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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Revisited – Plus an Insider’s Perspective of BP

©2018 Megan Hunter, MBA & Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month Here are some of our thoughts on hope for people with this disorder and those around them. An Inside Look at BPD from someone who has been there — Shehrina Rooney, Recovery Mum, and author of The Big Book on Borderline Personality Disorder, coming Fall 2018 Fifteen years ago, most people knew very little about borderline personality disorder (BPD) and what they knew had been painted as a negative, scary disorder with no hope for improvement or recovery. Times have changed and we know much more today about BPD than ever before. That being said, it remains a confusing disorder for most. Training Professionals about BPD As a training institute, HCI trains professionals who handle disputes in the courts, workplace, families, community, and other settings about people who present the most complex challenges. Our focus, based on Bill’s Eddy’s High Conflict Personality Theory, is on understanding and managing people with high-conflict personalities. A key characteristic of high-conflict people (HCPs) is that they have a target of blame, who they focus all of their frustrations and anger on, so that their conflicts often remain stuck or get worse and become obviously high-conflict. Some HCPs may have personality disorders, either diagnosed or undiagnosed, including BPD. Many people with BPD are not HCPs, because they do not focus on a target of blame. Our intent and goal has been and remains to help professionals understand behavior patterns and learn to adapt their approach and learn necessary skills to help people navigate successfully through their conflicts in every setting. The person who is ultimately helped is the person with those high-conflict behavior patterns, because those dealing with them have learned to adapt and utilize a positive strategy. For example, people with BPD often have wide mood swings, from being very friendly to being very enraged, especially at those closest to them. So we teach professionals methods of staying calm as much as possible, while giving the person empathy, attention and respect. This often helps a person with BPD calm down and more effectively focus on problem-solving. Without this knowledge, many professionals typically get angry back at such clients and make things worse. People with BPD also have difficulty with interpersonal boundaries and seek to avoid feeling abandoned by alternately clinging or going into a rage. Therefore, we teach professionals to give extra explanations of how they work with clients (phone calls, emails, in-person meetings, crisis management, etc.) at the beginning of a working relationship in order to develop better boundaries and realistic expectations. We encourage them not to get too close or be too rejecting of the person, but rather to remain stable in a moderate and clearly professional relationship. We also emphasize engaging the person (possible BPD or HCP or both) to focus on positive participation in dispute resolution by asking questions, making agendas and making proposals for resolving their conflicts. We make it clear that professionals are not responsible for the outcome of their clients’ cases, but rather as assisting their clients in resolving their conflicts. Often those with BPD will blame their professionals for things beyond the professional’s control, so it must always be clear what the professional can and can’t do. Avoiding Labeling We’ve learned a lot in the past ten years, especially as we hear from the people we’ve trained and those who read our books and use our methods. From time to time we realize there are missing pieces of information in some cases or additional information is necessary in order to have a better understanding of these painful problems. We’re always open to new information. While we know (from feedback) that our information has helped untangle the mystery of BPD and conflict for many people, we also know that it’s weaponized some who have only a minuscule amount of information about BPD. The result—labeling people who seem a little (or a lot) outside the norm as “Borderlines” or “BPD”.  Therefore, we emphasize in our trainings, books and other materials, that no one should label someone else as having BPD or any other personality disorder or being a high-conflict person. Instead, just have your own internal “Private Working Theory,” and adapt your approach to dealing with the person, such as the tips described above. The goal is to change how you behave, rather than trying to change how the other person behaves. And the methods with teach can be used with anyone, whether or not they have a personality disorder or truly are a high-conflict person. So this removes any necessity for diagnosing anyone. A Quiz of Your Knowledge of BPD Take this true/false quiz to see if you may have some misinformation about BPD: 1.      T / F       Only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose BPD. 2.      T / F       Anyone with BPD will be a high-conflict person. 3.      T / F       BPD is an unrecoverable disorder. If you have BPD, you’ll always have BPD. 4.      T / F       Those with childhood trauma, especially sexual abuse, are certain to develop BPD. 5.      T / F       A parent with BPD behaviors cannot parent successfully. 6.      T / F       People with BPD know that they’re behaving badly. Answers: 1. Only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose BPD. True. It’s never a good idea to suggest that anyone has BPD or label them as “a borderline”. It’s like telling someone they have cancer or they are “a cancer” just because they have a red patch on their forehead. Leave the labeling and diagnosis to the trained professionals. 2.  Anyone with BPD will be a high-conflict person. False. Of those who do have BPD, only a small percentage focus on a target of blame, and these are the folks who are most likely to be involved in high-conflict disputes. The others are regular people who deal with a lot of pain and who struggle to keep their

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Living with High-Conflict People: Do’s and Don’ts for Living with a Borderline High Conflict Person

© 2014 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.   You can learn to coexist with a person with a Borderline High Conflict Personality by following these and other tips.   DO YOU FEEL TRAPPED BY THIS PERSON? Intense anger Sudden mood swings Emotionally manipulative Seeks revenge/vindication Impulsive, self-destructive Clingy, needy   The NIH estimated 5.9% of the population has a Borderline Personality Disorder.* Living next door to a person with BPD can make you want to move. Keep reading for tips about what you can do to manage it.   WHY DO BORDERLINES SEEM SO IRRATIONAL? Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of the most common High-Conflict Personalities. You may recognize the pattern: someone adores you and bakes you cookies one minute, then rages against you for declining because you’re on a diet, then forgets they were angry the second you pay a compliment to their coffee-making skill or give in and eat a cookie. It’s exhausting!  Research indicates this seemingly bizarre behavior may stem from biological and misguided social learning factors and/or some form of abuse or neglect in childhood that left them feeling abandoned by someone of importance. ** Whatever the cause, they may live their entire life feeling traumatized by everyday events that trigger the unresolved emotional fallout and an ongoing fear of being abandoned. The article Borderline Disorder from the Inside offers insight into the disorder but for now just keep in mind that it’s unconscious behavior. If you are not able or willing to distance yourself from the Borderline, you can learn how to manage it.   WATCH OUT FOR THE BORDERLINE BLAST A borderline’s self-defeating actions tend to drive people away – to actually abandon the Borderline – but they don’t see that cause and effect. For most, they feel as if their actions are necessary to defend themselves from that unconscious fear (you will often hear them justifying what they did/said). For example: John was buying a property and planning to fix it up for sale.  John spotted his realtor- neighbor, Frank, in the yard and went over to chat. FRANK: Morning, John. How are you? JOHN: Not so hot. I can’t find time to deal with the other house. I want to make it look as good as your house does then sell it for a big profit like you did. Can you look at it and give me your opinion? I need your help. FRANK: Um, OK. I’ll try to get over there later today. The next day: FRANK: I went over to the house and I’m curious what your plan is. JOHN: I need to flip it for a fat profit like you do. I have to rip up the kitchen and replace the plumbing. Bunch of other stuff too, like the roof, but I’m having trouble with the contractor and he charges me for every little thing. FRANK: Sounds expensive. I think the house is in OK condition. My professional opinion would be to only do some minor repairs and then sell it as a fixer-upper. JOHN: What are you talking about? As a realtor, you should know what needs to be done! That contractor you recommended says I need to do it so I can make a lot of money. FRANK: Well, you asked for my opinion, and for several reasons I don’t think you’re going to get enough profit after doing all those things to make it worthwhile. You seem stressed, and it would be easier for you this way, too. JOHN: You think I’m stupid? Why did you tell me to use your contractor, then? I see what’s going on. He’s giving you kickbacks, isn’t he? Giving you my money for all that crap he charges me for. I don’t need advice from you. I’m going to report you to your boss right now! Frank watched as John stormed off.   Where did THAT come from?   What he didn’t realize was that someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder will develop huge expectations from a relationship, and then react as above when those expectations are not met.  In John’s world, Frank was the expert who would reinforce his idea of making quick cash and would help him do it.  He unconsciously felt abandoned when Frank’s advice was contrary to his (ill-conceived) plan, so he blasted Frank for letting him down.   DON’T BEND BOUNDARIES WITH BORDERLINES Since he lives next door, ignoring John altogether may not be an option. It might also make things worse because it would be an actual abandonment of the relationship which could drive John to further impulsive behavior.  Avoiding the typical love-you-hate-you nature of a Borderline is not easy, but these tips will help you control it: 1.   Resist being put on a pedestal.  Borderlines often build you up in their eyes to feel a greater sense of security in the relationship.  If you sense someone is idealizing you, proceed with caution because you will eventually be attacked for falling off your pedestal.  If you present yourself as an average person, you’ll have less distance to fall. Frank was vaguely uncomfortable with John’s initial praise about his house and achievements (a sign you may be dealing with a Borderline). Frank could have simply said, “I was lucky with a house sale once” to tone down the accolades a little. 2.   Create clear expectations of your relationship.  Borderlines develop extreme expectations of a relationship and repeatedly ask for validation or favors to feel secure in your commitment to them. This inevitably becomes frustrating but if you start backing off, the Borderline will react harshly because you abandoned them. You can nip this situation in the bud by setting boundaries in the beginning. Frank’s best course would have been to politely decline helping, perhaps with a non-personal policy reason such as “My firm does not allow us to be involved in real estate matters outside of work.” He should not have given any contractor referrals either, because when that other relationship did not meet John’s

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