Okay, I know I’ve been busy, but this is nuts. No posts in more than two years? Wow!
Returning to the intended topic of this blog, I would like to recommend the book “Not Trauma Alone“, by Steven Gold. (You can find my review on Amazon, by the way.)
This book is written for the clinical or research professional, but I found it to be generally accessible. The author seems to understand that the problems which tend to lead to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or codependence are based in childhood experiences which generate complex-PTSD along with measurable physical changes to our brains.
One chapter is fairly heavy on how the practicing therapist should apply the author’s schema with clients. He stresses that, far from being “manipulative”, we BPD’ers are actually flailing helplessly. It’s just that we were raised — we were explicitly or implicitly trained — to do things in manners which appear (to the uncharitable or uninformed) to constitute manipulation.
A few examples: One of our customs is to shower gifts on people who we want to have like us or do something for us. This is what my parents expected of me and my sisters. If we wanted something (food, say, or a third pair of underpants), we were explicitly required to “earn” it. It was expected that we shower the parent with care, compliments, gifts, whatever, in order to soften them up for our request. Another custom of BPD’ers is that we don’t say what we want. When I was a kid, making a plain and simple request (“This toothbrush is two years old. May I have a new one please?”) was guaranteed to result in punishment. Another habit of BPD’ers is to “help” people (as though we are trying to curry favor) even when those people haven’t asked. We’ll even get pushy with the “help”, or get upset when our (idea of) help isn’t immediately accepted. In my case, this stems from my upbringing. My mother would scream at me, “How DARE you FORCE somebody to ask you for help!” I was explicitly required to provide help, instruction, and directions, no matter what.
Rather than us BPD’ers being some sort of evil geniuses who effortlessly control those around us, we in fact tend to be clueless and generally not in control of anything. We were raised this way, and we really don’t know any better. We feel like everybody else must be reading from some manual that we’ve never even heard of, like the rest of you have some vocabulary that we totally don’t understand (perhaps because we were raised with different definitions for those same words). We’re really not trying to control you; we’re trying our best to get along and be agreeable. It’s just that we were trained in entirely wrong ways to do that.
Rather than telling us to start being “nice” or “honest” or “straightforward” or whatever (we don’t have the correct definitions of these), or telling us to “get over” the abuse we’ve suffered in adulthood and “recover” our childhood health (which generally never existed), therapists need to understand that we need to learn that basic childhood stuff in the first place. We have to start at the bottom, at the beginning. Rather than assuming us to be slimeballs and “problem” clients, they should assume that we’re missing years of normal background, history, and training. They can’t assume that we know normal stuff. In fact, they need to assume that we do NOT know that stuff.
Which seems obvious, really, when we’re in the middle of the situation. But, as “normals”, hardly any clinicians seem to have any clue.