UPDATE 10/2008: This post is quite old… but it still applies. However, if you want to know HOW to do some of the things I mention here, I have recently published the I-AM-MAD communication skill, which distills one of the main skills that I present in my book, When Hope is Not Enough.
Hi all. I have been monitoring the “non” email lists and have found a common idea that I believe is a misconception about borderlines.
A taste of this idea can be seen in this paraphrased comment: “When will my BP be willing to take responsibility for his/her actions? When will he/she try and fix the harm he/she has done to me and the kids? When will they finally admit they are WRONG?”
This attitude is common among “nons.” What it represents is anger and sadness on the part of the non and a desire for the borderline to behave in a “normal” way.
Unfortunately, the borderline will not behave in a “normal” way until the source of the behaviors are either accepted or changed. This site (and many others about Borderline Personality Disorder) posits that borderlines behave in the way that they do because they are in pain. This pain is deep and emotional and is characterized by shame. They do not feel guilty for what they do. No, they feel shameful about who they are. They believe that they are bad/wrong people. Why do so many kill themselves? To stop the pain.
The anger that the “non” expresses comes off to the borderline as judgment of their feelings. One of the key “causes” of BPD is an invalidating environment. If they are acting in a way the “non” feels is “wrong” the expression of that feeling on the part of the non is a judgment of the BPD’s feelings. In other words, they have internalized that it is wrong to feel that way. The problem is: they feel that way anyway, whether the non believes it is wrong or not. They behave in such as way to stop the painful emotions (mainly shame) and the judgments that come from the invalidating environment.
People in the “non” support groups don’t want to hear this. Why? Because they too are in pain. They are angry and want to be told that none of this is their fault. The disorder is not their fault, but the continuation of the “invalidating environment” is. A quote from an article of DBT Family Skills Training:
Facilitated by DBT’s nonjudgmental framework, DBT-FST offers the possibility of significant emotional and behavioral improvements in the whole family system as well as for the individuals in that system. This is accomplished through:1) presenting the biosocial model to patients and family members in a non-blaming manner similar to the approach employed in psychoeducation models;2) offering support and education to family members in the form of teaching DBT skills; and3) reinforcing skillful behaviors (in particular using rehearsal and feedback) through increasing the levels of empathy and validation in the family.
Note the “non-blaming” manner. This illustrates a new environment that the family members can help create that supports the BPD and eliminates blaming (or judging). The second two points are the ways in which things will change -teaching skills that can be used instead of the old maladaptive behaviors like cutting or starving or raging.
While many nons might be angry at me for pointing out that they need to change also, I feel that these skills provide a sense of control over the situation. The non-judgmental approach applies to the nons too – meaning, we can’t “judge” the actions of the non are “wrong”. Instead, we can see the actions of the non can be painful to the borderline.
That said – many nons don’t want to hear that they have being acting toward their borderlines in painful ways. They too don’t want the blame. But I am not saying these things to “assign blame.” No, I am saying these things to try and help empower the non with skills that help the borderline with his or her feelings. In that way, life can get better for all involved.
Learn about this and how to do it in “When Hope is Not Enough”: