been treating you abusively starts to treat you well, there’s no harm in letting them knock themselves out and give yourself a break, just be careful not to take the bait to erode your boundaries, settle for less than you deserve, stop doing things that are healthy for you or stop exercising your own independence.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t change any of your boundaries or allow them to be broken during a hoover.
  • Don’t relax or give up on any consequences of previous poor decisions for the abuser.
  • Don’t stop any healthy activities or relationships you may be engaged in elsewhere.
  • Don’t assume the hoover will last forever.
  • Don’t use a hoover to bargain for a better life. You are setting up the abuser to break a promise and setting yourself up for a disappointment.

What TO do

  • Remember that mood swings are a normal part of a number of personality disorders and that what goes up must come down.
  • Accept that highs and lows are a part of everyone’s emotional life and that, for a personality-disordered person, those may be more intense and lead to swings in behavior.
  • Maintain all your healthy lifestyle habits and relationships with others.
  • Take the long-term view. Wait a year if it is safe to do so.
  • Get yourself off the roller coaster. Position yourself so that your safety and happiness isn’t dependent on a personality-disordered person’s mood.
  • If the hoovering was preceded by acts of violence towards you, a child, or a pet, get advice from a Domestic Violence service immediately.

 

 

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#54 Holiday, Anniversary & Memory Triggers

THAT Time of the Year

Certain holidays and anniversaries tend to trigger emotional memories, and can make people who suffer from Personality Disorders more susceptible to riding the emotional elevator.

These events and occasions can include:

  • Holiday Triggers, such as Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and Religious Holidays.
  • Anniversary Triggers,such as Wedding anniversaries, engagement anniversaries, deaths, divorce and other events of major emotional significance.
  • Trauma memory triggers, such as accidents and breakups.
  • Emotional Memory Triggers, such as visits to old locations; visits with distant family or friends; hearing old music from an emotional time; seeing old movies; eating certain foods that are associated with the past; viewing old photographs & videos; and any other sights, sounds, tastes and smells that bring back emotional memories of the past and trigger an emotional response.

Why it Happens

When we remember something, our minds store not just the events, hard facts and data but also the emotions – the way we felt – when we stored that memory.

Therefore, when we recall old memories, we recall not only the facts, we also evoke the way we felt at the time we stored that memory – and we feel those feelings again.

This helps explain why some bad memories are painful and why some good memories make us feel great. In our minds, we are recreating some of those feelings again.

For this reason, some people who suffer from Personality Disorders struggle with emotional regulation and are particularly susceptible to extreme mood swings when triggered by emotional events and anniversaries.

What it Looks Like

  • A mother invites her grown child’s family for Christmas dinner and then becomes hostile when they arrive.
  • A man becomes suddenly gloomy and sarcastic when a certain song plays on the radio.
  • A wife gives her husband the silent treatment on their wedding anniversary although he has done nothing to deserve it.
  • A father forbids his children to talk about their loved, deceased grandparent.

What it feels like

When a person with a Personality Disorder is triggered by an emotional memory it can be frightening and confusing for those close to them. You may ask yourself: “What did I say or do that caused him/her to react like that?” Alternately, you may find yourself becoming hostile if the person starts to treat you badly because of how they feel. This hostility can lead to increased conflict.

How to Cope with Holiday Triggers

Many Nons struggle in the run up to holidays (such as Christmas) and anniversaries, because they expect the Personality Disordered person/s in their family may take the opportunity to act out. Many Nons feel a sense of FOG, or even complete dread, and are torn between the discomfort of being around triggered Personality-Disordered people, and the potential consequences of refusing to join the (un)happy crew.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t blame yourself for the way another person treats you.
  • Don’t try to measure up to an unrealistic standard of what your family should be and try to plough ahead with holiday plans as though nothing is wrong. Wishing will not make it true.
  • Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to spend an entire weekend or an entire day with a disordered relative at the holidays.
  • Don’t allow yourself to become isolated in a dysfunctional environment.

What TO do

  • Plan any holiday visits with a limited time and a safe exit.
  • On holiday visits, consider staying at a hotel rather than at home with a dysfunctional family member – then you can leave easily if things get ugly.
  • Remember that holidays are just another day. What makes them different is just the emotion that people attach to them. Therefore there is no obligation for you to protect yourself any less.
  • Figure out what you really want to do on special holidays and anniversaries and give yourself permission to do that. In a healthy environment, your priorities should not take a back seat to anyone else’s.

Some Additional Tips for Nons on Surviving the Christmas Holidays:

By MoGlow:

  1. Severely limit the time spent one-on-one with any personality-disordered relative, friend or loved-one. Know going in that their already limited stress management skills will be pushed to the max. Sometimes a big group can be a really good thing – you can get lost in the crowd! Set your own limit on certain visits – spend double the travel time with them, share a meal, then go home.
  2. Understand that some things are inevitable – the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. You’ve seen holiday “performances” before: Someone will have a meltdown. Someone will get their feelings hurt. Someone will be feeling lonely or left out and need extra hugs. Someone will do whatever it takes to bring everyone’s attention back to THEM. Someone will be a complete and utter pain. And sometimes it’s all one person, all at the same time.
  3. Drive or have your own transportation to events where that certain someone will be in attendance. Understand you can and should leave if you can’t handle it any longer – don’t be anyone’s punching bag or doormat just for the sake of “keeping the peace.” Go to them instead of having them come to you – then you can leave when you want to instead of trying to figure out how to get them out of your house!
  4. Make sure you know when and where you’re supposed to be and allow yourself plenty of time to get ready. If you’re rushed, you’ll be stressed. If you’re stressed, tempers will flare. And someone will feed on that.
  5. Sleep. Eat as normally as possible. Limit or eliminate alcohol intake. Hug your spouse, children, pets and real friends. Share the true joys of the season.

 

 

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#55 Hoarding

Definition:

Hoarding – Accumulating items to an extent that it becomes detrimental to quality of lifestyle, comfort, security or hygiene.

Drowning in a Sea of Stuff

For those who have never felt the urge to become a serious hoarder, the degree to which some people hold onto stuff can be hard to comprehend. You might think, “how can they bear to live like that?”

Some hoarders are selective accumulators, and hold onto specific items or categories of things which give them emotional comfort. Other hoarders cast a wider net, collecting a wide variety of items, things which represent value, security, or some other emotional need. Some hoarders simply cannot bring themselves to ever throw anything out – including garbage.

Collecting and gathering is a natural instinct which has evolved in many creatures – especially those that have learned how to survive through long periods of scarcity such as long winter, drought, monsoon, flood, crop failures or pestilence. Most of us at some point have enjoyed the pleasure of building a collection of items “just because”, such as shells, postcards, coins, or memorabilia. Hoarding becomes dysfunctional when the accumulated items or detritus becomes a hazard, or source of discomfort, fear or pain to the person who hoards, or the people who have to live with them.

Hoarding is sometimes known as disposophobia – the fear of disposal.

Some Hoarders live in homes with piles of objects on every available surface, including functional surfaces such as sinks, counter tops, stoves, baths, toilets etc.

Hoarding behaviors are common among those who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.

What it Looks Like

  • A man who stores piles of objects in the house preventing passage to certain areas of the house, floor or functional areas like the bathroom or kitchen sink.
  • A woman who refuses to discard trash objects, unused items, waste products, broken appliances – even rotting food.
  • Bibliomania – the obsessive collection of books.
  • Animal Hoarding – the obsessive collection of tens or dozens of pets – often in an unhygienic or unsafe way. This is an indirect form of Animal Cruelty.

What It Feels Like

If you live with a hoarder, you probably feel powerless. You have probably tried every logical argument in the book to try to convince them that what they do is of no benefit to them, poses a hazard to them, and is a problem for you for others. You may appeal to their sense of decency. You may have tried to pour a little guilt on them. You may have threatened to leave. You may have threatened to retaliate. You may have threatened them with the Health Department, public ridicule or rejection – all to no avail.

You may even have tried a more aggressive approach. You may have taken control when they are not around – throwing items in the trash, destroying stockpiles of medicines, papers, objects and clutter. This can lead to an aggressive response in retaliation, or it can lead to a passive response in the form of replacement of the removed articles.

You may have tried a more passive or supportive approach, only to find your true anger and unmet needs spilling out in the most unpredictable, often uncontrolled ways. You may even find yourself later apologizing to the hoarder for your own bad behavior, all the while feeling trapped because you are actually apologizing to a person who is chronically and without apology mistreating your home environment.

How to Cope

Because the value system and thought process of a hoarder or a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder is likely to be radically different from yours, value-based or logic-based arguments tend to be ineffective. People who hoard do so because there is some emotional value derived from the hoarding which is greater to them than the associated cost.

You will have to accept that you cannot convince the person to change. Especially as the harder you try to change them, the more entrenched they are likely to become, even if they themselves wish they weren’t that way.

So you are going to have to consider your needs independently of theirs. You absolutely have a right to protect yourself and your children from hazardous situations and conditions. You also have the right to live in a comfortable and relatively clean environment. However, you do not have the right to force others to live that way. Therefore, your only option is to begin to work on boundaries that will create a safe and comfortable place for you to live

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t try to fix a hoarder. It’s their job to fix themselves if and when they see the need.
  • Don’t threaten, beg, bargain or try to nag a hoarder into changing.
  • Don’t try to control or thought police a hoarder. It’s important to respect their right to think and feel what they want while protecting your own boundaries.
  • Don’t try to convince yourself you can live in an unclean or unsafe environment if you can’t. Move yourself to a safe place.
  • Don’t try to ignore the problem or assume it will just naturally go away or that they will “grow out of it”.
  • Don’t take an aggressive approach by taking violent or physically aggressive steps.
  • Don’t blame yourself for the situation or accept responsibility for another person’s mess.

What TO Do

  • Talk to friends who understand and who know about Personality Disorders. Surround yourself with support and a nurturing environment.
  • Understand and accept that Personality Disorders are real mental disorders and that you can’t just fix them with simple persuasive techniques.
  • Learn how to set up and maintain effective boundaries to protect yourself while respecting the right of the person who suffers from the personality disorder to think differently.
  • Move yourself and any children to a clean, comfortable, safe and healthy living environment.
  • Remember – every adult gets to clean up their own messes.

 

 

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#56 High-Functioning and Low-Functioning

Definition:

High and Low-Functioning – A High-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individual is one who is able to conceal their dysfunctional behavior in certain public settings and maintain a positive public or professional profile while exposing their negative traits to family members behind closed doors. A Low-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individual is one who is unable to conceal their dysfunctional behavior from public view or maintain a positive public or professional profile.

Low-Functioning – A Low-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individual is one who is unable to conceal their dysfunctional behavior from public view or maintain a positive public or professional profile.

Description:

Contrary to a popular myth, personality disorders have little correlation with intelligence. People who suffer from personality disorders span the spectrum of IQ from the lowest to the highest.

High-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individuals are those who are able to keep up appearances outside of the home and participate in society convincingly in the workplace, in social groups, in churches and organizations. Some high functioning personality-disordered individuals are leaders in their field of work, politicians, CEO’s, teachers, church elders, police officers, judges etc. However, they may exhibit a very different set of behaviors behind closed doors.

Living with a High-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individual can be frustrating because there may be little support and validation from people outside the home, who may assume that what they see on the outside is a reflection of what goes on behind closed doors.High-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individuals may use their success in the public world as a way to bolster the opinion that there is nothing wrong with them and that any conflict within the home cannot be their fault. You may find yourself thinking “Everybody thinks I’m so lucky but nobody knows what this is really like.” In reality there are many people who do know what it is like, but it’s not the kind of thing that many people are willing to talk about openly in public.

Low-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individuals are at the opposite end of the spectrum, unable to hide their behaviors from public view. Examples include people who are reclusive, long-term unemployed, chronically depressed, people who are institutionalized in psychiatric facilities, people with alcohol & drug addictions or people who are repeatedly in trouble with law enforcement. Note that none of these conditions is necessary or sufficient for the diagnosis of a personality disorder, but someone who has been diagnosed with a personality disorder and also exhibits one of these traits might be considered “low-functioning”.

Living with a Low-Functioning Personality-Disordered Individual can be frustrating because you may feel that you are being taken advantage of and you are doing all the hard work while the person with the personality disorder complains and puts demands on you while doing nothing to improve their own situation. You may also suffer from depression yourself as you torture yourself with the thought “How did I get stuck with such a loser?” In reality what sometimes keeps us stuck is our own sense of FOG- Fear Obligation & Guilt – in which we convince ourselves that we can’t afford to make the changes necessary to unstick ourselves.

It is not unusual for some people with personality disorders to flip between periods of high-functioning and low-functioning behavior. This is very similar to people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder and may in some cases be indicative of Bipolar Disorder. Another common occurrence is for a personality-disordered individual to live with a kind of “split-personality” where in certain environments or situations they behave in a high-functioning manner and in others in a low-functioning manner. See our pages on Selective Competence and Selective Memory for more Information.

 

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#57 Harassment

Definition:

Harassment – Any sustained or chronic pattern of unwelcome behavior by one individual towards another.

When they won’t take “No” for an answer

Harassment isn’t just a once-off. By definition, it involves a repeating pattern of unnecessary and unwanted behaviors or attention from someone.

Harassment may be intentional or unintentional, however it is not the state of mind of the person doing it which makes their actions harassment, it’s how the person on the receiving end feels about it. In other words, if you feel harassed – you areharassed.

Types of Harassment

  • Verbal – Chronic criticism, humiliation, slander or gossip.
  • Sexual – Unwelcome advances, touching, gestures or comments.
  • Intimidation or indirect violence – breaking or destroying objects, self-harm, cruelty to animals or other people in the sight of the victim.
  • Bullying – hurting or threatening to hurt the victim physically, economically or emotionally.
  • Stalking – unwelcome attention or interaction, refusing to leave a person alone when asked, following, calling, or making unwelcome contact.
  • Hazing – Tormenting a person under the guise of a joke, rite of passage or other “playful” ritual.
  • Harassment by proxy – influencing others to act in an unwelcome way, including filing frivolous legal complaints, police reports, medical procedures, domestic abuse complaints, sexual abuse accusations etc.

Harassment is a form of abuse and can also be a form of bullying. It is particularly dangerous because it tends to become sustained and do damage over the long term, keeping the victim in an ongoing state of anxiety, fear or discomfort.

It can also be difficult to prove in the legal sense, as many chronic cases of harassment are maintained by the perpetrator at a level that is designed to escape the notice of everyone except the victim, and involve behaviors which do not attract the attention of the authorities.

Secrecy and control of the victim are some of the favorite tools in a harasser’s toolbox, and many harassers will back off if the threat of legal trouble, loss of employment or public embarrassment exists.

Left unchallenged, harassing behaviors tend to be repeated, especially when there is no negative consequence for the perpetrator.

How it Feels

People who are victims of harassment often stay that way because they feel powerless do anything about their abuse. Reasons for feeling powerless include:

  • The victim does not know who they can talk to and be taken seriously.
  • The victim fears that their situation is not “serious enough” to warrant the concern of others.
  • The victim is embarrassed to say anything for fear that they will be ridiculed or regarded as “over-reacting”.
  • The victim fears being blamed for the conflict by outsiders.
  • The victim works with, lives with or is related to the perpetrator and believes that challenging their behavior will create an untenable situation.
  • The victim fears retribution from the perpetrator if they speak up.
  • The victim believes they should “turn the other cheek”.
  • The victim believes that they are responsible for or ‘deserved’ the harassment.

Many victims of harassment live with a profound sense of defeat and shame; afraid to break the silence, and aware they must choose either to face possible hardships caused by speaking up, or endure the impacts of the ongoing abuse.

What NOT to do

  • Don’t blame yourself for the offensive way another person is behaving.
  • Don’t try to convince yourself “I can handle it”, or “I can take it”. This is abuse, it is wrong, and no-one should have to take it.
  • Don’t keep quiet about it. Inevitably, sooner or later it’s all going to come out. It might as well be on your terms, when you have control, with your dignity intact.
  • Don’t retaliate or argue back – this will rarely get you a satisfactory resolution with an abuser and soliciting a reaction from you may be their original intent.
  • Don’t repeat a complaint about the way you are being treated to a person who ignored you the first time.

What TO do

  • Politely – but firmly – ask the person exhibiting the unwelcome behavior to stop. Do this only once.
  • Talk to a friend and have them accompany you while you say it.
  • Document any unwelcome behaviors accurately and in detail – times, dates, who said/did what.
  • Report what you have documented to anyone in a position of authority, including police, supervisors, teachers, pastors, parents etc. as appropriate.
  • Politely and assertively remove yourself (and any children) from the presence of a harasser as best you can. A person can’t harass you if you are not there. Depending on your situation that could mean:
    • ending a conversation;
    • leaving a room or a building;
    • exiting a relationship;
    • changing a routine;
    • getting a Restraining Order, Personal Protective Order or Apprehended Violence Order;
    • calling the Police.

 

 

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#58 Grooming

Definition:

Grooming – Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.

Description:

Grooming is a insidious predatory tactic, utilized by abusers. Grooming is practiced by Narcissists, Antisocial predators, con-artists and sexual aggressors, who target and manipulate vulnerable people for exploitation.

Child grooming is the deliberate act of establishing an emotional bond with a child, to lower the child’s resistance. Child grooming can result in the minor falling victim to physical, sexual and emotional abuse, or specifically, to manipulate children into participating in slave labor, prostitution, and/or the production of child pornography.

Adult grooming is correspondent to child grooming and applies to any situation where an adult is primed to allow him or herself to be exploited or abused. While it is a common assumption that grooming is only practiced on the very young, identical emotional and psychological processes are commonly used to abuse or exploit adults the elderly, and those with compromised mental facilities.

An predator will identify and engage a victim and work to gain the target’s trust, break down defenses, and manipulate the victim until they get whatever it is they are after. Overt attention, verbal seduction (flattery / ego stroking), recruitment, physical isolation, charm, gift-giving, normalizing, gaslighting, secrecy, and threats are all hallmarks of grooming.

  • Abusers who groom their victims often claim to have a special connection with the abused. The so- called connection might be emotional, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, or all of the above. This is often backed up by the predator echoing back part of the target’s own background or story, altered to fit the groomer’s back-story, in order to confirm the connection.
  • In order to abuse or exploit another person without fear of discovery, a sexual predator or con artist will frequently condition their intended victim to keep secrets for them. When building this bond of trust, an abuser may share seemingly personal or private information, and then swear the victim to secrecy. The victim is made to believe that they are being trusted with something of value, before being asked to share something of value with his/her abuser.
  • Abusers use shared secrets to bind their victims to them. By degrees, the target is gradually lured in to revealing private information, giving up money, property or sexual favors, or permitting /engaging in inappropriate, unsafe, or illegal behaviors. • The victim is often drawn in to being a “co-conspirator” (also known as forced teaming) with his or her abuser.
  • Eventually, the bond of secrecy is nearly always reinforced with threats, shaming and guilt to keep the victim silent about his or her shared crimes or misdeeds.

Who are the victims of grooming? Men. Women. Children. Young adults. The middle-aged. The elderly. The lonely and the emotionally compromised. Those whose defenses are down. Anyone with soft boundaries. In short: There is no prototypical victim. Almost anyone can be vulnerable to grooming. Predators are practiced, and extremely good at what they do. Those who are not ’t, tend to get caught. Those who get caught, tend to learn from their mistakes, and refine their techniques. You don’t have to be especially gullible to fall victim to grooming, but if you learn the signs, you can successfully identify a potential abuser, and avoid exploitation:

  • Predators work in the shadows, and have something to hide.
  • Predators claim to feel a “special connection” with their targets, even if they’ve only just met.
  • Predators recruit co-conspirators (forced teaming) to fight their battles and do their bidding.
  • Predators draw their victims in by sharing private information then swearing them to secrecy.
  • Predators practice divide and conquer techniques in order to manipulate others.

Examples of Grooming:

  • An individual who lures lonely or vulnerable people into a romantic relationship in order to position themselves for monetary gain.
  • An adult in a position of authority who uses their status to entice minor children into engaging in sexual activity.
  • Anyone who manufactures a (false) bond of trust in order to extract promises or favors from another.

What it feels like:

Grooming can feel exhilarating – at first. The predator employs attentiveness, sensitivity, (false) empathy and plenty of positive reinforcement to seduce their victim. For their part, victims can be so enthralled with, or overwhelmed by the attention they are receiving; they will often overlook or ignore red flags that might alert them that the person who is showering them with that attention is somehow “off”. Little by little, the abuser breaks through a victim’s natural defenses, gains trust, and manipulates or coerces the victim into doing his/her bidding. The victim finds themselves willingly handing over money or assets, engaging in inappropriate, illegal or morally ambiguous actives, or acting as a proxy for the abuser, fighting the abuser’s battles, and carrying out their will. The victim often feels confusion, shame, guilt, remorse and disgust at his or her own participation. Equally powerful, is the panic that comes with the threat of being exposed for engaging these activities. There may also an overwhelming fear of losing the emotional bond that has been established with an abuser. The victim becomes trapped, depressed or despondent.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don’t trust too soon, or share too much with someone you’ve only just met.
  • Don’t fall for false flattery, or verbal seduction.
  • Don’t compromise your boundaries.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated from others against your own better judgment.
  • Don’t blame yourself for how the other person is behaving.
  • Don’t stay in the room if the situation becomes physically, verbally or emotionally unhealthy.
  • Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.

What TO Do:

  • Use caution around someone you may have only just met, who pays you too many compliments, gives you too much attention, demands too much of your time, shares too much information, or tries to swear you to secrecy.
  • Question motives.
  • Learn to pay attention to your gut, and trust those feelings to guide you.
  • Remind yourself you are not to blame for what a predator is attempting to do to you.
  • Learn to say no, and mean it.

 

 

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#59 Gaslighting

Definition:

Gaslighting – The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.

Casting You as the Crazy One

In the classic suspense thriller, Gaslight, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) marries the villainous Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), not realizing that he is the one who murdered her aunt and is now searching for her missing jewels.
To cover up his treachery, he tries to persuade Paula that she is going mad, so he can search the attic for the jewels without her interference. He plants missing objects on her person in order to make her believe that she has no recollection of reality. He tries to isolate her, not allowing her to have visitors or to leave the house.

If this sounds somehow familiar, you have probably encountered the form of psychological abuse we call Gaslighting. Essentially, it describes forms of manipulation which are designed to make the victim lose their grip on the truth or doubt their perception of reality.

What it Looks Like

  • A family member who steals something from you tries to convince you that it belongs to them.
  • A person acts threateningly and then accuses you of abuse when you react in self-defense.
  • A spouse tries to persuade you that you said or did something that you know is inaccurate.

How it Feels

Gaslighting can be a terrifying experience. It can quickly put you on the defensive – trying to justify your own actions or behaviors – when you started out by challenging someone else’s questionable behavior.

A gaslighting perpetrator’s fabrications may be presented so convincingly and with such conviction you begin to question yourself and your own memories and judgment. You may begin to fear that other people – who don’t know the truth – might be persuaded believe some of the distortions.

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t equate intelligence with character – just because someone can run rings around you in an argument doesn’t mean they are right.
  • Don’t waste your time trying to convince someone who has already made up their mind about you that they should reconsider.
  • Don’t argue with a person who is fabricating the facts. Wait for them to return to reality before engaging them in a discussion and do it on YOUR terms – not theirs.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated from others against our own better judgment. Insist on your right to have your own friends and family.
  • Don’t blame yourself for what the other person is feeling or how they are behaving. Don’t look for ways to change yourself to try to fix another person. As the OOTF 3 C’s mantra says: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it and you can’t control it.” You are only responsible for your own words and actions.
  • Don’t stay in the room if the situation becomes physically, verbally or emotionally unhealthy or unsafe.
  • Don’t go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.

What TO do:

  • Remind yourself that you are not to blame for the other person’s behavior.
  • Detach yourself from feeling responsible for how another person is feeling, behaving or thinking.
  • Turn your attention on your own behavior and your own thought patterns. Discard the unhealthy and learn what is healthy for yourself and pursue it – regardless of what reaction you get from the person with the Personality Disorder.
  • Talk about it! Talk to trusted friends and family about what you are dealing with.
  • If you are ever confronted with violence or abuse, get yourself and any children immediately out of the room and call for help. Report all acts of violence, threats of violence or self-harm to the police immediately every time.
  • Maintain your healthy lifestyle and thought life. You will need them. If necessary, explain to your loved-one gently, but firmly that you are doing what you need to do for yourself and then close the conversation.

 

 

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#60 Frivolous Litigation and Frivolous Lawsuits

Definition:

Frivolous Litigation – The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual or organization.

A Summons to Suffering

Some Personality-Disordered individuals will use the legal system as a proxy to continue their abuse, harassment or conflict with someone through groundless lawsuits, meritless proceedings and spurious legal action. The motivations for the litigant can include withholding of rightful support, or causing mental, emotional and financial suffering for the attacked family member or partner.

Of course, not all litigation is frivolous. Some, such as court action to protect a child or prosecute a crime, is completely just and proper. However when legal arguments are not supported by the applicable laws, or are based on false testimony, or have been commenced simply to cause distress, harm or fear to the other party, the litigation is effectively a form of abuse attempted via the legal system.

Frivolous Litigation is a form of Proxy Recruitment, which basically means the person is using the court system to “do their dirty work.”

Some people with Personality Disorders are drawn towards conflict and will use litigation as a tool to sustain conflict or support a need to feel powerful. Sometimes, just the threat of a lawsuit is enough to control a person and make them “fall into line’”. Many people and organizations will surrender significant resources or positions to a litigious bully just to avoid the legal fees, inconvenience and risk of a legal proceeding.

What it Looks Like

  • A parent files a false police report, claiming that their teenager is using violent, aggressive or dangerous behavior.
  • A woman files a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend making false accusations about acts of violence.
  • A man takes his ex-wife to court with dubious arguments that he should not be required to pay child support.
  • An employee or client fakes or exaggerates an injury and attempts to extort financial remuneration from an organization.

How it Feels

If you are on the receiving end of legal proceedings instigated by a person with a Personality Disorder, your primary emotions are probably anxiety or fear. You are probably already familiar with the kinds of accusations that may be leveled against you, and your primary concern is likely to be “what if the judge believes it?

What NOT to do

  • Don’t engage a litigious person directly or in person. Don’t react or retaliate. You may be giving them the conflict they want.
  • Don’t believe everything a person with a personality disorder claims about the strength of their case. It is quite common for them to lie, exaggerate or embellish.
  • Don’t assume that a judge will believe everything they are told by a litigious person.
  • Don’t be pressured into giving up or agreeing to something that is important without getting legal advice first.
  • Don’t get your legal advice from well-intentioned friends and family who are untrained in the law.

What TO do:

  • Get sound legal advice from a reputable attorney. Most people think nothing of spending $200-$300 to fix their car but many avoid spending as much to get the peace of mind that comes from knowing what the law actually says about their situation.
  • “Document, document, document” – gather and keep documentation, including diary entries with specific dates and incidents, which support the truth and may be used as reminders of evidence if and when you need it.
  • Keep all communications with a litigious person to an absolute minimum, and if you must communicate, make it impersonal, professional and written only. Send via an attorney if possible.
  • Keep the following points in mind:
    1. In any legal proceeding, an accusation is not the same thing as evidence. Testimony from a plaintiff and a defendant is important in framing the conflict for the judge – but usually provides little more than “he said/she said” evidence which is not objective.
    2. Evidence from third party witnesses is viewed as more objective in most courts, especially if it comes from trained professionals who do not have a stake in the case such as police, doctors, social workers, school teachers etc.
    3. Documentary evidence carries the most weight. Signed statements, financial records, contracts, letters, affidavits, etc. are all very helpful in establishing credibility

 

 

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#61 Feelings of Emptiness

Definition:

Feelings of Emptiness – An acute, chronic sense that daily life has little worth or significance, leading to an impulsive appetite for strong physical sensations and dramatic relationship experiences.

Description:

Many people who suffer from personality disorders suffer from an Identity Disturbance that gives them an unstable or insecure sense of self. They may be prone to chronic and acute sense of nothingness or emptiness, so that they feel that their own existence has no worth or significance outside of the context of a strong physical sensation or of a relationship with others.

This can lead to desperate attempts to be in relationships with others – even at great cost, such as episodes of cheating or casual relationships. Being left alone or being ignored by others can be a terrifying prospect to some. This can result in a fear of abandonment or can lead to frantic attempts to create new relationships – even risky ones.

This sense of emptiness can also lead to impulsive behaviors such as picking fights, rages, hysteria, acting out, sabotage etc. in an attempt to create a crisis situation that draws the attentions of others.

In others, the sense of emptiness may be turned inward and result in avoidance, self-harm, self-loathing, panic attacks etc. Some incidences of self-harm are described by those who do it as an attempt to feel something. There is a need to somehow interact with the outside world in a way that relieves the sense of nothingness or the terror of being alone.

Examples of Feelings of Emptiness:

“Always” and “Never” Statements – “Always” and “Never” Statements are declarations containing the words “always” or “never”. They are commonly used but rarely true.

Baiting – A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

Chaos Manufacture – Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.

Cruelty to Animals – Acts of Cruelty to Animals have been statistically discovered to occur more often in people who suffer from personality disorders than in the general population.

Engulfment – An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

Fear of Abandonment – An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.

Hysteria – An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.

Identity Disturbance – A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view

Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Mirroring – Imitating or copying another person’s characteristics, behaviors or traits.

No-Win Scenarios – When you are manipulated into choosing between two bad options

Panic Attacks – Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.

Perfectionism – The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression – Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Self-Harm – Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

Self-Loathing – An extreme hatred of one’s own self, actions or one’s ethnic or demographic background.

Testing – Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

 

What it feels like:

It’s common for family members and loved-ones of people who suffer from personality disorders to try to help fill the emotional void and try to compensate in the hope that they can help the person feel better. It’s common to try a long list of approaches, including nutrition, social activity, religion, organizational approaches, vacations, relocations etc. in an attempt to find that elusive “key” to happiness of a loved-one.

However, this “fix-it” approach is rarely effective, since the underlying problem is often psychological, not circumstantial and when problems recur this can result in the caregiver becoming frustrated and impatient with the personality-disordered individual.

Coping:

If you are sharing a home with someone who suffers from an acute or chronic pathological sense of emptiness you are probably going to have to give up on trying to fix the problem yourself and focus on what is going to help you to cope without the problem being fixed.

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t blame yourself for the situation or how another person feels about their life. Don’t take responsibility for their state of mind. You have no control and you didn’t create the problem.
  • Don’t blame the person who suffers from the personality disorder for having those feelings. Don’t try to thought police them into a better attitude. Each person’s feelings are their own property and few people would choose to have a personality disorder.
  • Don’t try to fix the problem. It is not yours to fix.

What TO do:

  • Learn about personality disorders.
  • Detach yourself from the feelings of the other