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Thursday, June 29. 2006
I advise my kids, as they grow up and enter the semi-adult social world, to appraise the people they meet - assuming they like them - before deciding to what extent they would invite them into their personal life, if at all.
We have all been disappointed by people, by ignoring things that were right in front of our eyes, especially when we were young.
Without ever getting into psychology, I just want them to be able to identify problem personality traits or personality types which have the potential to be damaging to them. I don't want them to obsess about it - just to be intelligently observant and to not take people at face value.
It's like Bird Dog identifying birds, or The Barrister having fun identifying fallacies. Call it "Know Your People."
The subject comes up because I was forwarded Instapundit's link to his wife's piece on Borderlines, at Dr. Helen. It can be difficult to write about psychological subjects for laypeople, because we tend to use so much jargon in our thinking, but she does a good job with the subject. However smart or charming Borderline women can be, guys are best off keeping an emotional distance from these often-exciting but angry and unstable females, because they can be very hurtful.
Other types worth identifying "in the field":
The "Slimies." This includes the ingratiating, the manipulative, the liars, the smoothies, the users, the vengeful, the overly-earnest, the conniving, the calculating. More common in men. Stay away, because how slimies treat others is the way they will treat you when you are no longer useful or convenient.
The "Angries." Always a complaint, without ability to take any joy in life. Just not any fun. Occurs in both mean and women.
The "Dopeys." They have never been curious enough about life to know much about anything beyond the totally conventional and superficial. Could be fun for a while, but ultimately dull and cannot enrich your life. Occurs equally in men and women.
The "Narcissists." They dig themselves so much that they don't really have much interest or energy for anyone else (unless the other is a "narcissistic object" - but that's too complicated for here). They want admiring mirrors more than they want real relationships. They are takers, often attractive and charming in a way, but they can be very unpleasant when they do not get the attention or adulation they believe they deserve. Enjoy them socially, but don't get too close. Occurs equally in men and women, but more obvious in women.
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dear Dr. Bliss,
Love reading your column as you make the psychobabble so easy to "get" but why be so down on the "borderlines?"
Befriending a borderline is like spending the day at Playland and isn't it just so much more fun to be at an amusement park. All kidding aside, you really must be careful not to categorize the people in this world cause in the end it's all disfunction junction.
We like borderlines. They are interesting and fun folks - just don't want the boys to marry one - it's too hard.
Do you really like any of your patients "Ms" Bliss? Or are you just being patronizing? Sounds like my grandmother who, on being introduced to a long-ago beau (who had the misfortune, in her eyes, of not being a WASP), whispered loudly "He's very nice, dear girl, but PLAY THE FIELD!" I wouldn't want a psychiatrist whose spirit was close to that in the vindictive, judgmental piece you cited.
I assume you went into the profession out of a desire to alleviate human suffering, promote health, educate and comfort the bewildered, stupid or merely blind into somewhat more virtuous and meaningful ways. Has it degenerated now into something that pays for private school tuition and college for the kids, summer house for you, and frantic overseas trips to try and revive sex with hubby?
Do you view all of us as dreary types, repetitions, someone whose anguished monologues put you to sleep, labelled any old how just so long as it cudgels reimbursement from the insurance companies...Or are you purer, do you only treat multi-millionaires who can afford to pay for their own therapy?
Speaking as someone variously called BP, BPD, depressed, alcoholic, adjustment disordered, socially phobic, intellectualizing, a missionary, a Cliffie, a devoted mommy, long-suffering wife, tireless community volunteer, preacher, inspired gardener, spectacular dancer, Eeyore, Tigger, enchantress of dogs, Pied Piper with kids, etc. I can say that BPD is real and it is a far worse hell for the sufferer than the whining weasels living with the despised diagnosed person.
You know as well as I do the phenomenon of assortative mating--if the borderline is f___ed up, their mate is always equally ill. Just usually in different ways. I am married to an obsessive paranoid, chronically unemployed, spoiled only child (I have supported the family for 9 years) whose stock exclamations when thwarted (in front of children) are "Psychotic bitch...(or) Fucking Whore!". I don't believe in past abuse as an excuse for dreadful present behavior, but it is a fact that most borderlines have in been sexually and/or otherwise physically abused or severely neglected as children. I have never wanted any part of the victim identity myself. However, I find it quite loathsome how many shrinks recoil from behaviors and defenses that persist in us long after they helped us survive horrors that, to this day, we do not speak of for fear of offending our squeamish and comfortable WASP shrinks.
I do admit that borderlines make awful spouses. I am a great mother and an awful wife. But plenty of other types make awful spouses--physicians, ministers, lawyers, humanitarians, bipolars uncontrolled by meds, insider traders. And the one great thing about compassionately treated borderlines is that their gratitude to the one in a million professionals who actually help them inspires them to reach out lovingly even to a long hated spouse. People can change.
Borderline behaviors and emotional responses are not one size fits all. Not all borderlines are train wrecks. Many make chiefly themselves miserable. Not all are antisocial. Most of them mellow with age.
Or is it simply that we get worn down, become resigned to the cruelty and indifference of the world and turn inward and to God. For myself, I wake up each day wishing I were dead (despite decent therapy and meds). And proceed to fake it with aplomb 99% of the time, resulting in being a valued employee, my children feeling loved, friends, accomplishments, active church life, a variety of studies and hobbies...Alternately sustained and goaded by a loving but demanding God...
The mellowed or tamed or beaten down or tranquillized borderline remains a howling sand storm inside. She just hides it better in middle age than youth. She knows that with youthful good looks gone, no one will even pretend to love her any more. To paraphrase an old saying, the more I see of men, the more I love my golden retriever (and not for any perverse reasons, just because he is honest and faithful and true and beautiful).
The piece you linked us to reminds me of the vilest men who will have sex with someone they would never consider marrying, and who think it is okay to fuck someone they secretly despise. Who's the moral inferior in that transaction, eh? Men who bash the borderline women they ended up with would do well to look to themselves and look to God for forgiveness for their own hardness of heart.
I don't deny how dreadfully most borderlines behave. My sister is a more extreme version and steals, assaults police, accuses falsely (sending relatives to jail), does drugs, manipulates everyone, commits adultery, commits every kind of fraud and deception and still poses as a hapless victim who alone is virtuous in a wicked world. But not everyone carelessly labelled BPD by an exasperated shrink deserves to be lumped in with the scum of the diagnosis.
You know it and I know it: no one chooses to be mentally ill. Secondary gains don't begin to make up for the rage and despair at the core. Because borderlines so frequently behave so appallingly, people prefer to assign to them moral depravity rather than desperate illness (I do it myself each time I get another call about another of my sister's arrests). But the fact is, BPD is an illness. Don't kick the sufferer as the overwhelming majority of posters to that piece did.
Please! I have great affection and interest in every person, suffering or not.
You are attributing things to me which I will not accept, and it is unfair.
The issue here is a simple warning for kids: be careful of people who can or will hurt you. Would you not warn your own kids similarly?