People with personality disorders often seem to have variable personalities. They might be quite charming and reasonable at work and with neighbors and friends, but then transition to chaotic, extreme behaviors at home. Personality disorders usually begin in childhood or adolescence, and while those around people with personality disorders wish they would change, it doesn’t happen without: 1) recognition, 2) a strong commitment by the person with the traits of the disorder, and, in most cases, 3) years of therapy.
THE DSM-5 CRITERIA FOR BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER INCLUDE SOME OF THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS:
- Compromised ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others
My Illinois Divorce Blog focuses on a variety of subjects, including the means by which to manage divorce and child custody with a toxic narcissist. I can say that almost every day, I receive a message that sounds like this that came today:
This message is from someone being harmed by both the toxic narcissist in her life, and well as possibly by her local court system ( I get many calls each month from people outside of Illinois that need help, and I try answer most all of these calls with some help, resources like Bill Eddy’s Splitting book, and a lawyer referral if needed). For over 25 years, my practice has focused, in large part, on psychological issues in divorce, and issues that affect the wellbeing of the children of marriages involving personality disorders.
With my work as a lawyer on complex child custody cases, I have seen in many of these cases the phenomenon of “projection.” My work as a member of APA and a frequent researcher and contributor on issues concerning personality disorders in child custody and with Parental Alienation cases, brings my clients often into situations where they are being accused of behaviors that are actually resident in the disordered parent.
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human psychology defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. These traits can be seen with some people with personality disorders, such as NPD or BPD. For example, a person who is habitually angry may constantly accuse other people, often their intimate partners or spouses, of being angry. In some cases, the abusive spouse will actually seek out domestic violence support, falsely claiming that they have been abused.
Dr. Michael Bone, a clinician and consultant on PA cases comments this way:
Many years ago, I helped a bit with Bill Eddy’s first book, a landmark publication called Splitting that discussed and defined for the first time what it can be like to go through a divorce with a High Conflict Personality, such as a person with BPD or NPD traits. Here is a video from one of Bill’s series, discussing the analogy between splitting in politics, and the splitting that can occur in divorce.
Splittign behaviors can lead to conflict distortions, false allegations, and parental alienation, in a divorce and child custody case. It is always good to understand these phenomena, and to appreciate ways to manage them successfully in a divorce case.
“Could you become a high-conflict person’s (HCP’s) Target of Blame? If you’re not watchful and careful, yes. HCPs generally pick on people they are close to or people in authority positions. These close personal or supervisory relationships usually involve the types of people we’re inclined to invite into our lives, often without knowing much about them.
Avoiding and deflecting high-conflict behavior is like avoiding illness. You can protect yourself from becoming someone’s Target of Blame by vaccinating yourself with knowledge of the personality patterns of high-conflict people. I call this personality awareness.
In fact, with personality awareness you will be more confident in dealing with people, because you will know how to recognize the warning signs of dangerous personality patterns before they do you much harm.”
” Is your partner emotionally explosive, regularly picking fights, and blaming others for all their troubles? Bill Eddy sheds light on how to manage conflict and communication with a high conflict person.”
Christina: What type of preparation do you recommend?
I came across this podcast that features Megan Hunter, and offers some useful information about Personality Disorders and Divorce. A significant of my practice involves divorces and child custody issues that feature traits of personality disorders that affect the custody and wellbeing of children. Megan distinguishes between a situational aspect of divorce, where parents under high stress exhibit negative behaviors, and that of divorces that involve Personality Divorces, False Allegations, and potentially toxic levels of Parental Alienation.
Megan is an executive with my colleague Bill Eddy’s High Conflict Institute. Bill Eddy is the author of Splitting and I was privileged to work with Bill and Randi Kreger on the 1st Edition of Splitting, having offered the name of the book to Bill (it was a natural thought…splitting indicating a synonym for a divorce, and the psychological phenomenon that some PDs have), providing some limited content, and writing the foreword for the 1st Edition.
Megan Hunter is the CEO of Unhooked Media – a company focused on relationship and conflict resolution through print, digital, and the spoken word. She is the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Personality Disorder Awareness Network.
In my practice, aside from managing my client’s important cases, I have some role as a “coach” to help my clients manage interactions with a former spouse with BPD, NPD, or traits thereof, that make communications with the former spouse toxic and stressful. My colleague Bill Eddy has introduced the BIFF technique of communications with a toxic ex-spouse: Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. See: http://www.highconflictinstitute.com. Also helpful is this article that I found today, that discusses the approach called “Gray Rock.” Akin to BIFF, the idea is to be nonreactive in dealing with the narcissist. In other words, if you have to interact with them, understand that the narcissist feeds on conflict and chaos, and that you, in communicating with them (as you may be forced to do if there are children of the marriage) learn to disempower the NPD’s need for chaos and toxic control.
” If you can’t go “No Contact” with a Narcissist because you have children with them, or you are somehow unable to get them out of your life for whatever reason, you can implement a technique called “Gray Rock”. Gray Rock is where you become as exciting and interesting as, well, a gray rock. The goal is to blend into the background, and become the most boring, unreactive person they’ve ever met. The reason being is that if you can quit being a source of supply for their drama and attention, they will eventually leave you alone.
How to go gray rock?
Representing many clients through the past 20+ years in relationships with people with borderline traits, it is helpful to see new artciles that discuss the experiences of people in these relationships. Here, a discussion about the triggering on anger in borderlines, many times without an apparent reason.
I’d say from the two people I know with it that things can be going really well and you can forget sometimes that they have the disorder, but then the littlest things can set it off, which just makes the episodes all the more jarring and violently abrupt.
There are several different subtypes of BPD, but my closest experiences have been with the ‘Petulant Borderline,’ sometimes called the ‘angry’ subtype.