I wish that author of this article was kidding, but she’s not. She appears to be a devout Catholic, which is fine with me, but comparing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to demonic possession? I’m sorry, but I can’t let this article go unanswered. She clearly knows little of the dynamics of BPD. I have no idea why she decided to write this article or how she has any knowledge of BPD. OK, before I start, I just want to note that I am not criticizing religion or Christianity or Catholicism. Please don’t bombard me with that kind of email and comments. I am looking at the text of a specific article to try and understand what happens when you look at BPD as a spiritual struggle of good vs evil.
So here goes:
Dealing with Borderlines is like a spiritual warfare.
It is? How so? The remainder of the article doesn’t really answer that question.
What strange traits does a Borderline have that look like demon possession? Low, rasping moans and screams were escaping her mouth, which brought chills down your spine. You looked at her face and saw dark coal eyes, and as the moment intensified, her eyes turned red. Her transformation let you step back as you heard her laughing like a witch. She cursed and cussed you. Her stern voice turned to the most hideous sound you could imagine. In front of you was a woman with a pure-red face spitting anger and rage. It was scary.
Who is “you” in this? The woman’s husband? Where did this come from? “Low, rasping moans and screams”? I’m not sure where this incident comes from or who it is attributed to. I have certainly been the subject of rages in my years as a Non-BP, but this?
This scene is common among people with relationships with a person who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
It is? How does she know? From where does she gain such knowledge. Is it common among people she knows or what? I have been running an Internet List for Non-BP’s for almost three years now. I have found that this type of experience occurs sometimes within a Non-BP/BP relationship, but common? Hmmm….
“Life is hell” described literally by NONs or non-borderlines, a person who does not have BPD but has a loved one with BPD.
And yes, that is true. Life can seem like hell for Non-BPs (and BPs alike). My question is: From whom did she get this knowledge?
According to BorderlineCentral.com, Borderline Personality Disorder is a “real, diagnosable psychiatric disorder, and its criteria are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association.” There has been a stigma in the past for personality disorders such as BPD as a form of demonic possession. Up until the 19th century, personality disorders such as BPD began to take the form of “hysteria” in psychiatry.
OK, so it is a “real, diagnosable psychiatric disorder,” right? And that “there has been a stigma in the past for personality disorders such as BPD as a form of demonic possession.” So, let’s perpetuate that stigma, shall we? I mean, in one sentence she cites a source saying that BPD is a psychiatric disorder and in the next she mentions that in the past there has been a stigma of demonic possession? Where is the rational line of thought here?
Many articles have emerged on a possible link between demon possession and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Many articles? In respected journals or no? By BPD experts or no? Where are these articles?
Christopher H. Rosik in his article from the Journal of Psychology and Theology stated that “They have altered personalities and often exhibit behaviors that appear identical to traditional descriptions of possession: evil-appearing glares, angry voices, self-hatred, self-harm, aversion to God and religion, and other symptoms.”
Alright, I’ve got about 20 problems with this. First of all Christopher Rosik, Ph. D. was a past president of the “Christian Association for Psychological Studies” (see http://www.capswest.org/new/boardpage.asp). He participated as a psychologist in a forum entitled ” Critical Issues in the Dissociative Disorders Field: Six Perspectives from Religiously Sensitive Practitioners” and authored the transcript and review of a compilation of the study (see this link). He consistently publishes in the “Journal of Psychology and Theology” which is not a main-line psychological journal. It is one dedicated to the following purpose:
The purpose of the Journal of Psychology and Theology is to communicate recent scholarly thinking on the interrelationships of psychological and theological concepts, and to consider the application of these concepts to a variety of professional settings. The major intent of the editor is to place before the evangelical community articles that have bearing on the nature of humankind from a biblical perspective. (see https://wisdom.biola.edu/jpt/about.cfm)
So, there’s the source with which I have an initial problem.
Then there’s the content of the quote. He states:
…appear identical to traditional descriptions of possession: evil-appearing glares, angry voices, self-hatred, self-harm, aversion to God and religion….
“Traditional descriptions of possession?” Perhaps those “traditional descriptions” were not describing possession at all, but were instead describing a psychiatric disorder as mentioned above? By “linking” traditional descriptions of possession and behaviors that are sometimes included in BPD, he tries to create validity for traditional descriptions of possession that is just not there. I could do the same thing with any “traditional description” of behavior that has been attributed to a believed cause in the past. In Salem, during the witch hysteria, we could call these people witches, correct? Does that lend any credence whatsoever to the fact that they are or are not witches?
Now, the behaviors he describes:
Evil to whom?
…aversion to God and religion…
Wait a minute here. I have found that many BPs (though certainly not all) have an attachment to religion, particularly to the fundamentalist Christian faith. There are at least five to ten examples that I could cite from my Internet List of extremely devout Christian BPs. In some senses, they seem to be drawn to the idea of judgment of themselves and others and strict religious views actually reinforce the sense of judgment. They find themselves and others to be all good (in God’s graces) or all evil (in the hands of the devil). This is a function of black-and-white thinking, not temporary demonic possession.
The author of this article goes on to cite a case of an ex-husband (of course an ex) whose ex-wife had “borderline personality disorder.” I put it in quotes because I don’t know if this woman was diagnosed. The author describes some behavior that might indicate BPD – jealously, emptiness, rage, manipulation, etc. – but we don’t know if the ex-husband is reporting all this truthfully and, if he is, whether the condition is another disorder. Let’s assume the ex-wife does have BPD. Some of the language used to describe her behavior is clearly judgmental such as:
With children she can use as pawns, Renee became a very manipulative person.
To get what she wants, Renee snatched her children out-of-state to pressure Patrick to her whims. Patrick was hesitant to marry her.
She would wait all day counting the minutes until he returns home and gives him a guilt trip for her feelings of emptiness.
To free herself from the shame and guilt of her decision, she brainwashed the children on the evils of their faith.
And some of the text doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me:
He was now very familiar with Renee’s mood swings. It alternates with periods of intense depression.
What alternates with periods of depression? As for mood swings, yes, that is the whole nature of the disorder. Then we hear that the ex-wife:
She dabbled into wicca, tarot cards, new age and psychic readings. She went to party at night and eventually found a lover 11 years her junior.
Well, if she “dabbled into wicca, tarot cards, new age and psychic readings” she must be possessed huh? And how does finding a lover 11 years her junior go into the same paragraph as “dabbling” in those things? Are they equivalent?
Now we get a real kicker:
The children have not been going to their church for a long time after the couple’s separation. So Patrick brought a holy “host” from the Catholic Church so the older children can receive Holy Communion. In the Catholic Church, Holy Communion is actually receiving “Jesus Christ” and is held with much reverence. Upon seeing this, Renee burst into an uncontrollable anger. She screamed like a possessed woman and ran to the hosts. She grabbed them, threw them on the floor and stamped her feet hoping to crush the host into pieces. This act is considered “sacrilegious” in the Catholic Church and may be considered comparable to a demonic possession.
So, the wife doesn’t want the religion of her ex-husband in her house. Her impulsive and out-of-portion reaction is typical of emotional dysregulation. However, according to the author she “screamed like a possessed woman” (again, like a possessed woman to whom?). Then she committed a sacrilegious (in quotes for some unknown reason) act – one that the Catholic Church “may consider comparable to demonic possession.” OK, well… if the Catholic Church “may” consider it “comparable to demonic possession,” is it an indication of possession or not? And, again, what authority does the Catholic Church have in the area of psychiatric disorders? Either it’s a psychiatric disorder or it is possession, right? Or could it be both? Clearly, the author is exposing her own biases toward the beliefs of the Catholic Church, rather than an intimate knowledge of the dynamic underpinnings of BPD.
She goes on to say:
The once attractive spouses that enchanted NONs turn into gruesome-looking beings with glaring, black coal eyes turning red and watery.
They do? Dang, I better watch out for that transformation. I know that people with BPD can get hateful and hateful-looking when angry, but everyone gets that way when that angry. BPs have trouble regulating their emotions and emotions feed other emotions. Sure, you get a very angry person, but that is all you have, not a demonical possessed person.
She goes on:
Most NONs claim that their BPD lover’s demeanor changes abruptly. They had a sneer on their faces and acted as if they were in another dimension. They would flinch whenever Jesus Christ or God was mentioned. They would scream with the worst blasphemy one could imagine. It is surprising how many NONs experience similar mannerisms and facial expressions from their Borderline loved ones.
“Most” NONs? From which source does she get that data? How many NONs has she talked with? I have talked with literally hundreds, in-person and online, and, while they are clearly exasperated by their BPs behavior, I’m not sure how “it is surprising how many NONs experience similar mannerisms…” is being backed up here. If someone is angry, sure, they will have certain facial expressions and mannerisms, but that is true of anyone, not just BPs. The key is what to do about it.
Oh and as for BPs that “flinch whenever Jesus Christ or God was mentioned” – that has not been my experience. Where did she get that? As I have said several BPs I know use Jesus or God to judge others and themselves. The idea that there can be an ultimate decider of good and evil can be very attractive to someone with BPD.
OK, some more:
Demon possession in itself is a taboo subject. But for non-Christians, the evils of Borderlines must have another rational explanation.
Well, I suppose it is a “taboo subject” because it is hogwash. Then she says, “But for non-Christians…” – why use the word “but”? To me it makes no sense. As for the “evils” that “must have another rational explanation” – uh, yeah, it is called a psychiatric disorder that involves dsyregulation is several areas. The foremost of these areas are emotional dysregulation, impulsiveness and shame. I wonder if telling someone with a psychiatric disorder that they might have difficulty controlling without medication and therapy that they are possessed by demonic forces might cause more shame and fear in them. Hmmm? Maybe we need to start calling people with cancer sinners that deserve what they get. I’m sure most tumors, genetic diseases, mental disorders, malformations and skin rashes all have a spiritual dimension. Perhaps it is the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children?
And yet more:
However, they do not deny how a Borderline’s presence exhibits darkness, lies, betrayal, greed, addiction, abuse, pride, control, manipulation, hatred and rebellion. All are elements of spiritual bondage yielding sin.
Great. I can’t think of anything more invalidating to a person with an emotional disorder to compare their state with demonic possession. I mean, think about it. Let’s suppose you are angry at something and your NON says, “Well, the reason that you feel this way and act this way is that you are possessed with a demon.” That’s worst than, “You’re crazy” is it not? Or maybe it can get the BP out of some blame for his or her actions. After all, if the devil made you do it….
The point is this woman is being extremely invalidating to the BPs whatever her point and conclusion. That sort of invalidation is something that has contributed to the disorder all a BP’s life. Calling a person with BPD a “possessed” person is extremely invalidating to the person’s emotional responses. And, what if the borderline is your child? The author seems only to be addressing “BP lovers” here, but if your child is borderline, is she also “possessed”?
She then says:
Patrick did his best to get help for Renee. Patrick sought the help of his spiritual director in the hope of finding answers to his predicament.
Well, I’m not sure that Patrick “did his best to get help” for his Ex. The author certainly doesn’t convince me he did his best. First of all, you can’t “get help” for another person. I’m sorry but that just upsets a person with BPD. If you are saying essentially, “You need help” or “You have a mental problem” or worse “You are possessed by a demon” I don’t call that “doing one’s best.” Maybe instead of (or better in addition to) going to his spiritual advisor he could have looked into DBT and DBT family skills, Patrick could have done a little better than his best.
OK, there’s still more:
His spiritual director advised that he remain steadfast in his prayers and God will hear him. With trust in God, Patrick focused on saving his children. He taught his children to pray together and pray for their Borderline mother. One day, Renee found the children an inconvenience and decided to give custody to Patrick.
Well, I glad the praying worked for “Patrick” (not his real name). Actually, prayer is suggested by DBT as a way to help tolerate distress. I still wonder though, based on the configuration of this paragraph, whether the prayer caused Renee to find the children an “inconvenience”? I guess so.
OK, now for her conclusion:
The Borderline exhibits traits and characteristics similar to a person being possessed or oppressed.
There seems to be a major hedging here. “Possessed or oppressed?” Which is it?
It seems that possession is a fact in this author’s mind, so no need to question the actual existence of possession, right?
Now she says:
Many believe that evil preys on the weaknesses of people.
“Many?” OK, who? What does one back that statement up with? And also, evil as a spiritual force seems to be a given here.
And now we get:
Many NONs, who have successfully departed from the vicious relationship with a Borderline, swear that their Borderlines Ex have been taken over by “something”.
Of course they have “departed from the vicious relationship.” And they should be listened to? Why is it that all the ex-es rule the day when it comes to the opinions of the borderline’s behavior? How about actually educating yourself about BPD and then deciding what is actually happening? Sure, these people are taken over by “something” – it’s called strong negative emotions and it happens to everyone from time-to-time. It probably happens more often to someone with BPD, because of the nature of the disorder, not because there are demonic forces at work.
Now she says:
When we deal with evil, there is no recourse but to look at things from a spiritual dimension.
Oh really? OK, well who decided that the BP is evil, not just sick or mentally disabled, she is EVIL! And, “no recourse but to look at things from a spiritual dimension?” Says who? The author? God? True evil, if it exists and I might argue that it does in certain people (but not demonic possession, just evil and destructive thoughts and actions), can be dealt with by applying human morals, resolve and compassion. The idea that in order for evil to exist there must be a force that drives evil instead of say, mental disease, is not a leap that I am willing to take. Clearly, the author has already taken this leap in her faith and has decided that, if evil exists, then evil spiritual force also must be at work.
Now she says:
There are a few treatment options for BPD.
Well, actually, there are many treatment options for BPD and some are more effective than others. DBT, SFT and Mentalization have all been shown more effective than therapy-as-usual when it comes to BPD. The increase of acceptance + mindfulness with traditional CBT also seems to be effective in treating BPD.
And she concludes with this:
Dealing with the evil and chaos of the relationship with a Borderline can be analogous to a spiritual warfare. The spiritual warrior must seek to constantly strengthen himself in an understanding of God’s truth. As you struggle to deal with the chaos and oppression, trust God for He will lead you to the truth. He will be the only armor you’ll need for shield and protection. God’s matchless weapons are mercy and peace.
I wonder why she bothers to hedge yet again with the phrase “can be analogous to”? I mean, if spiritual forces are at work and it is a war between good and evil being fought on a spiritual dimension, then why bother? Clearly the NON is on the side of good and Godliness (if he/she “seeks to constantly strengthen himself”) and the BP is one the side of the demonic and evil forces. In her opinion as we struggle to “deal with the chaos and oppression,” trusting in God is the answer to lead you to the truth – although I am having difficulty making heads or tails of the truth in her article. Is she saying that BPD = demonic possession or BPD is like demonic possession – and, if it is the latter – why do we have to make use of our spiritual warfare stances to deal with this “evil?”
I’d like to conclude by stating two reasons that I bothered to review this article in such detail. One is that I think that comparing BPD to demonic possession merely further strengthens an “us vs. them” mentality that has already been perpetuated all over the Internet and in books for Nons. It is a basic misunderstanding of the disorder and invalidates the natural responses of the sufferer. Plus, if they believe you are against them and judge them as evil, you’re in for a whole lot of trouble. Secondly, I am not dismissing that prayer can offer solace to anyone, including the Nons. At the same time, my prescription for a Non is not to rely entirely on prayer. It is instead to learn the dynamics of the disorder and acquire the emotional skills necessary to more effectively handle a person with BPD.
Calling them possessed or evil is just going to make things much worse.