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Ask Bon: Why can’t this person listen to reason (or see the truth)?

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

It has been said in popular culture “if it feels good, do it.” In the case of BPD, the saying should be more like “if I feel it, it must be true.” Emotional reasoning is the inclination to believe that feelings actually equal (or cause) facts and events to happen. The feelings of someone with BPD are so immediate and overpowering; it is difficult for someone experiencing these feelings and emotions to believe that these feelings are self-generated. It is important to remember the function of emotions to understand why emotional reasoning takes place. As stated, the basic emotions function to detect threats to one’s survival (or either body or mind). Fear is useful to protect a person from attack. Anger is useful to cut a threat off and attack back quickly and decisively. However, in the case of BPD, a person will react to threats that are not completely “true.” Although she may feel that a situation is threatening, it is possible that she is detecting a threat that doesn’t actually exist.

My wife had a sure-fire defense: ‘You’re cornering me.’ But while I thought I was ‘cornering’ her into admitting the truth, she felt I was manipulating her into feeling something about herself other than what she felt. – ATSTP member A. (male, divorced)

In the case of A’s wife above, she detected a threat from him – that of “cornering” her – and would react with fear and anger. He didn’t notice that she felt the threat because his intentions were not threatening. His intentions were merely to have his wife admit the “truth.”

The problem with “the truth” when emotions are involved is that emotions lead to emotional reasoning and when someone is subject to emotional reasoning the only “truth” is how she feels. She will seek to mold the “facts” of a particular situation to match her feelings. This emotional reasoning is natural for BP’s. As Ekman states in Emotions Revealed:

For a while we are in a refractory state, during which time our thinking cannot incorporate information that does not fit, maintain or justify the emotion that we are feeling.

This is an important piece of information, which is why I re-quoted it here. He states “our thinking cannot incorporate information that does not fit, maintain or justify the emotion that we are feeling.” During a period of emotional dysregulation, the person with BPD will be unable to “see the facts” if those facts do not support the conclusion of what she is feeling. Therefore, the person with BPD is likely to interpret or generate alternative “facts” that support what she is feeling. She cannot be “reasoned with” during this state because reasoning requires an objective view of the evidence presented. The strong (usually negative) feelings will drown out all reasoning or examination of evidence.

This aspect of BPD is one of the more frustrating ones for loved ones. Loved ones (especially partners) will often ask, “When will this person admit to the truth?” I have already covered lying previously, so I will not expound on the nature of truth. Instead I will only say that emotional reasoning is born from strong emotional reactions, whether or not these emotions are based in reality – whether or not the threat is real or imagined.

From When Hope is Not Enough FAQ Section.

The important difference between lying and bullshitting

An ATSTP List member explains the difference between lying and bullshitting as being about intent:

I think the distinction between lying and bullshitting is an attempt
to clarify the intent of the person engaged in the act.

According to my interpretation Harry Frankfurt’s essay, “On
Bullshit” (
), lying is a conscious effort to
misrepresent reality, whereas bullshitting is a conscious effort to
misrepresent the person doing the bullshitting. So the purpose of
bullshitting is to make the bullshitter seem like a different sort of
person than they actually are, or to misrepresent their own mental
state. Lying, in contrast, has as its primary goal to deceive another
person about reality.

So, if I am bullshitting you, my goal is to make you see me
differently. If I lie to you, my goal is to make you see reality
Continue reading The important difference between lying and bullshitting

ABC News Experts talk about Casey Anthony’s potential disorder

An article from ABC News about Casey Anthony’s pathological lying and the disorder from which it may arise. Before I supply the text here, I want to discuss this quote:

Two of the potential issues Anthony could suffer from are border personality disorder and psychopathology, the experts said. The main thing these issues have in common is a total lack of empathy, according to LeslieBeth Wish, a psychologist and licensed social worker in Sarasota, Fla.

“They can turn a person into a non-person,” Wish said. “Borderline personalities have more emotional regulation problem and often use lying to get away from something and not ever feeling like they’re responsible.”

Those two potential issues were the ones that I identified and opined on the other day. The second paragraph above is why I believe that Casey Anthony probably doesn’t have BPD. The reasons for the lies are not impulsive and reactive, as they seem to be most often in BPD. People with BPD are much more likely to “bullshit” (as a term of art not vulgarity) than to actually lie with proactive intent. They can make up some elaborate stories about themselves, typically to make their world a safer and more livable place when others think better of them. Still, most often BPD lies are to get through a painful moment. Very often as the lies collapse, they will admit everything and ask forgiveness. Casey did NOT do this. She maintained her lies even after the police were aware they were lies. In fact, she started lying to her parents LONG BEFORE Caylee went missing.  She lied (by omission) about her pregnancy. She lied about having a job at Universal Studios BEFORE the cops got involved.

As for psychopathy…. I presented the guidelines of Hare’s PCL-R on the other page. Let’s look at them again and see which of these seem to match Casey Anthony, based on what we know from the press:

PCL-R items

The following findings are for research purposes only, and are not used in clinical diagnosis. These items cover the affective, interpersonal, and behavioral features. Each item is rated on a score from zero to two. The sum total determines the extent of a person’s psychopathy.

Factor 1

Aggressive narcissism – Hard to say for Casey Anthony. We don’t really know enough. We do know that, when in jail, she got angry about what this situation was doing to HER!

Glibness/superficial charm – Yes.

Grandiose sense of self-worth – Again hard to say. This is one factor that really separates BPD from the narcissism spectrum. People with BPD have a lot of shame and generally hate themselves.

Pathological lying – YES, YES, YES.

Cunning/manipulative – I’d have to say yes.

Lack of remorse or guilt – Again, I think we need to say yes here.

Emotionally shallow – Hard to say.

Callous/lack of empathy – Could be. Hard to say.

Failure to accept responsibility for own actions – Yes. It’s never her fault.

Factor 2

Socially deviant lifestyle – Party girl. One night stands.

Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom – Probably, but who knows.

Parasitic lifestyle – Yes. She was living off her parents and then off friends while pretending to have a job. Actually, it is interesting to note that she was telling her mother she had a job long before Caylee disappeared.

Poor behavioral control – Probably. Again, one night stands.

Promiscuous sexual behavior – Yes.

Lack of realistic, long-term goals – Yes.

Impulsiveness – Yes.

Irresponsibility – Yes.

Juvenile delinquency – well, some form of delinquency. She stole checks from her friend and passed them.

Early behavioral problems – unknown.

Revocation of conditional release – we’ll see.

Traits not correlated with either factor

Many short-term marital relationships – no, but many short-term boyfriends

Criminal versatility – it depends. She stole and possibly caused the death of her daughter. They couldn’t prove it in court to the satisfaction of the jury, but we may never know.

Ok, onto the article:

‘Dr. Judy’ Doubts Casey Anthony’s Penchant for Lying Can Be Cured

July 19, 2011

Casey Anthony’s lawyers have said that Anthony has suffered “trauma” and will need counseling now that she is a free woman, but experts aren’t sure Anthony can be helped.

“It would be exceptionally difficult for anybody to treat her. There is no magic pill that’s a truth serum for a person who’s a pathological liar,” said Dr. Judy Kuriansky a psychologist from Columbia University, but better known from her radio show as Dr. Judy.

Kuriansky believes that Anthony likely feels that she has been rewarded for her lying with her acquittal and release from jail.

“Why would she want to go to therapy when she basically got what she wanted? There’s no motivation for her to seek help,” Kuriansky said. “If she had been sent to jail, maybe she would want to see somebody because her style didn’t work, but it did.”

Anthony, 25, is in hiding after being released from a Florida jail following her acquittal on murder charges for the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. She has received death threats and as she left jail protesters changed “Caylee, Caylee.”

Casey Anthony Therapy Will Be ‘Challenge’

Anthony’s criminal lawyer Jose Baez has said, “It is my hope that Casey Anthony can receive the counselling and treatment she needs to move forward with the rest of her life.”

Her civil attorney Charles Greene was quoted as saying Anthony was “emotionally unstable” following the trauma of her daughter’s death and the grueling trial.

Psychologists interviewed by agree that the desire to change is the key to successful treatment for pathological liars, which some believe Anthony may be.

While acquitted of murder, she was convicted on four counts of lying to police. One of her lies was that Caylee was kidnapped by a fictional nanny named Zanny. Zanny was one of a dozen bogus characters that Casey had created. She also lied about working at Universal Studios.

None of the psychologists who spoke with have treated Casey Anthony, but spoke from observations and personal experience.

Two of the potential issues Anthony could suffer from are border personality disorder and psychopathology, the experts said. The main thing these issues have in common is a total lack of empathy, according to LeslieBeth Wish, a psychologist and licensed social worker in Sarasota, Fla.

“They can turn a person into a non-person,” Wish said. “Borderline personalities have more emotional regulation problem and often use lying to get away from something and not ever feeling like they’re responsible.”

Continue reading ABC News Experts talk about Casey Anthony’s potential disorder

Casey Anthony found not guilty, yet what’s wrong with her?

Casey Anthony Acquitted

A few weeks ago I posted an article entitled Casey Anthony: Borderline Personality Disorder, a Psychopath or What? This “analysis” garnered a lot of attention (or at least a lot of traffic) for me. I found that yesterday was the busiest day on my blog ever with over 400 views of that article alone (usually I get about 600 daily views of my blog so this was unusual). Of course anyone that has followed the Casey Anthony trial knows why – she was acquitted of first degree murder and aggravated child abuse, but was convicted of four misdemeanor charges of making false statements to the police.

I watched about half of the trial. I followed it as closely as possible and read about Ms. Anthony’s lies, watched the jail videos, read about her partying, watched her interviews, etc. The issue I see here is two-fold. Firstly, it is not a crime to lie (except to officials, which she did and was convicted of; or to the court, which she did not, since she didn’t testify), nor is it a crime to party with your friends. While the behavior is odd and curious (why would one do that if your child is missing?), it is not criminal. What the state was attempting to prove in this case was first-degree capital murder, without physical evidence, DNA, witnesses or a cause of death. A very high standard and hard hill to climb. Not too surprising that she was acquitted. I think (as do many others) that the state of Florida should have charged her with lesser crimes (homicide or manslaughter for example). It seemed to me from the beginning that Caylee’s death was probably a horrible accident or an impulsive action (like doping the child too much) that Casey thought she could distance herself from by lying and avoiding. Unfortunately, she has now learned that lies (even if she didn’t do it or it was an accident, we’ll probably never know unless someone with knowledge of what happens starts to talk) have paid off. In fact, if it WAS an accident and she had come forward at the beginning and said “I messed up, I’m sorry” she would have probably received a more severe punishment than she will now receive. (Of course I have trouble believing the George Anthony angle because Casey has a history of telling lies to get herself off the hook.) She is not a felon at this point. All that being said, I believe that this case is one in which our justice system was shown to work, but justice was not done for the child.

Which brings me to my second point about this case… It is not a crime to be mentally ill, no matter if you have Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD from abuse or you’re a psychopath. You can’t be thrown in jail or executed just because you’re sick in the head. You can only be thrown in jail or executed based on what you do and what evidence shows you’ve done and what a jury of your peers (or a judge in some cases) believes, beyond a reasonable doubt, you have done. Criminal behavior and mental illness are not synonymous. Actions and feelings are not the same. Someone who has aggressive feelings towards others and never acts upon them, they’re innocent of any crime. As for Casey Anthony, even her defense team said that her lies were an indication that she needed help. Those lies were reflective of a deeper psychological disturbance. What it may be, we’ll probably never know, nor should we.

Still, I believe that Casey Anthony will be unable to stay on the right side of the law for long. She’ll not likely kill anyone but, based on her pattern of behavior, she is impulsive and believes that she can talk her way out of just about anything. Unfortunately, this time she was able to talk her way out of any involvement in her daughter’s death – murder or accident.

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Insightful comment on lying from an ATSTP Member

Today, one of the members of the ATSTP Google Group made an insightful comment about his wife’s lying.

Lying was a big thing for me as well–I took my wife’s lying personally. In retrospect, I did a lot of damage because of that. I made my wife feel like sh*t by pushing her on it, which didn’t help her or the relationship. I understand now that she used lies as a way to create a space in her life that was more tolerable for her. It was one of her few (albeit ineffective) ways to escape some of her personal anguish, and I took it away from her–not because I wanted to help her, but in order to make ME feel better.

There is absolutely no better way to have somebody fear being close to you than to make yourself feel better at the expense of their emotional well-being. It sounds like you understand this now, but I wanted to emphasize its importance. To anyone who might counter with “But why should I have to put up with lies? What about me?”–My answer is, you don’t. You can leave, and I advise leaving while avoiding doing any needless damage to another human being.

Sorry if that sounds harsh–it’s not directed at you. It’s just that I’ve seen the damage that anxious, fearful, and entitled partners (ie, me a couple of years ago) can do to people struggling with internal demons. I’m not at all being hard on myself either–just realistic. I didn’t know better at the time.


Casey Anthony: Borderline Personality Disorder, a Psychopath or What?

Casey Anthony BPD or Psychopath or What?

A few days ago I got an email from a member of the ATSTP list asking me what I thought about the possibility of Casey Anthony, who is currently on trial for the murder of her 2 year old daughter (Caylee Anthony), having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In 2008, I was following the case with interest. I have followed it a bit during the trial. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, yet I have met a LOT of people with BPD (both men and women) and members of their families. I’ve looked at Casey Anthony’s behavior and compared it with the behavior of people that I know with BPD. I pretty much come to the conclusion that Casey Anthony doesn’t have borderline personality disorder. It seems to be more likely that she’s a psychopath. It seems that some criminal profilers agree…

Pat Brown, a criminal profiler, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira that in her opinion, Anthony is a psychopath who is trying to get potential jurors to feel sorry for her. The letters are the way she does it, Brown said.

“This will prove she’s a new woman. After all, she’s found God,” Brown said, adding that juries will frequently sympathize with a woman who claims she was abused and mistreated but now has found the light.

“A lot of time women go to court, juries start feeling sorry for them,” Brown said. “It’s manipulation.”

Brown called the letters “a wonderful window into how a psychopath thinks.”

Here is some information about psychopathy:

In his 1941 book, Mask of Sanity, Hervey M. Cleckley introduced 16 behavioral characteristics of a psychopath:

  • Superficial charm and good “intelligence”
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or psychoneurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan.

Continue reading Casey Anthony: Borderline Personality Disorder, a Psychopath or What?