Blame,  Borderline Personality Disorder,  Emotions,  WHINE Book

Understanding Accountability and BPD

Often, I have had nons say to me that they want their borderlines to be accountable and responsible for their actions. I recently got a 1 star review of “When Hope is Not Enough” that indicated that the reviewer felt that my approach to BPD was a “recipe for walking on eggshells”. It’s clear to me that the reviewer didn’t really understand the content of my book. The reviewer went on to say that: This book doesn’t hold a BPD anywhere close to being responsible for her actions by granting the notion of “emotional dysregulation” a power of grand excuse.

Clearly, the reviewer didn’t understand the idea of emotional dysregulation or the difference between motivation, intent, action and consequence. I attempted to separate and explain each concept in the book, but perhaps I did a poor job.

In “When Hope is Not Enough” I write about the concept of IAAHF (or “It’s all about his/her feelings”). That statement, which is an exploration of the idea “it’s not about you,” is a statement of intent and motivation, not a release from the consequences of someone’s actions. The “all about” statement concerns the motivations of a person with BPD’s actions – that is, rarely does someone with BPD intend to hurt the non-BPD, despite appearances. What the intention of this statement of intent seeks to do is release the non from the paranoia that their loved one with BPD is out to get them. This is typically not the case. Usually, the actions of a person with BPD are intended to reduce their own emotional pain (stemming from emotional dysregulation). Sometimes this emotional pain and emotional dysregulation is triggered by (what I call) perceptions that are “misaligned” with the situation. That is, the “attack” on the borderline is not intended by the non to be an attack at all and through a highly sensitive emotional profile and emotional dysregulation, the borderline will attack back as a way of defending their self from a perceived attack. But the real point here is that the motivation and intention of the borderline’s attack is actually to quell the painful feelings within herself, not to cause interpersonal strife or manipulate the non.

However, as I also say in “When Hope is Not Enough”, the action (or cause) sometimes has unintended consequences (or effects). When a borderline is emotionally dysregulated and overcome with feelings, the action that she takes is likely to be impulsive and the consequences of her actions are not taken into consideration. When behaving this way, the borderline will often behave in an “effect -> cause” way – meaning she will think “I feel bad, so you must have done something to specifically make me feel bad.” If a borderline is to consider the consequences, even the unintended ones, of her actions, she will need to approach the situation in a “cause -> effect” way. Intentions do not provide a free pass for consequences. As I have said on the ATSTP list, just because you didn’t intend to burn down the house while playing with matches, doesn’t bring the house back into existence when you express your intention. One thing that separates the understanding of consequences (that follow from a cause – and in this case the cause is the behavior of the borderline) from blame is that there is an analysis based on observation as opposed to judgment. If you feel that the borderline has done something “wrong,” then you are inserting your judgment, rather than understanding the observed consequences of the behavior. I tried to explain this fully in “When Hope is Not Enough”, but I suppose some people either are so caught up in fault-finding and blame-storming that they can’t separate judgmental thoughts from the understanding of consequences or I have expressed it poorly in the book. If a borderline can begin to understand the consequences of her actions (and especially powerful are those that go against her goals), then, in my mind, the borderline can become responsible for her actions and do so in an effective manner.


  • Amber

    It’s not necessarily about blame-storming. People with BPD do “wrong” things all the time. You seem to be advocating an “oh, gee, it’s not really her fault” kind of approach to handling it.

  • Tammy Wilson

    These bpd people has no excuse for their actions. They are school yard bullies partaking in harmful adult tantrums.

  • Ryan

    You are finding excuses to avoid accountability. There is no excuse. I agree with Tammys comment below. They hold a Victim identity so they dont need to hold themselves accountable as in their mind they are a victim to everything. Narcassists. In reality they are perpetrators of abuse. Bullies. These people use anger as a form of emotional manipulation and control over the other person. They know exactly what they are doing when they do this and play on it. They are Selfcentred egotistical narcassistic controlfreak arsehole sociopaths. They cant hold themselves accountable due to narcassistic traits. They dont believe their reaction was wrong. You are to blame for it even though the abuse came from their vile rotten filthy mouths.

  • Ryan

    High functioning borderlines who cant hold themselves accountable for their actions are also narcassists who hold a victim indentity. Narcassists apportion blame onto other people for their own behavior and dont believe they are wrong in the way they behave so wont hold themselves fully accountable for their own behavior. Introverted borderlines have a greater willingness to hold themselves accountable than say extroverted borderlines which are the ones most people think of when they hear the words out of control emotionally unstable borderline.

  • Bon Dobbs

    Wow, Ryan. A psychological word salad. I agree you are responsible for your actions. No doubt about that. I have been trying to explain motivation here.

  • Crystal Kleppetsch

    I’ve been studying cluster B personalities for quite some time now. Do you or have you ever in your life actually been in a relationship with any of the cluster B’s? Not a meer friend, client or coworker, but someone like your mother, father, sister, brother,significant other,child. Someone so close to you that it’s nearly impossible to get away from them because of the immediate and intimate relationship to them? If you have not…. Then you truly have no clue to what depths of despair they will drive their supposed nearest and dearest supply to. Simply because they want what they want and they want it NOW and will gladly do ANYTHING to get it. These personalities are Molesters & Murderers of Souls. The trauma & damage they leave behind in they’re wakes, regardless of intent is damn near criminal. Right or Wrong, Good or Bad really have no meaning to them in relation to themselves. Its something that applies to OTHERS, not them. Deep Down these people have given themselves personal Permission & Exemption from ever having to behave in a manner that puts someone else’s best interest before they’re Own thoughts, feelings, wants, desires, comforts or discomforts. They Come first & foremost. They will always put themselves before you Wether you will be harmed or hurt in the process. They may say they didnt intend on you getting hurt, but what they really mean is it dosnt really matter to them if you getting hurt by their behavior is the result. As long as they satisfied their whims is their only interest. Oh sure, they will apologise, they will blame everything els under the stars for their behavior, they will say they feel bad, they feel no good and worthless & that you should be more understanding and patient with them…. The ol ” I’m so damaged I couldn’t help myself ” bit. This only last for about 10.25 seconds before they’re next whim comes along and they are right back to abusing others in the process of “getting they’re needs & unresolved issues met. I think too many of you have fallen for the poor me act of the cluster b personality. Especially if you have never personally lived through a relationship with One. I mean why is it people are trying to excuse people who commit such acts of abuse on others simply because they are disordered? Would you tell a child molestation victim to be more patient and understanding with they’re molester, because they are disordered in a way that makes them attracted to & predisposed to impose that attraction on to another & it really isnt they’re fault because they cant help that that is the way they are? How about the Psychopathic Murderer/Thief, shall we advise their victims to be more sympathetic & understanding because these individuals are disordered & cant help that they have limited emotional range & empathy?This is the way they have learned to cope from a cruel terrible past & cant help that they feel nothing for the suffering of others. So im just wondering how much understanding and sympathy we should really have for the Borderline Reputation that has been rightly Earned? Only a Borderline would have you Believe that Reputations just happen because people are mean & from No fault of their Own. When is the Psychological Community going to finally stop letting cluster b’s keep pulling the wool over their eyes & start making Cluster b’s Accountable for their BAD Behaviors & Actions?

  • Vivian Paul

    I agree with Crystal. The compassion, understanding and empathy I had for the person I loved deeply who suffered from BPD almost destroyed me. For twenty-five years I showed love in every possible way. I am an empath so I can say that I actually did feel and understand what my partner was going through and why they acted and reacted as they did. That is how I stayed as long as I did. But nothing changed in all those years. Nothing changed but me. I became the frog in the boiling water.

    I hoped too long and in the end I was blamed for every wrong done by her, especially her behaviors towards me. (I made her do it). I was betrayed, blamed, deceived and had almost 100,000 dollars stolen from me. I heard the most vicious words I have ever heard, said with intent to emotionally detroy me. And no where in the equation was she in taking any responsibilty in anything.

    And to make it even more painful…..she couldn’t understand why we couldn’t be friends. In my case, I do not hold to the idea that she could not control herself and was in some kind of bpd twilight zone. I saw her stop in midstream of a rage attack against me many times, ‘interrupted’ by a friend popping in or we would be riding in the car and she would be raging to the moment of our arrival. Then get out of the car and be as calm and charming as one could be. Reverse…get in the car to leave and it picked up right where it left off. So tell me how does that work?

    I hold that EVERYONE should be held accountable for thier actions and be confronted with them. To not do so enables and does in some form excuse unacceptable behaviors and actions. I hold that it an injustice to the person NOT to hold them accountable to tnier face. I refuse to believe that my partner did not know she was hurting me and that is what caused me so much pain. I refuse to believe that she did not know right from wrong.

    She did know and she continued to do it. My partner was not just experencing emotional dysregulation……I saw, I felt and I believe it was much more. A case of ….which came first – the chicken or the egg scenario. It was as if her very soul had been burned by hot coals and there is no physician or psychologist on the planet that could remedy that.

    Has it occured to anyone that BPD is a condition, not of the emotions but of the soul, the heart of a person. I am reminded of some scripture and whether one is a christian or not, these words are applicable….How sick is your heart that you did all of these things…and…..For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Rationalizing or theorizing is of little comfort to wounded hearts…..those who suffer from ‘Bpd’ and those who have been wounded by the ramifications of it.

  • Sylvia

    I’m genuinely shocked by the comments. It’s really dangerous to lump all people with BPD together. It presents differently in each individual and not all of them are ‘sociopaths.’ I’m a sufferer of BPD (as well as complex-PTSD, depression, and anxiety) and I’m one of the most empathetic people I know. I’ve had a long term relationship and even though it ended, we are still best friends. To this day, he tells me I’m one of the most beautiful people he knows. (I don’t mean aesthetically.) The only person I’ve ever damaged intentionally is myself. I’ve even been a support worker with learning disabilities and help and support others even when I feel I’m dying inside. I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I’m an absolute saint. It’s just when you say things like BPD sufferers are all ‘child molesters’ or ‘murderers’ or that ‘their souls are charred like coal’ it is incredibly unfair and just inaccurate, as there are plenty of those with BPD out there who have high empathy and actually do take responsibility for themselves. We aren’t all depraved psychopaths.

  • Eyesopen

    Empathy is important but only in so much as you use it to separate respectfully. They won’t change. My experience with a BPD was that I was lied to for years, mirrored, manipulated, and purposely betrayed to protect from her fears. There was some alleged remorse but it was followed by lies, acting out, more lies, multiple third parties, and attempts to attack the foundation of the relationship. I have empathy for their struggles but I do not excuse their malicious acting out. Many have other traits from cluster B. They are inherently selfish and lack empathy themselves. I rarely in my lifetime have encountered what I felt was someone that lacked abt type of moral code, but my bdp girlfriend did.

  • Mary

    It’s all so interesting. Well would be if my mother has not been bpd. I feel not enough was done to protect me from her abuse and control. I am in my 60,s and still bare the effects as I now have a type B partner. I’ve done a ton of work in therapy, and read extensively. I take all the responsibility I can but the sympathy and power lies with these types. I feel their lack of insight into their own behaviour is key. In my experience they cannot change. The only relief I experienced was when my mother was on a cocktail of medications. This was back in the 1960’s-1990’s until the recommendations changed. Very poor outcomes in the new meds.
    As the rights of the individual has grown there is little to be done by the medical world as they no longer have the power to assert. Chaos and destruction of family is the inevitable outcome.

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