Is BPD Just Women with Too Much Freedom?

Decisions, decisions.

Decisions, decisions.

(This is a concept I’ve been mulling over for a while, but I finally got it down in print in response to a discussion in the comments at The Woman and the Dragon.)

The year is 1952.  Mary is a 16-year-old high school sophomore who lives with her father and mother and three siblings. At school, she pretty much takes the classes all the other girls are taking, and wears the school uniform. Her mother picks out her regular clothes, with input from Mary. She has an allowance, but any significant purchases have to be approved by her parents. Social events are mostly arranged and chaperoned, like school sock hops.  She has a curfew, and she’s expected to tell her parents where she will be at all times.

When she starts dating, boys introduce themselves to her parents for a once-over, and dates mostly take place in the context of arranged social events.  Once she graduates, she continues to live at home and help her mother with the younger kids, but maybe gets a part-time job or takes some classes in something like nursing.  Within a couple years, nature takes its course with one of the boys, and if she’s amenable, he talks to her dad about marriage. Her mother takes charge of most of the wedding arrangements, and they start their new life together. Her new husband makes most of the decisions: what car to buy and when to change the oil, what house they can afford, what form serious discipline of the children will take, and so on.  He consults with Mary on many decisions, but he makes the final call on most everything.

This is an idealized picture of the era, of course.  But the point is that a typical woman in that society, who got married young and assumed her husband was in charge, didn’t make a more critical decision on most days than what to make for the kids’ lunches or how to style her hair (and even that would be done within limits based on her husband’s likes).  She went from following her father’s lead to following her husband’s, with at most a few years of semi-autonomy in between.  Her day-to-day life just didn’t involve a lot of decisions, large or small, and that seemed to work out pretty well.


Now the year is 2002, and Jane is a 16-year-old sophomore. She has a lot of choices of classes at school, and she’s already being pressed to choose a career path to work toward. Her parents (or mother alone, in many cases) leave most of her clothing and spending decisions up to her, perhaps within some extreme limits. She may have a curfew and some restrictions on real-life social activities, but her online social life is entirely her own. She decides for herself which boys to date.

After graduation, she goes off to college and lives in a dorm where (if it’s not outright coed) boys are in and out of the rooms regularly (read I Am Charlotte Simmons for a truly depressing account of college life). Now her decisions about sex and relationships are entirely her own, with no oversight from adults at all. After college, she decides what jobs to apply for, what apartment she wants and can afford, what car to get, and so on. She continues to make all her own decisions about sex, drinking, partying, friends, etc. She has to decide whether each expenditure she makes fits in her budget, with no one to set even some basic boundaries.

By the time Jane reaches age 30, she’s been making her own decisions (with the strongest input coming from her peers and TV shows) for at least a decade, basically filling the father/husband role for herself, and she’s shell-shocked. This lifestyle isn’t natural for her, because women are too moody and impulsive, and they need a man to provide stability.  Without that, she makes too many bad decisions, gets herself into emotional roller coasters, and generally develops a me-against-the-world attitude from being burned by too many bad choices.

Now she feels the wall coming and meets a man she’s crazy about, and part of her wants to submit to him — and she does, sexually, with gusto — but it’s been so long since she was under the charge of a man that she’s forgotten how.  So she bounces back and forth, throwing herself into the role one day and then getting scared of losing control and rejecting it the next. More than a decade of being on her own has made it difficult for her to really trust anyone.  On the good days, she thinks her current guy is perfect, but on the bad days she hates him.


Now, consider some of the qualifications for BPD (or “emotionally unstable personality disorder,” at it’s being called today):

  • impulsive actions
  • tendency toward conflict, especially when people try to block her impulsive actions
  • unstable mood
  • poor or unstable self-image
  • intense and unstable relationships
  • excess efforts to avoid abandonment
  • feeling of emptiness

It seems to me that a woman like Jane is very likely to demonstrate many or all of these qualities.  After years of having no outside rein on her impulsive behavior, it’s gotten out of control, and she resents anyone who tries to curb it.  Likewise, no one ever calls her on her moodiness, so it’s become normal.  A series of relationships and breakups have left her questioning her self-image, and getting more intense and impulsive about each relationship out of desperation.  The many breakups — whether initiated by her or the guy — make her worry about abandonment, that maybe she’ll never find a relationship that will last.  The periods of loneliness between relationships (or during meaningless ones) leave her feeling empty, and her ability to trust people — or even to trust in God’s will for her — dwindles.

So Jane, just by virtue of living the modern, strongandindependent, have-it-all life, could very easily develop the attitude and behaviors that would be diagnosed as a major personality disorder and treated with medication and/or years of therapy.  If she is a strong-willed, feminine woman who had a very good upbringing, maybe she comes out of the experience without too much damage and is able to settle down in marriage and have a good life.  But if she had no father so the fear of abandonment started early, or if childhood abuse gave her a head-start on self-image problems, or if she’s just genetically predisposed to excessive moodiness and impulsivity, Jane’s life may make her a complete basket-case who will never be able to find a reasonable level of contentment.  Mary (remember her?) wasn’t likely to develop something like BPD unless something wasn’t right in her brain from birth.

There have always been people with personality disorders and other mental illnesses.  But these things are being diagnosed so commonly today that something has clearly changed, either in us or in the diagnosis.  Probably some of both: I’m sure they are being over-diagnosed, because that’s where the money is; but I also know too many women who clearly do have a disorder — maybe not drastic enough to be medicated or locked up, but bad enough to make normal life problematic for them.  The fact that BPD is almost never diagnosed before age 18 is significant too.  It develops.

I suspect that Jane’s lifestyle shifts the women who live it sideways on the crazy scale. The ones who would have been crazy anyway are still crazy, and the extremely sane ones at the other end are still reasonably sane.  But the woman whose moodiness would have excited her husband and kept things interesting a century ago now becomes an unstable, hyper-sexualized harridan; and normal women in the middle develop behaviors and tendencies that they wouldn’t have developed if they had spent their 20s and 30s married and having babies while their husbands made most of the decisions.


That’s my theory, anyway.  Yes, there are outliers and NAWALT and all that, but I think there’s been a shift here that may be attributed to women being free to run their own lives for far too long.

55 thoughts on “Is BPD Just Women with Too Much Freedom?

  1. Cail- excellent. At work right now, but I wanted to read this as soon as I saw it was available. I’ll comment later!

  2. So, I think a quick primer on “personality” is in order here, then I will try to get us to the logical “next steps.” You and I have had some great preliminary discussion on this topic, but as I am an impatient person by nature, all I can think of is “so now what?”

    In order for “personality” to be disordered, one must first acknowledge its existence. And as funny as that may sound, there are plenty of psychologists and psychiatrists out there who are dubious of this assertion. It is worth understanding exploring this just a little.

    In the simplist (and not necessarily wrong) sense of the word, “personality” can commonly be defined as “the way you are.” But what does THAT mean? Here is what we know:

    1. As we age, it becomes more and more difficult to try new problem solving approaches to novel consepts. This is consistent with the cliche “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Neuronal networks are not being developed quite as easily the older you get–these are thought of as the way we learn new approaches.

    2. Intelligence is relative constant over the lifespan. This is true even when you use “culture neutral” measures to assess it. In cases of brain damage, etc, we can lose vast amounts of things we once knew, but this actually argues for the existence of crystalized intelligence as a pretty sound construct.

    3. Temperment exists. It is the part of your behavior algorythm that you get from the unique blend of genetics you get from your parents.

    4. Behaviorism (classical conditioning, to include all the different types of stimuli and behavior modification/extinction interventions) also exists. Organisms respond to these interventions in a relatively predictable way.

    So, here is what I think: You enter the world with a temperment. Immediately, the environment begins to make work of that temprement and over time, you develop into “you.” The older you get, the harder it is to dislodge old habits and behaviors. Personality, then would be defined as “if you take a person who is over say, 25, and place them in the exact same situation 100 times, they will behave the same way, 90% or more of the time.” In other words, “they way you are.”

    So where did we get the idea of “disordered” personalities? When I was in graduate school, I had to take several semesters of “psychopathology and diagnosis” which takes your undergraduate abnormal psych class to a whole new level. What I learned in those classes, was this–psychologists and psychiatrists get together every few years, and update the DSM, by consensus to decide what is disordered or not. This is how “homosexuality” was ejected from the DSM III when the DSM-IV came out. What is disordered is not ENTIRELY scientific–and in that case, for example, you could argue that it was political. Soud scary? It certainly is. What it means is–like it or not–the mental health profession is the new clergy. We have simply replaced the word “sin” with terms like “non-normative” and “inappropriate.” At the time, one of my classmates dropped out of the program, citing this as the

    You aptly list the diagnostic criteria for BPD, but is that all it is? A list of symptoms? In one sense, all the disorders in the DSM-IV are just that. You take a list of say 9 things, and if the patient has 5 of them, they have the disorder! Simple, right? But what if they only have 4 of them? What do they have? This is a topic for another day, but it will come up time and again when we talk about the very people (the girl in the second vignette). Because you see, in order for someone to reach the threshold for ANY disorder, they must have significant impairment in one of three areas–social, occupational or leisure. For girl number 2 BECAUSE OF THE NEW SOCIAL NORMS AND POLITCAL CORRECTNESS she will never be diagnosed with something that would have been spotted by Freud a mile away.

    Cail–I am going very long. Should I continue? Or maybe share an email with you and you can decide how much more you want?

  3. @ Anon

    I like that model you put forth here. I think we may still disagree how much “temperment” there is in various contextual situations, but it’s overall a solid framework of the interactions between nature and nurture.

    That’s a very interesting take on “disordered personalities” as well. I think the feminine imperative and its impact on social and political norms goes much deeper than I initially realized. Just a couple decades ago homosexuality in regard to Christianity in the US was a “sin” and a “disorder” but now Christians are “bigots” and “hateful” for saying the same thing.

    These shifting norms obviously play a huge impact on the development of personalities, both male and female.

  4. Please continue as long as you like; I find this fascinating and will be replying. Thank you.

    I’ll save some time by saying I agree with everything in your comment above. As I said on another blog, those of us who believe in the importance of nature don’t disbelieve in nurture; we just don’t think nurture is everything. We’re conceived and born with a personality and temperaments that are determined by the quality and number and arrangement of the pathways in our brain, and then life adds to those pathways, strengthening some, rearranging others, but never straying too far from the original template.

    So we’re willing to meet the environmentalists halfway and quibble over just what percentage of each trait or tendency comes from nature and what comes from nurture. They can’t accept that, though, because their entire belief system is predicated on people being blank slates and nurture being everything. That’s how they can pass the No Child Left Behind Act, insisting that all children can be above average in school if the teachers and parents would just do their jobs. Or that eliminating poverty will eliminate crime. If they accepted that some people are born less capable, personable, or ambitious than others, they’d have to reexamine their entire political, educational, and economic system. (This isn’t just liberal bashing, either, because there are plenty of conservatives who insist you can do anything you want if you just put your mind to it.)

    As a Catholic, I’ve been taught that, in additional to our brains, humans are also given a soul, endowed with will and intellect (separate from intelligence, which is just a function of how well our brain works). That gives me an out from the “we’re just chemical robots” way of thinking, because even if my brain itself is just a black box that processes information in a completely predictable way based on its construction, my soul has some sway over that. My belief in my soul means that I’m not just a robot responding to stimuli and thinking that I’m using free will, but that I really can override the electro-chemical impulses that equal thought.

  5. No wonder Big Pharma is such a cash cow. It causes all these problems in women starting with birth control so that she has “sexual freedom”, which leads to anti-depressants because of the consequences of sexual and other freedoms, which leads to pills to fight off the diseases and cancers caused by birth control, anti-depressants, poor diet, or other destructive behaviors from being free.

    They got them from young to old.

  6. continuing…

    Having tried to establish my own view of personality and the particular disorder(s) on topic, what is really important is “how do they develop?”

    The Onion Analogy

    If the personality is like an onion, the center of that onion is the temperment. It is essentially a group of ill-defined, but definitely present set of automatic tendencies everyone inherits from their parents. Ever noticed how some people, even within “socially acceptable limits” are ALWAYS moody, while others have a pleasant disposition that seems to rush over them so naturally? It is my contention that this predilection towards an anxious or depressed disposition is VERY powerful, and takes a lifetime of interacting with the environment to push in another direction.This is not morals. This is not values. This is how you are most likely to approach the world, and one of its basic outflows is “internal” vs “external” locus of control.

    Those who have an internal locus of control tend to see the world as a place that they can master. They certainly are able to accept that much of lifes events are entirely random or out of their control, but they far more likely to incorporate into a more global “I can change my situation” attitude. They are anchored, centered. Life may kick them around, but they have many ways of coping at their disposal.

    The individual with an external locus of control has the exact opposite reaction to the world. EVERYTHING is out of my control–and this part is important–to INCLUDE MY EMOTIONS. My emotional state rushes over me with no warning, changes in an instant, and I cannot do anything about it.

    Now, one could argue that ALL babies are in the second group, but are they really? Those of us with children know it is not so. I have 3, and 2 of them (boys) have been calm and self-soothing from the beginning. The other (a girl) not so much. However, my experience does not present itself as a universal truth about boys and girls! There are fussy baby boys in the world! But we will have to address the notion of temperment as it relates to sex of the child at some point in order to understand what goes wrong with the onion.

    Question–If you accept my hypothesis so far, (and you are Christian) has God imprinted certain tendancies within this framework on “boy” and “girl” temperment? I obviously think He has, and this model sort of has to accept it to work. But what do you think, dear Cail reader?

    That tightly wound, hard center of the onion–the temperment cannot be dislodged, without destoying the onion.

    Which brings me to the next point–the next “layer” of the onion, is indeed what is commonly known as “the personality.” It is the next most difficult piece to dislodge or change, and there is much debate about whether it can be changed at all. I think it can, but it is VERY DIFFICULT and not likely. The personality, as mentioned earlier developed through the temperment’s interaction with the environment, and this began–some would say–in the womb. There is plenty of evidence to support this. Babies who’s parents were quiet, reading alot, not arguing tend to be calmer for example.

    Another reason the personality is so difficult to change is because, in Freudian terms it’s primary mission is to protect itself. It is,for purposes of this discussion roughly mapped onto some ego and superego functions. The personality makes up (in part) the persons “internal structure” and identity. If it is threatened, usually it will lash out. A person with an external locus of control (tempermentally) is FAR MORE likely to use these kinds of defense mechanisms. Therapists call this “egosyntonic” reasoning, and is made of unsophisticated coping mechanisms like denial and projection.
    But make no mistake–when the personality is disordered, it is almost always an egosyntonic problem, making it ALMOST impossible for the individual to ask themselves the toughest question of all–“maybe it’s me?”

    I will stop here, and see what comments come. Thank you again, Cail for the opportunity.

  7. I’m getting to that part, but not yet. Take a look at the next part, and tell me what you think. Have a few steps til I try to tease out the phenomenon of which you write.

  8. Yep, I am trying to get there too. I think personality disorder as a consturct can be salvaged, but must be looked at through this lens. Iposted a little more below, but have not expored the shifting norms part.

  9. Real quick edit. It is not “almost always an egosyntonic problem,” but rather “egosytnoic” is the defninig characteristic of a PD.

  10. “Question–If you accept my hypothesis so far, (and you are Christian) has God imprinted certain tendancies within this framework on “boy” and “girl” temperment? I obviously think He has, and this model sort of has to accept it to work. But what do you think, dear Cail reader?”

    I believe there are two ways to think about this.

    Since the original “sin” humans all born from Adam (aside from the fulfillment of Jesus) are inherently sinful. It would stand to reason that there would be some corruption of “genes” so to say because of the original sin. If this is true, genes that confer say tendencies towards homosexuality — which is a sin — are because we are humans born after the fall of Adam.

    On the other hand, Isaiah has some passages on the unborn, especially that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and knit together in our mother’s womb. So… there’s also the alternative that we as humans have some degree of framework that God has imprinted on us that is not a mistake.

    I think these two positions are fluid much like the nature-nurture “debate” we have been having.

    I am actually convinced that overall temperment — if you’re talking in terms of biologically neutral personality traits such as introvert/extrovert or other Myer’s-Briggs qualities — may be indeed imprinted on us by God and thus are not inherently sinful.

    However, on the other hand obviously it was not originally in God’s WILL to have homosexuality or children born with cancer or other genetic abnormalities, but God does have a PLAN where he works all things according to his purpose. Even our mistakes/sins (heck, Judah-Tamar, David-Bathsheba, the deceptions of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are good examples in the Bible) God can use to be redemptive.

    Knowing this, is there a particular set of “temperments” (such as say Myer’s Brigg personality or others?) you would say that we are generally born with and build upon?

    I’m not as well versed in psychology, so I would have to go read up on a lot to figure out which ones you think may contribute to general temperment…. so you could just tell us. 🙂

  11. Sure. I would assent to this. When I posed this question about temperment and God, I figured someone would posit something like this. I had a seminary professor once try to reconcile the whole “image of God” thing and sin. He said we can see God. But sin is like one of those opaque shower doors, where you can see the person, their basic shape and form, but you cannot really see the detail.

    Eventually, as I develop this further I am going to try to tackle how this applies to forming in the womb, as a similar problem. I haven’t thought it through completly. As you can probably tell, these are my “stream of consciousness” in real time, as a seminary trained, psychologist who has only recently begun to take the red pill. It is overwhelming to try to integrate the Bible, my scientific training and the feeling that I have been sold a bill of goods into one long writing. Thanks for abiding!

  12. Oh, almost forgot. Myers Briggs? I havent interacted with that model since college, (It is not a standard protocol in modern Psychology graduate programs) so I would be woefully ill equipped to comment on its application here without a refresher course.

  13. Eh, Myers Briggs is just one of the random personality “tests” that just popped into my head when I’m talking about the characteristics/temperments of people in general. Just ignore and go with what kind of characteristics/temperments you see that build the base of the onion. Basically, it would be much more elucidating if I (and hopefully the readers) have a general idea of what temperments are (in your terms) and how they would be molded around to create a personality.

    Rather going on about how sin corrupted the body… I guess we could also say it covers all things related to humans, which are the body, heart/mind, and soul.

    Not sure I like to opacity example… might be better to say glass of pure water (before sin) stained with dye (sin) where God is the ocean of pure water I suppose? It’s impossible, without the blood of Jesus, to purify the water because the dye is ubiquitous in the water. You take out even a little amount/portion and there is still sin. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”….

  14. Yes, I think we’re imprinted with male and female temperaments, in general. In biological terms, we’ll probably eventually find them tied to the Y chromosome or lack thereof. (Men with the genetic defect of an extra Y chromosome tend to be excessively “male”: violent, anti-social, etc.) But I think observation and common sense already tell us there are innate differences in temperament. The occasional tomboyish girl or effeminate boy are only the exceptions that prove the rule.

    I tend to agree that this temperament rarely changes much. I’m pretty much the same person I was at 5 years old when I first went to school. Wiser, certainly, and more able to push myself in social situations. More confident and willing to take chances, surely. But those are learned behaviors that I’ve taught myself because I needed to, laying them over a basic temperament that is still quiet, laid-back, and not very ambitious. If society were such that I could live however I wanted — say I were a wealthy aristocrat who never needed to work or socialize to live, I might not have changed at all from that shy 5-year-old. It takes constant effort to avoid backsliding into that way of being, in fact.

    So I think the onion paradigm is very good. My temperament is just who I am, and is never likely to change, even if I want it to. What changes I do make are layered on top of that as personality, but those are much shallower. For one thing, that personality layer is now 40+ years thick, and I’ve only been making intentional changes to it for the last decade or so, so there was already a thick layer in place by that time. As you say, that layer protects itself — and the underlying temperaments — by resisting change, sometimes violently.

    What you said about “external locus of control” explains a lot about the BPD people I know. They feel out of control — and try that much harder to control everything and everyone around them to compensate. If someone refuses to be controlled, they may flee from that person and shut him out altogether. They very easily blame their problems on other people or situations out of their control — which makes perfect sense since they feel like everything is out of their control, so nothing can ever be their responsibility.

    Which may or may not support my theory: if personality disorders develop because women are making more decisions than they are constitutionally capable of making, then why does the disorder result in them trying to be even more in control and making even more decisions, to the point of becoming control freaks? Logically, it seems like they would go the other way — just break down and give up decision-making altogether. But I guess that’s not how the human mind works: when it breaks down, logic isn’t involved in how it tries to defend itself.

    My image of a BPD is that of a skittish bird, trying to work its way to the feeder. It gets hungry for food, so it starts working that direction in small skips and hops; but every time it gets close, someone comes outside or a dog moves in the yard next door, and the bird goes flying back to safety. It knows the food is good for it, and it really doesn’t have any reason to be so scared of everything that moves, but it can’t help it. Eventually it has to get hungry enough to overcome its fear, or starve to death.

    The BPD person can recognize that some decision or goal (like getting away from an abusive family, for instance) is a good thing, but every time she starts to move that direction, some uncontrolled movement in her field of vision scares her and she goes fluttering back. Back and forth, back and forth, until she wants it badly enough to overcome the fear, or gets mired in the fear forever and it becomes normal.

  15. Cail–A couple of things before I head out. I will continue the next “chapter” later.

    Your last 2 paragraph start to get at the “what” with regard to BPD (and PDs in general) That is, moving away from the simple list of symptoms (in the OP) and onto a construct. A good mental health provider has a working theory about all the disroders, or at least the major classes of them.

    Try this on–I think it fits into your theory about what it is like to be this way.

    Ever watch cops? You know the episode where the police go to the house, the guy is sitting in the chair, drunk, the woman is in the corner crying to the police? Both of them are bloodied up. It is a story of “he said, she said?” (I know, every episode, right?)

    Usually, the woman meets criteria for BPD or HPD, and the guy does for NPD or APD. They attract each other like flies on s***.

    (I think this next part might upset a lot of mansophere bloggers, and I don’t mean to, but here it goes.)

    This attraction is so POWERFUL and subconscous that if you took an APD/NPD guy and placed him in a room with 500 women, 499 of them have good boundaries, self respect, healthy coping skills and 1 of them was a raging borderline, guess what would happen? The two would become a couple, guarunteed.

    A person with BPD CANNOT sit next to their partner, reading a book while the other person does a crossword puzzle (in other words, the two of them not fighting, no drama) without feeling very uncomfortable after a little while and drama WILL ENSUE. This is the part of BPD that is probably learned behavior compounded on top of temperment.

    I’ll get to a more robust description of this relationship dynamic later.

  16. Right. I’ve started a relationship with someone like this, and she’d be able to enjoy it at first. She could consciously talk about how great it was that we could get along without the drama, and how it was the way it should be. But over time, the lack of drama would eat at her and make her feel like something was wrong. This would lead to her acting out in an attempt to get me to fight, and then when I wouldn’t (I’m just not the histrionics type; my response is, “Let’s talk about it”) that would make her worse, until she’d push me away completely, usually going back to a guy who would fight with her or cheat on her or whatever. They become comfortable with drama and/or abuse and don’t feel right without it.

    Scrubs did a bit on that (using the term “drama queen” rather than BPD), where JD (the young doctor) discovers that his new girlfriend is a drama queen, and she’s losing interest because things are getting comfortable. He starts trying to up the drama by breaking her things for no reason and picking random fights with guys in bars. Eventually he decides he just can’t keep up with the pace.

    But to get back to causes: I don’t know how much of that is temperament and how much is learned behavior. I suspect it’s mostly the latter, but becoming worse when her temperament plays right into it. In other words, if she has an unusually moody or histrionic temperament in the first place, then the things that make a woman somewhat BPD will make her a really bad case.

  17. Continuing…

    In order to understand the development of the next layers of our onion, it is probably best to “give away the answer.” That is, list the rest of them and then explain. So far, we have temperment in the center and personality on top of that.

    Next are Core Beliefs, Thoughts, Feelings and Words/Deeds.

    In this model. THESE layers develop simultanesously with each other and the personality, but are easier still to change or dislodge. They are also less cledarly defined FROM the personality because (core) beliefs (as oppsed to just beliefs) and thoughts very often originate in the personality.

    Side note: So as to not give the impresion that I just come up with this stuff from thin air–The cognitive behavioral and rational emotive therapies have pretty much established effective foundations and manualized protocols that easily map onto this part of how people work and change. There is a ton of literature to read and understand on that topic. The issue of relapse comes into play however. The part most people don’t know about these therapies is they have a high relapse rate.In short, I believe this is because they are changing the outer layers of the onion without changing the inner two.

    Lets expand on Cails OP. Let us suppose that these two girls are not two different girls at all. For experiment sake, let us suggest that it is one girl–SAME genetic make up but somehow is raised in 1950’s America and again 40 years later.

    Using all the same details of the given vingettes, will one develop along a relatively simple personality trajectory and the other become a raging borderline?

    Here are some factors to consider:

    1. Remember that a personality disorder is only such if the behaviors are considered innaporpriate in the current cultural context.
    2. Also, a personality disorder, by definition is egosyntonic. (They lack the insight to wonder if they themselves are the root cause of their problems)
    3. Axis II (personality disorders) pathology drives Axis I (depression, anxiety, eating disorders, pertty much everything else) symptomology. (Simply stated, this means that since “Personality Disorder” is a clinicians code for word for “jerk,” it is reasonable to assume that after a time, they would be suffering from depressive symptoms because they burned all their bridges and no one likes them. They are suffering the consequences of their behavior. When a person with a PD FINALLY comes in for therapy, the chief complaint is almost never “I’m an asshole.” It’s “I’m depressed.”)
    4. What factors in her temperment (especiallyif accept that there is a general “male” and “female” temperment) might interact with each world to produce this disorder (or not)?
    5. In light of number 1 above, might she just be called “strongandindependent” in the latter world, and diagnosed with depression instead.
    6. Does that fact that 1 above is a set criteria make the construct invalid, or is it there, just not detecetable by a clinician?

    Core beliefs.

    “Core beliefs” are most easily identified when differentiated from “beliefs.”

    Belief (example)–I believe that my teacher hates me.
    Core Belief (example)–I believe that I am a no-good rotten worthless piece of crap, therefore my teacher hates me.

    Belief (example)–I believe that I am going to be in a car accident tomorrow.
    Core Belief (example)– I believe that the world is a horrible, unpredictable place that is out to get me, therefore I will be in a car accident tomorrow.

    Get it?

    So, in light of what we know abouthow temperment gets you primed in the spere of locus of control, how might your exeriences with daddy contribute to these core beliefs? This is an infinite feedback loop, building and building from day one to loss of virginity and beyond with so many variables they cannot be counted. Prevailing theories abound in disagreement on this, but they do agree one thing–someting is happening there. What if we compound the messages one receives from daddy (or lack of one–which has reached epidemic levels in the US) with other confusing messages from the culture, and as Cail points out WAY TOO MANY CHOICES, WAY TOO EARLY.

    Another side note and article for consideration: Priming is a two way street, affectively and cognitively. There are certain basic forms in nature that cause a fear response in all humans even if they have never interacted with them before (like babies). We have evolved to recognize spiders, snakes, and so forth in the environment. When we see something out of the corner of our eye, we immediately track it until we assess its threat value. Also, if you see a spider and kill it, or otherwise neutralize it, you are now “primed” to scan more. We have all had this happen. After you attacked by ants, EVERYTHING feels like ants for a bit. Ultimately, our experiences with these things are what drive phobias into our pathology. How might this feature of the temperment be contributing to the problem identified in the OP?

    Another break.

  18. Anon,

    I need to read more than comment, but I think this is the discussion for me (based on your referral from SSM’s blog).

    Full disclosure – I’ve always been skeptical of the helping professions and social science, namely because of the relativism involved. You touched on a key point in your discussion of the treatment of homosexuality in the DSM. As I understand it, the change to remove it as a diagnosable aberrant behavior was essentially a function of moving the goalposts, right? To me this is prima facie evidence that the whole thing is unreliable, but I’m trying to remain openminded.

    As to the BPD issue, there are days when I could swear I was married (legally) to one for seventeen years. Her problems, if I may say so, began as an early teen and involved a lot more than too many choices (parental marital infidelity (mother guilty), generally lacking parental involvement, teen pregnancy followed by abortion, underperformance in schooling and career, promiscuity as measured historically, left at the altar). I’m no angel, but in hindsight I don’t think I had a chance.

    Back to listening.

  19. Interesting.

    So if I’m getting this from you correctly in the last two paragraphs my analogy on it would be very similar to say the body’s alert system of fight-or-flight response. The inherent stress of the situations, choices, responsibilities, etc over and over without adequate conclusion/resolutions build in a phobia-type response much like you would find in PTSD. Except PTSD is typically one or more big shocks to the system all at once, as opposed to a gradual build up.

    The body does have certain disorders where it jacks up the sympathetic nervous system like reflex sympathetic dystrophy where the fight-or-flight mechanisms and adrenaline get attached to other stress stimuli and don’t activate or work correctly causing pain, heart rate issues, etc.

    This seems to overall fit what you have been saying and what Cail said in the OP, correct?

    (As you can tell I’m more of a medical/fitness person so I like those analogies to understand something I’m not as familiar with such as personality)

  20. This is great stuff. I’ve done some CBT myself, and it does help get to those irrational core beliefs that tend to be hiding under seemingly reasonable beliefs, like those you describe. It’s hard work, though, and it requires enough introspection that it’s hard to imagine someone with a PD being able to do it without a therapist who knows her well enough to keep her feet to the fire, so to speak. It’s all about getting an honest look at yourself, which is exactly what PDs can’t do, so without someone walking/pushing them through it, it’s probably hopeless.

    One down side to learning about these things, for me, is that after a while I start to feel like it’s hopeless. The chance of a person with a PD not only “recovering” from the PD, but becoming healthy enough to be a good friend or spouse, is so low that it’s depressing. As you said, the relapse rate is huge. (I know there are specific offshoots of cognitive therapy that are having better success with BPD, but it’s still limited, and I’m not very familiar with those.) So sometimes I feel like “why bother,” but that’s not a very Christian attitude. So I hold out some hope that they’ll get better, while trying not to have any illusions about how likely that is.

    One BPD book admitted that many recovered sufferers may have just grown out of it, rather than being “cured” by the years of therapy they went through. If the problem in many cases is that the person’s emotional development was arrested at a young age by some sort of abuse or abandonment, maybe she eventually does that maturing at age 30 or 40. I guess we’ll see in twenty years: will there be millions of 60-year-old women running around still showing all the signs of BPD/HPD, or will they have eventually matured a few decades late?

  21. It is absolutely depressing. You might want to take a look at a website, I think its called “facing the facts.” It is primarily for those who are recovering from the dramatic whirlwind of a relationship with a BPD person. I cannot remember he name, but one of the proponents on the site has written a book and she is diagnosed bordeline. It is absouultely fascinating to read her talk about gaining insight and giving advice to Non-BPDs on how to deal with somelike herself. She is very accountable–on a level I never seen before. It appears that she is approaching it like the acoholics do it. They of course considere themselves to always have the disease, and have to fight it back constantly. I think this is right, because a disordered personality is characterological. Removing it completely would kill you, just like removing a cancer that has its fingers all through your body.

    With regard to your last paragraph, the literature supports the idea that people begin to, in a sense “burn out” on their Axis II stuff around the start of their 30s. However, this is a long process and continues well into the 50s. You are calling it “maturing” here, but it is the same animal. Think about it–one essential feature of a personality disorder is that they have a skewed (or are completley blind to) cause and effect relationships. This causes a person to keep using the same approach to life no matter the effect, AND NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES. I used to tell my NPD/APD guys who were in domestic violence groups “same girlfriend, different name.” And this would get the brain working. It was that simple. Of course that phrase was used to help them start down a path of using different criteria to pick a mate (because you can only change yourself) but it related to symbiotic automatic pairing phenomenon of APD/NPD type guys always ending up with BPD/HPD type girls. You would have to fundamentally change yourself to stop attracting women like that. So combine that problem with egosyntonic reasoning, and you get “another relationship ended with infidelity, violence, etc. Must have been them.” And the cycle continues.

    But by “burn out” I literally mean “get tired of.” At some point–the person looks back at their relationship history and says “maybe it wasn’t them.” Usually, this results in much crying, grieving over years lost to this horrible way of approaching life and relationships. It is reallly sad.

  22. So to piggy back onto the last remark I made to Cail–What if the vast majority of women now have some level of personality pathology–like an epidemic of the flu–but it is indetected because much larger forces at work? (Now we are getting somewhere in alternative right/manosphere/MRA/whatever you want to call it language.)

  23. (By the way, I just turned off comment threading because it seemed to me it was making this longer conversation harder to follow with people replying in different places. Hope that works okay.)

    I like what you said two comments up about “getting them thinking.” I was talking to a likely BPD a while back, in a fairly lucid period for her, and she was talking about how she realized she keeps making the wrong choices and going back to harmful habits and relationships because they feel “safe.” In the middle of the conversation, she suddenly says, as if it suddenly occurred to her out of nowhere: “Sometimes I think maybe it would make more sense to just give up all that and start over fresh.” I just started laughing, because it was so obvious that I didn’t realize it even needed to be said — everything she’d been saying pointed to that, but she hadn’t been able to see it, and when she did, it felt like a new concept.

    Deep Strength,

    I like the analogy to physical disorders, because I do suspect there’s a certain amount of “muscle memory” type stuff going on here. There have been many studies where people “practiced” an activity like shooting free throws in basketball by just imagining themselves doing it, and they improved — not as much as the people who actually shot a real basketball, but closer than you’d think, and much more than the control group. So having thoughts and emotions — including the thoughts and emotions caused by abuse, or by feeling adrift in a world without enough limits — is bound to lay down new pathways in the brain based on those thoughts and emotions. If we repeat them often enough, we get used to them — good at them — just like those basketball players.

    So if you constantly feel abandoned, you get good at feeling abandoned. It becomes comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. You feel capable and strong when you’re feeling that way, because you’ve practiced it so much. When you get away from that by hanging out with sane people or getting into a healthy relationship, you get nervous because you’ve never practiced this before. It’s like you’re having one of those dreams where you’re at school and suddenly realize you’re naked and everyone’s laughing at you, and you go running back to your safe spot.

    Even if it hurts to stand in your safe spot — it’s covered with lava and burns your feet — you know you can take it. You know how much it’s going to hurt, but out there away from your safe spot, you have no idea what might happen.

  24. Anon,

    For a while I followed a forum for men involved with (or recovering from) PD women. I stopped after a while because it was just too depressing. The one silver lining I took away was that at least the PD women I know aren’t that bad. These guys were dealing with being attacked with knives or other weapons, with wives sleeping their way through the neighborhood, and extremes like that. Compared to them, the ones I know are kind of mild — still very difficult to deal with, but apparently not as bad as they could be.

  25. Cail–This is becoming a treatise of sorts. I’m curious, do you think it has traction for something more substantial? (Not that your blog is menaingless, but you know what I mean). I haven’t been on a roll like this since my dissertation!

  26. Also, the functionality issue you are writing about (the whacked out, crazy knife weilding Borderline versus the high functioning one) is spot on, and well covered territory in the literature. The higer functioning ones have the same disorder, and I don’t really conceptualize it as being to a “lesser degree” or anything like that. They simply have figured out how to keep a lid on it in the right contexts. They make a pretty well put together first impression. These are the wives who make their husbands miserable AT HOME and noe one suspects it. They map onto SSMs “Quarelsome Shrew” idea quite well.

  27. Anon, I’d like to think so, but I don’t really know where it’s going from here. If you want to write something more structured as a guest post (or series), I’d be glad to post it.

    That’s a good point about the “higher-functioning” ones. They can put on a good show for a long time, but when something cracks that surface, things can get very ugly very quickly.

  28. We left off at core beliefs.

    Next is thoughts. It should be self evident by this point that thoughts are a function of core beliefs, which reside inside (or very close to) the personality itself. Developmentally speaking, the core beliefs make up the only part of the personality that anyone can really get access to consiously. To use psychodynamic theoretical presuppositions (my first love) , there is a sense in which core beliefs are the result of poorly organized attachment algorythms with convolutes object relational interaction feedback loops. (Trust me. On this one, it would take an entire class.)

    In other words, temperment (lets just go ahead and say it–female child) attaches to adult male figure in an unhealty way because of [insert anything here–abuse, neglect, whatever]. The “object” known as father is now not seen in the way we [read: traditional Christians] believe she should–authoritative but loving, powerful but not cruel, strong with self restraint, etc. She internalizes this as having something to do with HER value (core beliefs) and relates to the object (and other similar objects in the future) in unhealthy ways (poor boundaries, etc). This is now the model for her future behavior vis a vis men and will spend the rest of her life with men like her father trying to control them, and ultimately change them into something else. However, the something else, because of the culture the typical Sitcom dad– Stupid, ATM machine, non-threatening, ALWAYS DEFERRING to the wife and daughters in the house, must be taught how everything works by the brilliant, sophiticated women around, put in his place. See the problem? [We believe] men and women were never meant to work that way.

    Side note: Since stumbling onto the “red pill” and “game” I have struggled with this–and I wish Cane Caldo and SSM would show up here and comment. It is very difficult for me to distinguish between “Alpha” behaviors and Narcissism/Antisocial/Psychopathic behavior. If you look back through this so far, you see the thread developing–NPD/APD hooking up with HPD/BPD. It is why I am not sure I should be using game in my marriage, as it seems like a sin to me. I will say–I think there is a solution, I am just too new at all this to have grasped it.

    Continuing: These core beliefs DRIVE thoughts. We already know, thoughts drive feelings, which is next.

  29. I like to call the good “alpha” behaviors “masculinity,” which does a better job of separating them from the narcissistic stuff that some of the “players” get into. It helps to look back a generation or two, especially if you come from a line of strong marriages. My grandfathers were masculine enough to attract good wives and keep them until death, be the kings of their castles, and raise good children, but they didn’t need any antisocial behaviors to do it. They were just MEN. Fairly quiet, easy-going men, actually, but still always men.

    To me, that’s what the red pill is all about — rediscovering what it means to be a man, especially in the context of one’s interactions with women. The fact that some men use aspects of that knowledge to get laid or take advantage of broken women doesn’t invalidate my use of it, any more than a gang-banger using a gun to shoot up a crack house means that my owning a gun is wrong.

    Now, if I use my knowledge of HPD/BPD and how that makes women vulnerable to NPD/APD behaviors by aping those behaviors and pumping and dumping those women, that is clearly sinful. If I use the knowledge to protect myself in my interactions with such women, or to find a successful way to encourage a suffering friend to get the kind of help she needs, that’s clearly not sinful. Again, the knowledge is a tool that can be used for good or evil.

    I think the Axis II disorders are becoming so prevalent among women today — especially among the very attractive, very interesting kind of woman who’s most attractive to the man who’s maybe reentering the dating scene after a number of years of marriage, a bit shell-shocked and not really knowing what he’s getting into — that men really do need to know about this stuff as self-defense. Maybe not to the depth that we’re getting into here, but they need to know there are a lot of women who can hold down a job, clean themselves up real nice, be loved by everyone around them — and yet they’re a ticking bomb if you get involved with them. Men need to know some of the signs to look out for, and they need to know that it’s not something they can overcome by loving her more or some quick therapy or medication. They need to know that it’s often a no-win situation — no matter what he does, no matter how perfect he is, she will sabotage it, because that’s the only way she can stay “safe.”

    So maybe this is dangerous information in a way, but I think it’s also necessary. As much as I wish it were 1950 and most girls were being raised by two parents who encouraged them to be chaste and marry well and early, it’s just not. These disorders are out there, in increasing numbers, and we have to be able to deal with them. If that means running the other way screaming, so be it — maybe that’s the best solution. But we can’t even do that if we’re ignorant.

  30. In order to discuss thoughts as they relate to our next onion layer, me must detour slightly (but not much). It is not secret to most people how the CBT model (and derivatives) work to change behaviors. That would probably not yield anything new to anyone looking at this. By detour, I mean looking at children and what the relationship between thoughts and actions are for them in a therapy session.This ends up being discussion about coping/defense mechanisms and how they develop/manifest.

    Our onion now consists of enough components to make up the basic internal structure of the person. Internal structure would called in freudian terminology the id, ego and superego. In this model it is temperment, personality, core beliefs and thoughts. (Aaron Beck, basically).

    Earlier, I mentioned that core beliefs drive thoughts. This is true in two distinct ways, but for the purposes of understand development, the important one is related the defense of the internal structure. The thoughts develop as ways of accomplishing this. Over time, they become more and more complex. Some are more effective than others, and some are only effective in certain situations. We’ll get to that.


    Play therapy, and its sub-sets (like sand tray therapy) are absoultely fascinating to watch when done correctly. In short, the layers upon layers of defensive and coping thoughts have not fully developed yet, so the internal structure is closer to the surface than will ever be again. This is why, accroding to the believers in this therapy (and I am one of them) “play” is never just “play.” The child is working out their fears, their hopes, their dreams right in front of you, and they are either not concerened if anyone sees this process, or like I mentioned, they have very few ways to defend against it even if they did.

    It is during these formative years (no one really knows the range) that the defense mechanisms develop. Everyone with a psych 101 class has a basic understanding of terms like “denial” and “projection.” Nothing to explain there. Other mechanisms include drug and alcohol abuse, cutting on ones self, sexual paraphelias, eating disorders, etc. When they are playing in the therapists room, they are giving us a glimpse of how their development is going (or not going).

    Denial, for example is not necessarily a bad thing. If I am watching my house burn down and my family is inside, I will probably be in a dissassociative, denial state while it is happening. This is protecting my internal structure from that which is way to painful to absorb in an instant. If, on the other hand I never come to grips with it, that is a different story.

    If I am late on a bill and keep denying it the creditor will garnish my wages, take my belongings, whatever. This is an unhealthy use of the defense mechanism.

    The more sophistacated forms of ego (or internal structure) defense are things like humor, and rationalization. They too have times when they are appropriate and times when they are not.

    But the point is, your internal structure must be relatively intact (and remember, this is the part this not likely to change much over the lifespan) before defense mechanisms start to show. What this means when we get out of the abstract is a hard cold fact about CBT and why it doesn’t work long term:

    The fears, hopes, dreams, core beliefs about yourself and world that you are defending your ego and personality from almost NEVER change. The outward manifestations of them can be extinguished with behavior modification, but they will rear their ugly head in some other way as soon as your brain figures out to do that. This is why one addiction is often replaced with another, for example.

    Another break!

  31. Quickly– I am looking over all of this and I must apologize for the attrocious grammar and spelling. This is occuring because I always type directly into this little box the blog site provides. It has not editing features (and I obviously need them). I also do not go back over what I have typed. Maybe I should start putting this into Word and bringing it over. Again, sorry.

  32. “So if you constantly feel abandoned, you get good at feeling abandoned. It becomes comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. You feel capable and strong when you’re feeling that way, because you’ve practiced it so much. When you get away from that by hanging out with sane people or getting into a healthy relationship, you get nervous because you’ve never practiced this before. It’s like you’re having one of those dreams where you’re at school and suddenly realize you’re naked and everyone’s laughing at you, and you go running back to your safe spot. ”

    Ah yes, this is actually very similar to chronic pain (and I suspect many other things as well because it applies to the brain). Basically, what happens with chronic pain syndromes is that you have the initial injury to the body. The pain is constant over a few months because of aggravation et al; however, even as the tissues in the area eventually heal up the pain still persists. The brain gets so good at activating pain pathways that even normal movements in which no tissue injury occur cause pain.

    The first step is to break the cycle of pain (which can be extremely difficult) because to the brain it is a learned behavior even though none of the body’s tissues are injured at all.

    “Side note: Since stumbling onto the “red pill” and “game” I have struggled with this–and I wish Cane Caldo and SSM would show up here and comment. It is very difficult for me to distinguish between “Alpha” behaviors and Narcissism/Antisocial/Psychopathic behavior. If you look back through this so far, you see the thread developing–NPD/APD hooking up with HPD/BPD. It is why I am not sure I should be using game in my marriage, as it seems like a sin to me. I will say–I think there is a solution, I am just too new at all this to have grasped it.”

    Your last post is very good. It explains a lot. As for this, deti explains things very well:

    “Look at the description of Power. It’s unique to the man himself, but it’s also unique to men in general. Power is what makes a male a man. When attributed to men they are viewed as masculine: “confidence, assertiveness, self-mastery, a commanding presence and indomitability”. These traits tend to masculinize women when applied to them. A man is attractive when he shows these traits. If a woman shows too many of these traits too aggressively, she’s considered bitchy, rude, unfeminine. ”

    Power is essentially the ability to hold YOUR “frame” — and “frame” itself is genderless and just represents how humans (or animals for that matter) interact and express themselves in the physical world.

    A masculine “frame” (which a man would hold in his interaction with the world) is attractive and shows all of the traits above…. this is why you don’t necessarily have to be interacting with a woman for them to be attracted to you. They can see your ability to hold YOUR “frame” as a bystander in a social situation, or with a child, or how you interact with animals/pets.

    Obviously, “confidence, assertiveness, self-mastery, a commanding presence and indomitability” can be morphed into dark triad traits if they are used for negative purposes…. however they can also be good if used in the context of godly masculinity as defined by the Bible.

    Does that make sense?

  33. Thanks for the kind words, DS. Yes, THIS PART makes sense. Where I get tripped up is in my own head. The Bible tells me that if I violate my own conscience I am sinning, even if my assessment of the thing I think is sin, is wrong. I have been experimenting with these MMSL “procedures and tactics” for lake of a better way of putting it off and on for about a year. When I use them, THEY WORK–very well. BUT I feel horrible using them.

    The Bible also tells me (1COR 10:13) that no matter how bad things get, I never HAVE to sin. There is always a way to do the honorable thing, blameless.

    Something is going on there. My understanding of this problem, from a biblical perspective is that either:

    A. My conscience needs to be re-calibrated (I am misunderstanding scripture) or
    B. That pricking of the conscience is God telling me “Stop. You are manipulating your wife in a way that you and I both know are wrong.”

  34. Ah, yes, Athol is an athiest I believe.

    Some things like hitting up the gym are Biblical — building up the health and fitness of the temple of the Holy Spirit.

    However, there are also things that are manipulative in game that can be used to seduce, induce jealousy, etc.

    So you definitely have to test such things against the Word to make sure you are becoming more like Jesus, as opposed to build yourself up to be more attractive to woman (essentially, idolization).

  35. Cail,

    Anon asked if I would comment. Thanks for hosting.

    I am convinced you are on the right track.

    There are a couple things that I think we should pay particular attention to.

    1) The chromosome counts are probably indicatives, as (I believe) Cail said: XX, and XY. The Y almost certainly denotes a greater ability for an “internal locus of control”. Women, then, should not be expected to have much of this–even if this were not a fallen world. They were made doubly in submission, i.e., twice-as-needy for an external locus of control.

    So, if I were a psychologist looking for an explanation or diagnosis of BPD, my first question would be: “How do you get along with your father?” The fathers are the link, and their absence or abuse is probably at the root. A word: the father’s absence is more likely to be her or her mother’s fault; at least initially.

    2) We are Christians, and must not get into the habit of looking for psychological explanations where spiritual ones would tell us more. Our psychologies, personalities, etc. are a result of some combination of the material and the spiritual. In our times we have a really and truly bad habit of psychologizing Christ, scripture, traditions, etc. As someone said above: sin occludes our vision. It is the speck in the eye; which is the lamp of the body. By the eye you see. So if you hang around sinful things, your vision gets darker, more occluded, with sin.

    Now we have this 50-year-long merry-go-round of pain and sin where daughters are raised without fathers (and without uncles, grandpas, friend’s fathers, etc.), or they are seduced into running away from their fathers by other women, or another man. Away from their fathers, they search for another locus of control. It is their nature. The odds that the new external locus is more sinful (in her sight) than her father is extraordinarily high. Even bad fathers usually don’t try to get their daughters to be corrupted with them. He will usually at least lock the liquor cabinet, hide the pornography, etc. His sins are not towards her, but merely near her.

    Others want to sin with those daughters. I’m speaking of other men AND women.

  36. I was married to a very high functioning BPD wife for 12 years (She was diagnosed and I’ve posted her PAI nubmers, as Anon might remember). The website Anon was searching for is called “Facing the Facts”, but the URL is The author he couldn’t remember is Randi Kreger, who wrote the seminal “Stop Waling on Eggshells” for family members of BPD. To tell you the truth “Egshells” reads a lot like Alpha Game tactics for the “normals” that have to deal with BPD relationships.

    I participated on their message boards for a couple of months, and even went through one of their “Board Ambassador Trainings.” Personally, I tired of the board in about two or three months because I grew tired of the assumption that I had unhealthy co-dependency and/or narcissistic tendencies because I married a BPD. I’ve been in enough therapy, I don’t. I found kindred spirits there, but the truth of the matter was high functioning BPD and low functioning BPD are two very different worlds. Most people on BPDFamily have relationships with low functioning BPD spouses.

    The observation that high functioning BPD women can “Clean themselves up” for a couple of years mirrors my experience. They can develop enough coping mechanisms to “bite their tongues” enough to get what they want (fulfill their life script or sense of entitlement). However, unlike the carousel rider who has to cover up their N, the High Functioning BPD has to cover up their personality deficits, or more aptly morph into something they aren’t to achieve what they think they desire. You can hide your N to some degree, but personality deficits will rear their ugly head eventually.

    The scary part is, the cracks that appear in a High Functioning BPD’s personality is easy to write off as immaturity. I noticed quite a few small things, but my former mother in law was apt to say that my ex-wife was just like she was at her age, but she grew out of all those bad traits. I thought the world of my former mother in law, but truth be told, she got pregnant at 16, and had all three of her kids (by two different men, one who was in jail) by the age of 23. She had all her crap together by the time she was 25 because she had three kids and in the early 70s in Middle America she still suffered greatly for her life choices. She had to change. My ex-wife, with a decent paying job as a nurse, no kids and getting married at 26….not so much.

    My ex-wife snowed our pre-marriage counseling therapist (a LPC,L/MFT), and snowed a series of other therapists and psychiatrists. My ex-wife openly admitted that she routinely lied to her counselors and concealed things she did. She put on one hell of a show, for everyone. There is a reason BPD patients are anathema to many therapists.

    Note that Rollo Tomassi, had his run in with BPD….and he cautions those in the manosphere to be careful with using BPD to account for some of the behaviors women exhibit in society today. There is no hamster like the one that lives in wheelhouse of a woman with BPD.

  37. Won’t be able to post much until Monday night, but not even close to done. SSM has given me an open invite to guest post on any particular topic, but specifically requested something else. Please look for those also.

  38. I’m looking forward to reading and writing more about it too, but I ran out of immediate thoughts, so I’ll have to think on all this some more and see what comes up.

  39. We are Christians, and must not get into the habit of looking for psychological explanations where spiritual ones would tell us more. — Cane Caldo

    And vice versa. I know some people who see demons behind every problem, when physiological explanations are more likely. I heard a priest-exorcist say that 80% of the people in mental wards could be released and live normal lives if they were exorcised properly. I have no idea if that’s true, but you make a good point: we should never exclude either side of the equation, and the tendency today is to focus entirely on the material.

    We’ve also discarded the idea of “sins of the fathers,” even though that’s completely biblical too.

  40. To tell you the truth “Egshells” reads a lot like Alpha Game tactics for the “normals” that have to deal with BPD relationships. — ospurt

    That book was probably what got me started on the road to this post. Standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, not letting yourself get drawn into her drama — those are all alpha traits, though in the case of dealing with a BPD, they’re more about self-preservation than about scoring with her. Many of the attributes that keep you from being emotionally destroyed by a BPD are the same one that keep you from being friend-zoned or used as an emotional tampon by any woman. To the extent that they could be used to seduce her, that’s really no different from any other woman, except for the likely aftermath.

    Personally, I tired of the board in about two or three months because I grew tired of the assumption that I had unhealthy co-dependency and/or narcissistic tendencies because I married a BPD. I’ve been in enough therapy, I don’t. I found kindred spirits there, but the truth of the matter was high functioning BPD and low functioning BPD are two very different worlds. Most people on BPDFamily have relationships with low functioning BPD spouses.

    That’s a great point, and it describes the feeling I had there too. I have my problems, but they’re pretty far from the narcissism that attracts men to low-functioning BPD. It’s easy enough to see that dynamic playing out, with the needy, externally-focused woman getting together with the man who thinks it should all be about him. But you don’t get that with a high-functioning BPD; in fact, they can appear very independent and non-needy at first. As a laid-back sort, I think I was attracted to the energy level and sense of personal drive that they have. They always have a lot going on, a lot of great goals and ideas. It’s only later that you discover that most of that is an act which they’re using to keep the demons at bay.

    The scary part is, the cracks that appear in a High Functioning BPD’s personality is easy to write off as immaturity.

    True. I think I said somewhere above that it’s as if they got stuck emotionally at 2-3 years old. They’ve learned to cover for that and appear mature, at least for a while, but underneath they still have a toddler’s “want!” and “don’t want!” reaction to things. That doesn’t really help, though, because it doesn’t explain how to fix them. It’s just another good reason to stay clear.

    There is a reason BPD patients are anathema to many therapists.

    I know a therapist who won’t see more than two BPD patients at a time because they’re so exhausting.

  41. Could it be possible that BPD women are so because of attachment issues?

    I’ve done a good number of reading the documentation behind personality disorders, and it appears top me that a large number of diagnosed or supposed-BPD women really have attachment disorders. Usually this is due to the loss of the father, especially if the loss happened relatively early in life. The lack of a stable male figure in a girl’s life can translate into various issues later on which are psycho- and spiritually-related.

    Btw, commenting was a little weird for some reason with wordpress.

  42. Yes, it does seem like attachment to the father is a big part of it in the cases I’m familiar with. More specifically lack of attachment or a twisted sense of attachment to an absent or abusive father. I don’t know if that’s more cause or symptom, but it’s part of the equation, and probably leads into her having trouble with adult relationships with men.

  43. OK, in the days I have been gone this has really taken the turn I had hoped for. Cail–this discussion needs to continue, if not here, somewhere.

    Ospurt–EXCELLENT points, all. Thank you for sparking my memory about “eggshells” and the authors name. I could get really into the weeds regarding your comment relating the eggshells tactics and alpha game. It is, (up thread) a part of all this that causes me great reservation about game in marriage. Thank you so much for your input. You and Cail are also causing me to modify my thoughts on whehter or not high/low functioning BPDs are a different animal altogether. I would only say–regqarding some of the rest of your post–remember I am developing a theory that the construct itself may have reached epidemic proportions right under our noses–undected because of the shifting social norms. In that case, I would argue that you don’t have to be a narcissist to fall for one. (Meaning, if you find yourself with one, you DO NOT HAVE to analyse yourself and your “poor boundaries,” etc. You did nothing wrong and there is no glaring flaw in your character by falling for it.)

    From here, I will continue with the onion analogy, but let us NOTt side bar the rest of it, shall we? It is important stuff.

    At last we get to the parts that the CBT and derivations get to–thoughts.

    Now, to be fair, CBT proponents say that they do reach core beliefs–and I think they do–but they do not make any real, permament changes to them. Beck says that his therapy accomplishes the same thing years of psychodynamic, psychotherapy does, just faster. But why the massive relapse rate?

    This is what I think is happening in those cases. Psychodynamic therapies attempt to makewhat was once unconscious, conscious. They do this (think Ana Freud, Klein, etc) through several techiniques that have in common the analysis of object relational and attachment problems. In essence, they therapist looks for patterns in the patients present life and relationships and interprets them back to the patient as being “just like when your father _____” and so on. They also attempt to model for the patient (while being vigliant about transferrence and countertransferrence) about what a correctly structured relationship between two people is like. This can be dangerous if you are a male therapist and you have a young, female for example. The risks are somewhat obvious. Sometimes the interpretation is wrong, but boy is it obvious when it is dead on. This process can take years. What CBT tries to do is come at it from the back door. In my opinion, it is like taking a hold of the crankshaft of your car and turning with your hand. 1. It is very hard to do, since the motor is designed to work the other way, and 2. you are trying to change the WAY THE MOTOR WAS DESIGNED to work in this fashion. There is no short cut to deep level change. (I also believe this maps onto clear biblical teaching on the matter. True, regenerative, heart level change comes from within–not by changing your external behavior.)

    So, backwards engineering from here–thoughts are the natural out-product of the temperment, compounded by exeperience, creating the personality and the core beliefs.

    It is at this point that those on the outside of the person–can almost see their manifestations–but not yet. Our onion has to “feel” a certain way about their thoughts, then act on them.

    This one is short, but I have some other work to do. Please continue!

  44. Feelings are the next layer and are a by-product of thoughts. This is of course, not news to most people who have even a little insight into their own behavior or a psych 101 class. It is a theory that comes from the CBT crowd, and has been expanded and built upon quite exhaustively. The idea goes: Event—>thougts about the even—>feeling. Nothing mind blowing there.

    However, one must learn at some point WHAT to feel about a particular event. This is probably a function of something that was mentioned upthread–about attachment being the real problem with BPDs. Of course! Our young girls (the 1950s and the modern one) have had VERY different interactions with daddy and this is where she/they have learned what to feel about every other male they meet. Or at least, thats the story.

    Attachment theory basically helps us understand what “right” looks like and it starts pretty early. The experiments done on this are pretty cool. For a great theatrical take on this, see the movie “Rasing Cain” with John Lithgow. It’s WAY over the top, and suggests you can drive Dissassociative Identity Disorder into your childs psycopathology with the right conditioning, but at least they try to explain it.

    As far as real world application of this phenomenon though–it works like this. Lets say I have an interaction with someone who makes a comment that can be interpreted as benign or hostile. If my temperment + personality + core beliefs + beliefs lead me to intepret it as hostile, I will get [fill in the blank emotion]. Unfortunately this happens so quickly it SEEMS like the persons comment MADE me feel this way. Folks with an external locus of control (women) are far more likely to interpret it this way. That same temperment with a whole bunch of maladaptive coping skills, attachment issues, poor modeling, really bad messages from the culture etc, will almost certainly never have access to the process that resulted in their impulsive action that from their perspective was “caused” by the other person.

    It is at this point we (those on the outside of the person) FINALLY get to see the manifestations of all this–words and actions. In my profession, it is my job to take those words and actions and try to go backwards into the psyche and try to figure out what the hell is going on.

    So the original question “is BPD just women with too many choices” still hangs out there, unanswered. My thoughts–sure–that is a pretty good start.

    Here’s what I think–

    The girl with low functioning BPD would be called a slut in 1955. However, her lifestyle today is called “drama queen” but is NOT JUDGED. She just hasn’t found her way. Is the construct still valid just because we moved the bar for decent behavior? I think it is.

    The girl with high functioning BPD would be more difficult to detect in 1955, but eventually she would burn enough bridges (and be divorced several times) that she too, would be someone men would steer clear of. However, in todays world, she is “sassy, stronandindependent, will not settle and doesn’t take any crap from a man.” She is the one with the threatpoint divorce over your head. She is not going to be diagnosed either.

    As of this moment, I think BPD, as it was originally conceived is now called a “liberated, normal, modern woman.” We have lost this diagnosis and all the horrible behavior that goes with it to shifting societal norms.

  45. I suppose the high-functioning BPD in 1955 would be like Elizabeth Taylor — obviously talented and loved by everyone, but somehow unable to keep a marriage together for long. And maybe that fits with my theory: being rich and famous gave women like her way more choices than other women had at the time, and it made them crazy. It didn’t become common until ordinary women were allowed to live that way.

    I think I agree with what you said about CBT. I’ve used it a bit, and it does seem to help to drill down past the emotions and get the underlying thoughts on paper and look at what they really mean — in the moment. It helps me talk myself down from an emotional cliff, like the kind a BPD can put you on. But I can’t claim that it has any real lasting effect — the next drama tends to cause the same thoughts and the same emotional reactions, probably because nothing changed underneath. I’ve only done it for myself, so maybe a professional could accomplish more, but it sounds like you’re saying it’s unlikely.

    Is there something that you DO think works better than CBT at getting to those core beliefs and really changing them?

  46. Yes. True, psychodymanic therapy done by a therapist who is really trained in it (very hard to find and insurance won’t pay for it) AND of course, Jesus.

  47. Cail– I am pretty much done with this topic, however it has caused so much more that needs to be discussed. So far Cane, SSM and a psychiatrist from NZ (whos screen name I can’t remember) know my real identy. Send me an email to the one I used here. We should chat.

  48. Anon, I’ll do that. Your last point, which Cane also made, probably can’t be stressed too often, at least for me. There’s such a tendency on this topic to focus on the material aspects and possible solutions that the real source of all healing can be forgotten. I have to remind myself regularly that the best help I can give a BPD friend (aside from setting boundaries so I don’t feed the problem) is my prayers.

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