Because it is now 10 years old, New Harbinger has decided to publish a second edition of Stop Walking on Eggshells (aka SWOE). I read the first version of SWOE in October of 2005 and re-read it last year just to make sure that my impressions of the book were not rusty. SWOE is by far the most successful self-help book for Non-BPD people (loved ones of people with Borderline Personality Disorder – BPD). Just about everyone on my email support list (the ATSTP list) has read it.
I wanted to post a couple of observations about the new edition as well as some of the experiences that I and others have had with the book. My basic feeling about the book is that it is NOT a book to be used for staying with someone with BPD. SWOE is a book about YOU and YOUR feelings. It is a book that placates the Non-BPD person. That is fine, since that is the audience of the authors (which is probably why it has sold so many copies that and because it has a great title), yet people must realize that SWOE can’t be used to engender a trusting, loving relationship with someone with BPD. The evidence of this is in the subtitle: Taking back your life when someone you care about has borderline personality disorder. This is what I have observed from users of SWOE and the methods contained therein: sure, you take your life back, but the relationship with the person you care about with BPD is wrecked.
Because SWOE is all about you. It is understandable that the authors created a book like this. I mean, how many of us Nons have asked “what about me?” Probably all of us. That’s a very natural question.
Yet, if the relationship is going to work properly, one of the first things that one must accept is that the behavior of the person with BPD is not about you.
What New Harbinger did with this new version of SWOE is that they highlighted the “angry non” aspect of the book. How? Look at the following images from the new version of SWOE:
As you can see, New Harbinger highlights the aspects of:
- irrational rages
- that YOU are not crazy
- standing up for yourself
- protecting yourself
…which again is all very well and good if your goal in the relationship is to punish the other person and to make them behave. What really happens though is that the relationship will come to a screeching halt (or just get worse and worse) if you take this approach.
I know this because I tried it, as did several other husbands of wives with BPD and found (almost universally) that things get better for a while. SWOE CAN modify the BP’s behavior, but only through threats and punishment (which SWOE calls “boundaries”). Threats and punishment WORK, but only for a short period of time. When I applied the things in SWOE to my relationship, things got better for about a month or so. Then things got decidedly worse. The reason is that my wife was responding initially to the threat of punishment. However, those threats did not change her feelings or thoughts in any way. Only through positive reinforcement did she start to behave better. SWOE doesn’t teach positive reinforcement. And even positive reinforcement doesn’t change the way someone with BPD feels. That is done through a change in thinking patterns. You can take step one toward building a trusting, loving relationship with my book When Hope is Not Enough. Although the SWOE crowd don’t place much stock in it, it really works toward building a better relationship.
Additionally, if one wants to really change the relationship and build it into a more trusting, loving one, what ultimately has to change is the way one thinks (both the person with BPD and the Non-BPD). Approaching the relationship with a “I’m not crazy, you’re the one that’s crazy” attitude, which IMO SWOE advocates, will never improve the interpersonal relationship. If you want to know how to take step two and change the thinking, try my eBook Beyond Boundaries:
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I think one has to ask oneself – what is the goal of what I am doing? If the goal is to make yourself feel better and more in control, regardless of what the other person feels, SWOE is a good candidate for you. If you want to build a relationship built on mutual understanding and trust, you will have to look elsewhere.
If you still want to give the new version of SWOE a whirl, have at it…