Help for Families


Step 2: How to Cope: Uncover What Keeps You Feeling Stuck

Step 2 (Powertool 2) in the Beyond Blame System is about feeling more in control. Do you feel unable to make decisions because danger lies in every choice, yet you feel compelled to do something? Are you damned if you do, damned if you don't? If so, then you're feeling stuck.

The second step to successfully managing your life when someone you care about has borderline or narcissistic personality disorder is addressing the deep-seated reasons why you feel so trapped. These feelings of helplessness and lack of control have been scientifically shown to cause just as much suffering as the presence of the borderline or narcissistic personality disorder itself. When you learn to get unstuck and see your choices more clearly, you'll automatically feel better.

It's tough to communicate with people who have personality disorders because the disorder garbles both incoming and outgoing messages, causing massive chaos and confusion. As an analogy, think of them as having "aural dyslexia," in which they hear words and sentences backward, inside out, sideways, and devoid of context. You may frequently feel hounded about small trifles, and all-out fights can erupt over nothing—at least, nothing you can see. Research has shown that when friends and family members learn the right techniques for communicating with their disordered loved ones, the relationship runs much more smoothly.

However, if you are being yelled at or emotionally/verbally abused, do not fight with the person. Leave the area—go to a room or outside; a safe place you can call your own. Don't disappear; say something like, "Right now things are feeling too hostile and we aren't getting anywhere. Let's pick this up later when we've both calmed down."


Some Examples

Unhealthy Bonds Forged by Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is non-physical behaviors or attitudes used to control, intimidate, subjugate, demean, punish, or isolate another. Abusers tend to degrade, humiliate, or instill fear in their victim. Emotional abuse includes symbolic violence, such as slamming doors, kicking walls, and throwing objects.

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Feelings of Fear

The following fears are common for non-BPs:

  • Fear of conflict, for example “I can’t say that. He might get upset.”
  • Fear of being alone (abandonment) (BPs aren’t the only ones).
  • Fear of failing or being judged a failure (for example, with having a failed marriage).
  • Fear of financial problems (common in partners).
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of losing the relationship
  • Fear of the BP’s threats coming true

While you can live with fear in the short term, as a long-term strategy it is unthinkable.

The Need to Rescue

A rescuer is usually a compassionate, kind person who wants to alleviate the suffering of others. Rescuers unknowingly relinquish control of their lives to their borderline family member, whose impaired thoughts, feeling, and actions now determine their own.

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