Over the years, some individuals who self-identify as having Borderline Personality Disorder send emails or try to post comments to Shrink4Men. Naturally, they’re often unhappy, offended, outraged, “concerned,” etc., with the information provided here and the original WordPress blog. Their arguments and complaints are usually some variation of:
- But I’m not like that! And then they proceed to vomit volumes of blaming, shaming name-calling screed proving that, actually, in that instance, they are like that. Even if the individual doesn’t have the worst of the BPD traits, many individuals with BPD do. And they abuse those they profess to love without remorse. Funny, I never receive emails from self-identified narcissists and sociopaths claiming they’re not like that.
- Would you tell a man whose wife had cancer that he should break up with her?! This argument is a false equivalency. Cancer symptoms don’t include abusing others, particularly others the cancer patient claims to love. Let’s say the cancer patient were experiencing severe behavioral and cognitive side effects from medication or a brain lesion. That would be the cause of the abusive behaviors, not the cancer. Once the lesion is excised or the medication stopped, that would be the end of the aberrant behavior. The cause of a BPD/NPD individual’s abusive behavior is their personality. It’s their lack of integrity, conscience and remorse and sense of entitlement that cause them to abuse. People are their personalities, particularly the person they reveal themselves to be behind closed doors.
- I can’t help it! I hurt others because I have too much empathy. People need to be more sensitive to how the BPD person suffers! Say what? It stands to reason if you have an overabundance of empathy you would be highly cognizant and careful not to hurt others because, you know, you feel so much.
- Are you saying all BPDs should just lock ourselves away forever and never have any relationships!? That we don’t deserve love?! Maybe you’d be happy if all of us just killed ourselves?!?! No, I’ve never said anything like that. Ever. What would make me happy? I’d be happy if all abusive personality types took responsibility for themselves and quit blaming others for their bad behavior. And quit sending me emails 🙂 I know many of you emphatically believe you fall into the special snowflake category, but you’re not penning anything I haven’t already read or rolled my eyes at.
Which brings us to an email a young man recently sent. He found Shrink4Men via an Internet search in an effort to understand his girlfriend’s abusive behavior.
Hi Dr Tara,
My girlfriend of (on/off) 9 months suffers from comorbid bipolar, BPD and (suspected) NPD.
I’ve been reading through some of your material on your blog – thank you, it’s a great resource – however, the ableist negativity of it’s [sic] attitudes towards people suffering from BPD/NPD exhausts me.
My feeling towards this is that people suffering from these terrible psychological issues are just that – people. They often do not have much of a choice in their behaviour, and they don’t choose the condition.
My question is: does this make them unworthy of love/partnership? While I understand how these people can be seen as “devils” on the face of it, this is disingenuous. They are still people and are also capable of some kind of love, and they deserve love as much as any other human. It’s not love in the traditional sense, and lacks many very important components that make a relationship “easy”.
I want to know your thoughts on this. I love this person very dearly, and I have a great deal of empathy for what they go through on a day to day basis. She does love me too, in some way. I’m pretty certain of this.
Barring the abusive pathological behaviour, she is someone I can see myself spending the rest of my life with, and to me that’s worth a lot, as she is the only person I’ve come across in my 25 years of life that I can say that about.
I want to try and understand how best to make this work.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
First, I am “triggered” by the use of the word “ableist.” Admittedly, that last sentence is super snarky, even for me, but give me a break. It’s not wrong to label an abusive jerk an abusive jerk. Am I being “ableist” if I say Jeffrey Dahmer was a monstrous homicidal psychopath? Aren’t psychopaths people, too? This is ridiculous, of course.
People who negate the personal responsibility and accountability of abusive personalities due to a mental health diagnosis are enable-ist. Coddling and making excuses for abusers isn’t the answer. These types of individuals spend their lives doing their best to evade the natural consequences of their destructive and amoral behavior. If you assist them in doing so you’re aiding and abetting their abuse of you and others.
Second, if reading my material is exhausting for Jordan, he can always navigate away from the page just like most well-adjusted grown-ups do when we find content irrelevant or tedious. Click. Third, isn’t claiming that BPD/NPD individuals are incapable of controlling their behavior its own form of ableism? It’s also just plain wrong. A good number of personality disordered individuals are quite able to control their behavior — particularly if it serves their agenda or they fear a consequence for not behaving themselves. If they truly can’t control themselves they should be in a hospital until they can demonstrate otherwise.
More thoughts on Jordan’s email to follow my response:
There is no excuse for abuse — diagnosis or no diagnosis. It is not for me to say if individuals with these characterological issues “deserve” love. Seems to me that abusing and lying to people you claim to love is a good way to lose their love and rightly so.
If you can make your peace with your girlfriend’s issues and tolerate her abuse, then stay with her. If you believe you deserve to be treated with the same love and respect that you give to her, then end it and find some one who is capable of emotionally mature, reciprocal love rather than the one-sided love that a troubled toddler has for a parent. Your time might be better spent asking yourself why you are willing to accept abuse instead of whether or not someone who has a diagnosis that is on the same spectrum as sociopathy deserves love.
It’s not love in the traditional sense, and lacks many very important components that make a relationship “easy.” Ding! Ding! Ding! Da-ding-ding! I can only wonder why Jordan feels the need or desire to take this woman on. Some combination of parental issues from childhood and social programming seem most likely, as well as youth and naivete. You can’t have a fully functioning, reciprocal relationship with someone who lacks “the very important components” that make a relationship possible. Some issues in life really are this binary.
She does love me too, in some way. I’m pretty certain of this. This passage caused me to wonder if Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy once had the same belief about the tiger who mauled him.
Barring the abusive pathological behaviour, she is someone I can see myself spending the rest of my life with, and to me that’s worth a lot, as she is the only person I’ve come across in my 25 years of life that I can say that about. This is very sad. The only woman with whom Jordan can see himself spending his life is characterologically disordered and pathologically abusive. I was a bit short with Jordan in my reply, but he really does need to explore this. THIS is his issue, not learning how to cope with or accept ongoing abuse. Hopefully, Jordan will seek supportive counseling with a therapist who will help him understand why he’s willing to tolerate this kind of treatment and why he’s confusing abuse with love. If not, let’s hope he’s managing his birth control for his sake and any potential child(ren)’s sake.
P.S. Jordan never replied to my email.
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Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides one-on-one services that help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men who are trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Dr. Palmatier also works with women in similar situations. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Services page for professional inquiries.