This post is a response to my last post about Demonic Possession and Borderline Personality Disorder. OK, maybe responding to my own post is “navel gazing” on my part, but I have been thinking about that post since I wrote it. I certainly didn’t want my readers to believe that I am anti-religious – I am not.
What irked me so about the “Mrs. Treasures” article about Demonic Possession and BPD was that it was indicative of a cognitive distortion that people with BPD often exhibit and one that can be transmitted to the Non-BP over time. That cognitive distortion is black-and-white thinking. It is the tendency for someone to think that something or someone is all good or all bad – good or evil. Framing BPD as analogous to demonic possession puts the borderline in the evil category and infers that the BP is a non’s enemy. People with BPD are not evil; they have a serious mental illness with areas of dysregulation, including behavioral dysregulation. Calling them evil is about as judgmental as one can be and being judgmental is counter-productive when it comes to supporting the healing of a loved one with BPD. That sentence brings me to another point. Mrs. Treasures uses the term “loved one” (and lover) several times in her article, but she expresses little love or sympathy for someone with BPD. If this person is your “loved one” aren’t you inclined to exhibit love toward them? The example that she cites in her article is from “Patrick” who is, of course, an ex-husband of a manipulative borderline woman. Since he is an ex-husband, I suppose he no longer considers his ex-wife a loved one.
And that brings me to another point that I have trouble with – especially in the online support community for nons. It is the fact that many people like to cite Hitler as an example of a historical borderline by stating something to the effect of “you know, arguably the most evil person in history was a borderline.” First of all, although some ex post facto psychological researchers have decided Hitler had BPD, others state that his mental disorders most likely arose from NPD or from an addiction to amphetamines. Certainly, considering yourself the savior of your nation, your race and the world would seem narcissistic to me anyway. Even though “narcissistic behavior” is stated in “Stop Walking on Eggshells” (SWOE) as a symptom of BPD, it is not really a primary symptom. It instead arises from black-and-white thinking and as a counter-balance to shame. It is not mentioned as one of the nine features of BPD in the DSM-IV. It is however mentioned as a primary feature of NPD.
Hitler’s evil arose not from his supposed borderline personality disorder. It arose from his “will to power” and his setting up an enemy (or several: the Jews, the Poles, the Allies, People with Mental Retardation, the Communists, etc.) that deserved death. He viewed these groups less than human and as an evil plague to the German people. Eradication was the only answer in his mind (or in the mind’s of those around him). That will to power is at the root of all big, historical evils in my opinion. You see it in Pol Pot, in Stalin, in Mao and in many others. The key point is that Hitler set up an “us vs. them” situation in which the German people had to fight to the death with their sworn enemies. If you consider a person with BPD evil (demonic) and yourself as good (Godly), you are setting up the same sort of dynamic with this other person. (OK, I’m not calling anyone Hitler here).
Technically, Hitler couldn’t be diagnosed with BPD (at least by American standards) because the diagnosis didn’t exist in the DSM until 1980. The word “borderline” has been around for a lot longer than that, but the actual diagnosis didn’t get codified until 1980. The diagnosis was still used though – as it was used for Susanna Kaysen (author of “Girl, Interrupted”) in the 1960s.
The historical example of BPD I like to reference (instead of Hitler) is Princess Diana. According to one of her chroniclers, Princess Di had BPD. Based on what I’ve read about her behavior (including bulimia, raging and cutting), if anyone was a likely candidate for BPD in history it’s Princess Di. What is extraordinarily sad about Princess Di was that she had to live much of her life in a fishbowl. That had to be extremely stressful for her. She was also capable of compassion for those in difficult situations, although ultimately Princess Di was a tragic figure and, in my opinion, more representational (than Hitler) of what the experience of a borderline is like.
Before you (as a non) decide that your “loved one” with BPD is evil, I suggest taking a step back and considering how tragic and painful the experience of BPD can be. Think of Princess Di, not Hitler.