Personality Disorders and effect on partners

Sufferers of personality disorders may not be aware of the effect they have on their colleagues, or close ones.  If they are highly functional and socialized, they’ll be able to  hold off release until in the privacy of the home.  Then, they may be very  abusive and attack  the normal behavior in their ‘victims’.

If this behavior continues unchecked, if may affect  the close ones.

Effect of such abuse on the receiver – as develops overtime: depression, lowered self esteem, insecurity,  anxiety, suicidal tendencies, acquired codependence, rage and anger, substance abuse.

How it is done by the abuser: gaslight, emotional blackmail, verbal abuse , neglect, and possibly physical abuse later in the relationship.

This also involves:

Intimidation, control of victim’s time , blaming victim for their own issues, anger and rage explosions,  control of finances, physical hits and shoves, withholding of affection and/or sex, insults and name calling, destroying or confiscating the victim’s personal property,  reading personal communications, behaving in overprotective manner, criticisms disguised as jokes, intense jealousy projected onto the victim as if their own behavior, and refusal to acknowledge engaging in any of the above.

Are PD sufferers  acting this way  on purpose?

Not necessarily.  They may not realize fully the extent of what they are doing, they have too many layers of  self-justification and rationalization mechanisms to grasp the effect of their behavior unto others.

Characteristics of a PD sufferer when interacting with sufferer/victim:

Making demands seem reasonable
Making  you  feel selfish and stating that you are
Labeling with negative qualities and connotations
Pathologizing or crazy making
Making a demand that needs an immediate response
Allying themselves with someone of authority or influence i.e. parents, children,   leaders etc. to present evidence that the victim is the faulty one
Comparing the victim to a person that the victim does not like or is in competition with and then as reactions occur, accusing them of jealousy, etc.
Learning the victim’s “triggers” and systematically triggering them
Assessing how much pressure to apply before the victim will give in—- this means that if the victim becomes resilient and finds coping mechanisms,the pressure will increment, or new triggers will be used.

The pattern of abuse:

Demand–someone wants something
Resistance–the other does not feel comfortable with the demand
Pressure –used to make the resistant one give in
Threat –to turn up the pressure
Compliance–on the part of the resistant one
Repetition–this pattern reoccurs in at least other situations (just with a different name)

What you need to know if in a relationship with a PD partner:

Personality Disorders are hard to temper, manager or cure. Partners will not change the behavior of the PD mate, and cannot expect that s/he will stop. They’ve learned those patterns early on in their lives and will repeat and repeat them over and over again.

A great resource, for partners of PD mates:  “Stop Walking on Eggshells” by Randi Kruger.

On anger & its management

Anger is positive. It provides us with a vital boost when we need it, physical and mental.

When anger is just, it is appropriate response: lies, being embarrassed in front of others, betrayal, being abused, broken promises are situations of just anger. Basically, the anger is triggered by the intentional action of someone else.

Unjust anger includes: interpreting negatively a comment or action, assuming accidental event is caused purposefully, kids make noise, friend is late . In this case, the anger is triggered by your own hot cognitions and the accidental action of someone who did not want to upset you.

Whether the anger is just or unjust, expressing it  becomes a problem sometimes: when the anger occurs too frequently, is too intense, lasts too long, is directed at the wrong event/person and leads to aggression.

A person lying to you is no reason to yell at them. A person accidentally pushing your hot button is no reason to threaten them.

That’s when we need learn controlling the Anger.

It  is an emotion defined as impulse to attack, defend or protect as a response to PERCEIVED threat or challenge. It can be triggered by many things: insult, assault, injustice, unfairness, criticism, annoyance or verbal abuse.

It is also a very basic reaction to childlike feelings of abandonment, rejection, loss and hurt.

A basic need is not met.

As we get angry, a subtle chain of events occurs – which has nothing to do with ‘snapping’ and hence is fully controllable:

– an external trigger (an event known as provocation). This leads us to respond in an anger feedback loop: thoughts,  body responses and behavior. Each escalates our anger as each influences and reacts with the others;

– we interpret the trigger ; we have a thought or mental statement we make to ourselves; we basically appraise the situation and this then leads to feelings;

– we experience angry feelings about the situation based on our thoughts; next follows a typical arousal response;

-we experience an increased level of physical arousal: pounding heart, increased pulse, tightened gut. The body gets the message of anger;

-we finally enact the anger: screaming, slamming the door, leaving, etc.

we may be totally unaware of this chain of events.  Anger Management is about learning to identify, break down and  alter this sequence of events.

It also involves acknowledging that our responses and our going along with them is NOT someone’s else action nor event. Our responses are our own.  We frequently misinterpret how a provocation may not actually be a threat to our need.  Naturally, we sometimes interpret correctly too!!!!

Rule of thumb: whenever you think or say “s/he makes me feel angry”, then chances are you could find a more appropriate response to the provocation. Whenever you think or say “I am angry at this situation”, then chances are anger is ok; now the matter is to decide how to express it constructively.

Best strategy: time-out. Isolate yourself from the situation, calm down, come back after an hour or so, after doing something that discharge the tension in yourself. Advise all that you feel angry and that you’re going and coming back later. Engage in dialogue with the person afterwards, but only if they agree to it.  Wait from an hour to a few days, but, go back to discussing the situation. Don’t let it slip.

If the person still refuses to discuss the matter and is intent on letting it slip, this a warning signal that communication is breaking down: see conflict resolution/interpersonal skills/abuse blogs.

On forgiveness and moving on…

We have an innate sense of justice. When  wronged by others, and the injustice is  severe,  we feel pain from bitterness, resentment, a lot of anger, even hate.

This can wreck our lives:  when treated badly by one person, we may  start resenting all people. And as for revenge: do unto others what is worthy of you — not what if worthy of them. Regardless of what they do, treat them in accordance with your own values, lest you might find it impossible to reconcile your  actions to your values, too much of an extra burden!
Forgiveness is the way out of the pain of bitterness, is it is NOT  condoning, nor excusing the harm that was done. We don’t have to tolerate what was done. At first, there’s shock, and horror, registering what was inflicted upon us. But, this only need be done…. for a while, only.

Their own action, ultimately, is what defines them… while, as you go back to calm, think about how much space is freed in your mind, to get on with your own life.

Forgiveness starts when we can think about the person and event, and how they hurt you, and wish them well.. .

…. and the wisest thing to do, is to never leave yourself open to any more  hurt by them.

A Simple Exercise in Reconnecting with Your Self

“An essential skill when time is scarce and tension is high, because a busy head cannot calm a busy mind.”

Do you feel highly stressed, with your mind overactive, parts of your body tense, and your thoughts spinning out of control?

  • Do you have a feeling of dissatisfaction or pain that you can’t quite pinpoint?
  • Do you encounter situations in your daily life that cause you stress, fatigue, anger, pain or irritation?
  • Worse, do you carry unresolved suffering from past emotional trauma, and can’t rid yourself of the accompanying numbness and tension?
  • Do you feel that your effectiveness goes as you find that your body can’t relax and intrusive thoughts won’t go away?
  • Is your energy sapped, but when you try the recommended remedies –– such as grounding and relaxing, starting an exercise routine, changing your diet, balancing your lifestyle, reading a self-help book, turning to friends, taking a weekend away­­ –– somehow you don’t have enough time or see the results quickly enough, with the result that you don’t stick to the routine, practice the exercises, of follow these regimens?

If you say yes to any or all of these questions, please try an exercise in Mindfulness and Awareness to reprogram your mind to emotional calmness and resilience.  The exercise doesn’t require you to run to the gym, become a meditation participant in a sangha, read books, take a holiday, or invest in anything but yourself, and it can be applied for a few minutes, anytime, anywhere.

Mindfulness is being used more and more in various health fields, both physical and psychological.  Research in Western countries now demonstrates that some simple and quick techniques that have been taught in various Far East countries for hundreds of years are extremely effective in giving your body and mind a rest.  These principles are now applied in Positive Psychology, motivation training, stress, burn-out and anxiety programmes, and many other areas of physical and mental health, such as cancer patient units and centres specialising in trauma recovery, e.g., army veteran centres.  And the same exercises are effective when applied to daily stress, tension, or emotional upsets.

Mindfulness consists of allowing troublesome thoughts and sensations to come and go.  It is the opposite of the traditional ineffective advice to “move on”, “just don’t think about it”, “let it go”,  “box it”, “keep a stiff upper lip”, and so on.  Instead, mindfulness involves simply relegating these thoughts to the background and observing them as they come and go.

To do this, you need to use the power of your senses to relax the mental and physical tension you feel because of difficult situations and bring your mind and body back to optimum and natural functioning!

“When in frustration, go back to your senses.”

Try this:

  1. Think of a frustrating thought (e.g., a stressful morning meeting, traffic jam on the road and missed appointment, issues with a partner, etc.)
  2. Feel how your body reacts and tenses up as you bring the thought to the fore.  Bodily sensations always associate with a thought about an event.
  3. Now immediately rub your fingers together or against your desk or your clothing – touch something.
  4. Don’t consciously fight to try to make the frustrating thought disappear from your mind — just bring your mind to the sense of touch.
  5. Notice how the thought and tension are somewhat minimised.
  6. Do this again and again throughout the day.

Repeat this practice over a few days and then broaden it to include another of the senses.  For example, follow touch by bringing in your sense of hearing:

  • Consciously bring your mind to become aware of background noises, such as the hum of the aircon, or of your computer, multiple faint sources of noise, e.g., conversations in the street, birds chirping, the sound of your fingers tapping on the computer, etc.  Background noises are not those of the TV, but subtle sounds and hums around you.
  • Let the noises in the background come to fill the foreground of your mind.  As you do this, you may notice how your current thoughts are still present, but minimised in your mind.

Then, do the same again, this time with your vision:

  • Notice what is around you, especially the texture of the objects you see, whatever those objects are, beautiful flower or trash on the street.

And do the same again with your sense of taste and smell.

  • Notice the taste inside your mouth, or the texture of the gum you chew, or the food you eat.  Concentrate on the smells around you, whether pleasant or not.

This may take a few minutes, or maybe just seconds.  The trick is to remember to do it.  Like any muscles, the more you practice being aware of your senses, the stronger and more effective this Mindfulness technique becomes.

Underlying this exercise is a fundamental principle: when our minds are overactive, our bodies tense up, and our senses close down.  Our senses are our connection to reality.  Reality lies outside of us, externally, not within our internal thought processes.  Deliberate moments of (re)connection to our external physical environment by bringing our sensory modes to the forefront of our attention appeases the mind, and hence appeases our body responses.

If your mode of taking in sensory inputs is mainly visual, try doing the exercise above with your other, less utilised senses: touch, hearing and taste or smell.  Do this each time you face a problematic thought or feeling.  Allow the thought or feeling to coexist with all of the background sensory inputs your mind is now absorbing.  The relief or melting away of thought and tension may be nearly immediate or may be a slower process, depending on the intensity of the problem and associated mental or body sensations and also how much experience you have using this exercise.

If you are interested in knowing more about this method and various exercises you can apply to calm your thoughts and tension, why not sign up for either an individual session or a workshop? Contact us for details.

Message across

It requires honing communication skills. We need challenge a behavior and never the person.  Never, ever label a person and tell them things like :  “you’re dishonest”, when you mean ” I don’t feel that’s a full answer”. Never blame a person for a mistake or difficult situation. It is different from assigning responsibility and owning up. Look at the situation as an opportunity for learning, connecting and gaining insight.

Description of the situation and use of  “I” sentences is what works best in adopting fair fight techniques.

What causes stress?

A cave man would say “that’s when I’m  face to face with an hungry  bear or a mammoth and I left the spear at home”.

Today stress is mainly chronic, and as threatening as a  talk with the boss, a TV dinner with an irritated  mate, a queue at the bank teller, a shove in a crowded subway, or an Internet connection gone slow.

The perception of the event, not the event itself, creates the stress.

Make a list of the stressors. Rate your alertness and response. Gain some perspective by placing them in the context of how ‘threatening’ they truly are, your perception of them, compared to being faced with a clear and immediate danger (e.g., getting caught in an accident)

Letting go

… is a process of feeding the mind to the direction we want to go.  We are always aware of something, thinking of something. Most of time, the mind is filled to the brim with all our nagging problems, about self, environment and others.

Since we can’t create a vacuum, nor  empty our mind at all time, we might as well make a conscious effort to fill it the way we want to go, with joy, expectation, keen appreciation. A lovely path to take, a wonderful way to go.