I don’t usually like to defend myself. In fact, in my book, I have a tool that says “Don’t Defend”. Interestingly, in the Essential Family Guide to BPD, Randi Kreger has the same tool. Yet, I am feeling the need to correct something that Randi has said over at her Psychology Today “Stop Walking on Eggshells” blog. In her new post “Take Some Experts and Bloggers with Agendas With a Grain of Salt” she says:
Splitting is not just for people with borderline personality disorder. Some (but not all) people who have expertise with high conflict personalities and borderline personality disorder (BPD) also think in black and white. In my opinion, when you read their books, blogs, message sites, and other forms of media, consider if they have a bias they are passing along–sometimes unknowingly, sometimes quite deliberately.
And goes on to say that these biases arise from stereotyping and:
But people with power to influence others need to allow for the complexity of these issues and not make stereotypes and generalizations.
I feel that Randi is actually doing the very thing that she is decrying here. Because she didn’t specify WHICH “people who have expertise” are “splitting”, I believe that her message can be interpreted as generalizing about these “experts” (myself included). I also feel the timing was interesting, because I have recently posted a few comments on her blog, clarifying my position on BPD and on being an effective non-BPD. Now, Randi assured me that that message was not directed at me. Yet, I believe that by not specifically enumerating the “bloggers and authors” in question, people will generalize and cast a wide net to include those bloggers and authors who DON’T have an agenda or a bias.
Additionally (and here is where I am really defending myself and explaining and clarifying), she cites 3 ways that she sees these bloggers and authors are biased. They are 1) generalizing and mind reading (I don’t think I do that), 2) Sexism (pretty sure I’m not in that category) and 3) Making people’s decisions for them (this is where the perception of my book and blog get a bit stickier). While I have never (that I can remember) told any non-BPD to stay or leave, there’s little question that my book When Hope is Not Enough: a how-to guide for living with and loving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is a “staying” book. I mean, golly, just read the subtitle. In the introduction of WHINE, I say:
Unlike many books on this subject, this book starts with the premise that you want to continue to have a relationship with this difficult person. If you are a spouse, I assume that you want to stay married. If you are a parent, I assume that you want to continue a relationship with your child (sometimes you may have no choice). If you are a child of a parent with the disorder, I assume you want to learn how to effectively interact with your parent. Finally, if you are a friend, I assume you want to continue to be friends with this person. I do not cover how to sever a relationship with someone with the disorder in this book.
So, while I’m not telling people they SHOULD stay (or leave) or making the decision for them, my work assumes that they have already made the decision to stay and instructs the non-BPD reader of the book the ways (the know-how) in how I was able to transform my relationship with my borderline wife and daughter. I guess the only bias that I have is my own experience, which is staying with someone with BPD. I have no experience in leaving someone with BPD, although I do know many non-BPDs that have successfully left their BPD partner. Of course with kids and parents, the issue gets stickier still.
Finally, Randi says this:
It is clear from some people’s description of their own life–at least to me–that the relationship is unhealthy and needs to change. But in my opinion that must come from the non-BP themselves: list managers/authors/others don’t know if that person is using effective tools to improve the relationship.
I would agree with the first part of the clip, many Non-BPD/BPD relationships are unhealthy and need to change. The question is how? What does one DO to change the relationship? That is what I cover, based on my experience, in my book. The second part of the sentence, “list managers/authors/others don’t know if that person is using effective tools to improve the relationship” I actually have to disagree with. I have met hundreds of people with BPD and their loved ones, both electronically and in person, and have been trained in both DBT-FST (Dialectical Behavior Therapy Family Skills Training) and in Mentalization techniques. While I am NOT a mental health professional (and neither is Randi), I have “discovered” that a synthesis of these techniques, adapted for the partner/parent environment has worked wonders in my life. These skills are effective in a relationship with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder. Of course, you don’t have to agree with them and I have found several people that are unable to accept the skills from my book for various reasons. In WHINE, I say this, without realizing that for some people it would actually be impossible for them to implement these tools because the tools were counter to such strongly-held beliefs, the tools are rejected out-of-hand:
While some of the tools may be difficult to implement in your life and some may seem counter-intuitive, these tools are effective in managing a Non-BP/BP relationship. Depending on your background, biological make-up and sensibilities about the world, you may have an easier or more difficult time understanding and implementing these tools in your life.
I have also discovered that certain other skills are ineffective in the same context. Like any set of skills, these have to be practiced and practiced effectively and from the “proper” stance. They often say that “practice makes perfect” and sometimes people counter with the saying “perfect practice makes perfect”. I’m not one for the idea of perfection. I am one for the idea of agility and “second nature”. The thing is you’ll never hit the baseball out of the park if you don’t practice, with the proper stance, hitting a baseball. And furthermore , you’ll never hit the baseball out of the park if you’re swinging a kayak oar.
I think that Randi’s post actually has done some damage to the non-BPD “support community”. There are a number of individuals that are not mental health professionals and that fall into the “list managers/authors/others” category that in my opinion have been caught in the wide net that Randi has cast in that blog post. If non-BPDs can’t trust the people who now seem to have an agenda and are biased, who can they trust?
I’d just like to caution Randi with her own words: “But people with power to influence others need to allow for the complexity of these issues and not make stereotypes and generalizations.” She is a “person with power to influence others” because of the wide success of SWOE and her platform over at Psychology Today. Using this broad brush that creates doubt as to the motives of people who are actually attempting to help and share what worked effectively for them, does a disservice to the non-BPD support community in my opinion.