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Author Topic: PERSPECTIVES: The dysfunctional dance - self inflicted wounds  (Read 22559 times)
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« on: December 07, 2007, 11:30:01 AM »

US: The Dysfunctional Dance - Self-inflicted Wounds

Many of us are in oppressive relationships with our self esteem eroding... what part of this "abuse" is self inflicted? How do we contribute to the dysfunctional dance?

One example...

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. (info) says "we are being victims anytime we give another person the power to define our worth. We are being victims anytime we blame another for our feelings of fear, anger, hurt, aloneness, jealousy, disappointment, and so on."

Paul uses the following to exemplify her point...

When I asked Don why he sits and listens to Joyce, he stated that he hoped if he listened to her she would listen to him. I asked if she ever does listen during these conflicts, and he answered "No."

"Why do you need her to listen to you?"
"I want to explain to her why I did what I did with the children."

"Why do you need to explain it to her?"
"So she won't be mad at me."


According to Dr. Paul, Don allows himself to be yelled at by Joyce as his way of trying to control Joyce, hoping to get her to approve of him. Then he tried to explain to further control how she feels about him. When she won't listen, he feels victimized by her yelling, blaming her for being such an angry, controlling person.

If Don were willing to take responsibility for approving of himself, he would not listen to Joyce when she was yelling at him. Instead, he would set a limit against being yelled at, stating that he would listen to her only when she spoke to him with respect and only when she was open to learning with him. But as long as she has to approve of him for him to feel secure or worthy, he will not set this limit. Until Don takes responsibility for his security and worth, instead of handing this job to Joyce, he will be a victim of her unloving behavior.

Taking responsibility for our own feelings of worth and lovability, instead of giving that job to others, moves us out from being victims.
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2007, 12:31:44 PM »


Don allows himself to be yelled at by Joyce as his way of trying to control Joyce, hoping to get her to approve of him. Then he tried to explain to further control how she feels about him. When she won't listen, he feels victimized by her yelling, blaming her for being such an angry, controlling person.


Great post, Skip.  It's funny - I've never really thought about my behaviors as being a control mechanism.  I can see, though, that when I let my wife yell at me, tell me how "mean" I'm being, tell me how I don't care about her feelings, let her criticise the way I do trivial things, that I am hoping that my passive behavior will change/control her attitude towards me.  When I try to rationalize, explain or justify myself to her, I am hoping that she will adopt my point of view.  When she doesn't, I become sad, hopeless, and victimized.  My mantra lately has been, "I cannot control my wife's behavior.  I can only control my reaction to it."  My sense of self does not need to be dictated by how she behaves.  It's still hard as hell to practice, but I figure if I say that often enough it might start to become natural.

One of the hardest things about this BPD business is realizing that my marriage is not really a 2-person affair.  I can't count on her to take care of the bills.  I can't count on her to find a job and take care of our finances.  Why should I feel like I can count on her to take care of my emotions?

When we make ourselves victims, are we not also making ourselves victimizers?  What a demonic ferris wheel!
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2007, 01:30:10 PM »

OMG !
That is/was me...

I used to think that if I gave him his air time, that I would get the same courtesy back. Yet it never, ever really happens that way. He talks over me, interupts me, belittles or brushes aside my point as not being valid. In short, I never get my time to speak my mind. It is always about his wants, his needs, his demands and desires.

I also always thought that if I found just the right words, he would suddenly understand my point and he wouldn't be angry at me anymore. That if I kept talking we would somehow manage to work things out. I am slowly learning that I am the one who is insane. I keep repeating a behavior but I expect the results to be different  :P

Yet, I am now setting boundaries and not allowing him to yell, but all he has done is lower his tone of voice. He still says the same things. I still don't feel like I get heard by him. So yes, he is respecting my desires for respectful behavior, but he still continues his rants and raves just in lower volume. It is the same twisted logic and self centered demands, rephrased as politeness.

How do you solve that?

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« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2007, 01:35:36 PM »

Thanks Skip!

This topic is excellent.  It is about us & what we can do for ourselves!

I love that my house is on two floors with a living area on each.  The marriage is over, but back in the day, if I did not like the tone, the words, the look...heheh...or the smell, I could change floors.

Walk away.  Do something.

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« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2007, 04:24:33 PM »

Quote
So yes, he is respecting my desires for respectful behavior, but he still continues his rants and raves just in lower volume. It is the same twisted logic and self centered demands, rephrased as politeness.

If he is ranting and raving, no matter what the volume, United, is he really respecting your desire for respectful behavior?  It seems to me that respectful behavior has more to do with the words someone uses than with the volume with which they speak.  So, no matter what volume he is using, if he is violating your boundaries against being treated disrespectfully, you will need to do the same thing... leave the conversation, the room, etc.  I often think that my exh's silent raging was simply another escalation of raging and raving.  I didn't want to be yelled it and called names, so he just clammed up and treated me as if I didn't exist. 

Please remember that having effective boundaries, responding "appropriately", etc., doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship will improve or survive...  but it means that you, the non, becomes a stronger, more emotionally healthy person, regardless of what the BPD does or says.

Great article, Skip!
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« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2007, 09:46:01 PM »

I haven't posted for a while, but this thread seems like a good place to start again.

I have been having trouble trying to decide what is acceptable in a normal relationship and how that gets twisted in a BPD relationship.

Quote
When I asked Don why he sits and listens to Joyce, he stated that he hoped if he listened to her she would listen to him. I asked if she ever does listen during these conflicts, and he answered "No."

"Why do you need her to listen to you?"
"I want to explain to her why I did what I did with the children."

"Why do you need to explain it to her?"
"So she won't be mad at me."

In a normal relationship, if someone gets upset and rants for a while, isn't it "normal" to let them rant and blow off steam?  When they can't seem to gather what you are getting at, don't you try to explain in a different way?  Yet, in a BPD relationship - you are giving someone else control over you. 

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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2007, 04:42:07 PM »

I have to agree that, as nons, we need to step up to the plate and start taking responsiblity for our own feelings.  My life has changed drastically in the last year, and the main reason for that change is not that I finally mustered up the guts to withstand all the crap that my stbxuBPDh has thrown my way.  The main reason is that I no longer define myself by how he sees me, by what he says about me, by his delusions.  I no longer try to figure him out.  I no longer try to get him to see my point.  I stopped expecting him to be normal, to react like a rational person. 

Eventually, I came to the point that I just don't care what he thinks/says/does.  I do still care about him as a person, and I wish he could get better.  But I have finally learned that the choice to do that is his, and his alone, and to continue in the marriage is to throw the rest of my years on this earth down the drain... 

I finally learned (took me a very long time-I turned 50 this year) that the only way to win this game is simply not to play...
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« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2007, 10:40:16 AM »

This is from our archives, with credit to Tammy, a former moderator at the old Nook:

The Dysfunctional Dance

One rather consistent phenomenon in a borderline/non relationship is that neither partner clearly defines their personal boundaries.  Untreated borderlines tend to run over their partner's fences like a tank.  They project their feelings onto us and blame us when things go wrong.   Nonbps tend to give into the demands and needs of their borderline. We become enmeshed in their mental and emotional world: their beliefs, thoughts, feelings, needs, wants, and expectations.  Given enough time, without a clear sense of who we are, we lose sight of which experiences belong to us and which ones are projected onto us by our borderlines.   
 
With weak boundaries, we become sponges who allow our bps to step inside our inner self, suck up our energy, and define our world for us.  We permit them to tell us what to do, when to do it, and who to do it with. With each passing day, our self esteem deteriorates, and our ability to defend ourselves decreases.   
 
Nons tend to be compassionate, giving, and sometimes needy people.  At some point in the relationship we might have recognized that our bps were in pain and out of control.  We were moved to give more of ourselves than was healthy. Or, we may have stepped in to take responsibility for their life. (Sometimes it's easier to deal with someone else's issues than it is to address our own.)  We either didn't know how (or were afraid) to set limits, or didn't know what our limits were.  So the dysfunctional dance began.

If we accept responsibility for our borderline and handle their duties and responsibilities, we are essentially handling "their stuff" rather than our own. Permitting someone else to make decisions for us suggests that we are letting them define our life for us.  If there isn't a clear boundary line between your stuff<----//---->my stuff, defenses (such as withdrawal, sidetracking, blame, rationalization, and black-white thinking) become handy ways for both parties to avoid self-awareness and growth.

What Are Boundaries?

You'll see the word  "boundaries" quite frequently here at BPDFamily.  Sometimes they'll be described in terms of  "your stuff<---//--->my stuff."  But what does that mean?  To me, it means the ability to recognize what is our responsibility (and what is truly within our power to control) and what isn't.  Boundaries are an essential ingredient to creating a healthy self . They define the relationship between you and everyone else around you. 
 
Healthy boundaries help us to create our own destiny. They ensure that we are taking responsibility for our lives; that we knowingly accept the consequences and/or reap the benefits of our choices. And they let us let others do the same for themselves. 

Tammy
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2008, 07:18:48 AM »

I love Margaret Paul, Ph.D...

I've been part of her email newsletter for a little over a year now and there are some great articles I've gotten from that site.

Most of the work I've been doing has been healing, inner bonding and working on how I let myself become that victim...it is an interesting subject, although very sobering. 

It is easy to blame our BPD SO and point out all the things that were wrong with them and their behavior, it is much harder to look deep within and discover why we started that "dance" iin the first place, and why we danced soooo long.

I know I did this to myself, I allowed someone else to control how I felt about myself, my marriage, the world...giving that kind of power to anyone, never mind someone so ill is very very dangerous.  I am stronger for it, I have clear boundaries now, my inner child is learning to trust me again...it is a journey and not one to be taken lightly.
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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2008, 08:44:47 AM »

Elphie..

Is all pain self-inflicted?  Is all pain actually bad?

I don't know that all pain is self-inflicted.  If someone dies unexpectedly, we feel pain.  That would be normal and human if someone we care about is hurt or killed.  If someone we love and care about, leaves us with little warning, we will feel pain.  As otherside suggests, if you are in a relationship that seems to be fine, and all of a sudden you find yourself the victim of a torrent of verbal abuse and you realize that the person you are with isn't "fine", you will feel pain.  That's human, that's natural. 

So when does the pain become a problem?  When it continues.  When someone who has lost a loved one, for instance, seems unable to move forward in life after months or even after a year or two.  When someone who was dumped by a loved one is still pining for that person (or still very angry and vindictive) after many months or a year or two.  When we discover (painfully) that a new "loved one" is really abusive, an addict, etc. and we stay anyway and we keep trying to "make things better". 

Not all pain is bad.  It is good to feel pain after a break-up; it shows that we are human.  We do have to process these kinds of experiences.  With a loved one who dies or when we are dumped, there is the event and we need to move forward from that event...   but in an abusive relationship, there is the event that keeps happening over and over.  That's when we are creating self-inflicted pain.     
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2008, 09:07:18 AM »

I think to some extent yes...all pain is self inflicted...we choose how to react to any situation, the emotions are ours to process.

In the example you gave...an unexpected death...we can chose to be relieved (depending on your beliefs, that they are in a better place)...or we can choose pain/sadness for OUR loss...

But, I don't think all pain is bad, by no means...pain is meant to teach us something...just like a little kid who may need to burn his little fingers on the stove to learn that the stove is HOT...just as each of us learned from our BPD relationship, that pain taught us invaluaable lessons.

Not that any of this means we deserved the pain...or that we were not wronged...we did not deserve it, we were wronged...but, ultimately the choice is ours of how we process it, the real test of our character is how we rise above it and remember the lesson.
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2008, 02:08:31 PM »

My DBT therapist told me that feeling pain is part of life. It is our struggle and judgment against that pain that can make things worse.

Her formula

pain + non-acceptance = suffering.

If you stop living in the land of "it's not fair" or asking "why did this happen to me?", then you can allow the pain to go through it's normal cycle where healing begins.
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« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2009, 10:59:19 AM »

I don't know about the idea that all pain teaches us something.  I know it's an attempt to mobilize a bad experience for a positive goal - which is certainly worthwhile! - but sometimes I feel like analyzing my pain for what it has to teach me doesn't get me anywhere.  There's clearly a difference between the pain that you experience when you make some kind of mistake - whether it was missing a deadline, running a red light and getting in an accident, or more emotional mistakes (blaming others, etc.) that CAN reinforce your desire to avoid that behavior in the future, and the kind of "pure pain" that you experience when you're wounded by the vicissitudes of life and there's really nothing you could have done about it (death is a great example of this, but also - in my case - that I happened to born to someone with major emotional problems).  Those kind of experiences do teach you things - i.e., give you a deep insight into what others are feeling or a drive to fill that empty space with achievement or money or whatever - but not necessarily good things.  Sure, so thanks to living in fear as a child that my mom would emotionally self-destruct at any moment, I have an instinctive sense of others' emotional states.  I can still use that ability for good or evil.  It's neutral, in my opinion.  It's just life.  It shapes us in ways we don't control.  I don't know it's helpful - or true - to tell ourselves that these experiences were designed to make us better people.  Sometimes you're just walking through life and an air conditioner falls out of a window and hits you.  It's not to teach you something.  You just heal the best you can, and maybe you have a scar, and you live with it. 

I understand it's comforting to believe that everything that happens happens for a reason, though, and was meant for your spiritual growth.  It's nice to think something or someone out there is looking out for you.  I just don't know if it's true.

It is laudable to try to grow spiritually at any time, of course, as well.  We should all be looking for ways to be better people at all times.  I just reject the idea that pain is necessary in that process.  I would grow spiritually just as much from winning the lottery, lol.  I promise!
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« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2011, 11:45:41 AM »

With weak boundaries, we become sponges who allow our bps to step inside our inner self, suck up our energy, and define our world for us.  We permit them to tell us what to do, when to do it, and who to do it with. With each passing day, our self esteem deteriorates, and our ability to defend ourselves decreases.   
. . .

If we accept responsibility for our borderline and handle their duties and responsibilities, we are essentially handling "their stuff" rather than our own. Permitting someone else to make decisions for us suggests that we are letting them define our life for us.  If there isn't a clear boundary line between your stuff<----//---->my stuff, defenses (such as withdrawal, sidetracking, blame, rationalization, and black-white thinking) become handy ways for both parties to avoid self-awareness and growth.

I think these points are the challenging ones for me in staying.  Right now my W (also attested to by our T) lives in her defenses.  Every substantive conversation involves withdrawal, sidetracking, blame, rationalization, and black-white thinking.  I am not quick at using boundaries to catch all of these, but am getting better.  It reminds me of playing dodge ball when I was in 7th grade, playing against the 9th graders.  It was all about survival.   cool
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« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2011, 02:53:59 PM »

My DBT therapist told me that feeling pain is part of life. It is our struggle and judgment against that pain that can make things worse.

Her formula

pain + non-acceptance = suffering.

If you stop living in the land of "it's not fair" or asking "why did this happen to me?", then you can allow the pain to go through it's normal cycle where healing begins.



The Natural Reaction to Pain in all living things is to withdraw from it.  

Choosing to accept pain from another person in order to survive is one thing but I'm beginning to feel standing there and taking verbal abuse is nothing less than Masochism.  I am starting to think that since I have no responsibility or control in my wife's healing, besides the fact that I have been calling myself her verbal punching bag for at least 15 years, why should I stay? Why should I care anymore?

Her main motivation for getting me back is only to abuse me more.   Honestly her BPD behavior is starting to disgust me,  she may have succeeded in her final push.  It wasn't a grand large push either it's just the limit.  

If my wounds are self inflicted it was out of ignorance that I ended up with her in the first place.   She went to great lengths to hide anything that would have been a red flag to me.  I would have known something was wrong and that is something that weighs on me every time I assess my willingness to stay with her and choose "acceptance" of her pain.

The question to ask yourself is why?  Why do we as non's choose to accept the treatment we do?  
Why would any healthy human being choose to remain with a borderline?

I accept that they have little or no control over themselves and that they can't be held totally accountable for that.  
So, Like the Animal Planet show "Fatal Attractions" is it our fault because we choose to live with "Dangerous Animals?"

Sir5r

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« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2011, 03:43:54 PM »

,,,

The question to ask yourself is why?  Why do we as non's choose to accept the treatment we do?  
Why would any healthy human being choose to remain with a borderline?

I accept that they have little or no control over themselves and that they can't be held totally accountable for that.  

So, Like the Animal Planet show "Fatal Attractions" is it our fault because we choose to live with "Dangerous Animals?"

Sir5r


I first asked myself what I could live with and accept.  The extremity of the BPD/NPD behavior varies.  I have an idea of where my limit is and luckily there has been some improvement from there.  There are certain behaviors I don’t accept anymore and that hopefully will continue working.

However as to “accepting the treatment” I don’t.  The first step for me was not to and to stop internalizing the verbal abuse.  I try not to internalize it or give credence to it.  It is not always easy.  I slip and give the pwBPD intermittent reinforcement by taking the bait or responding to the chaos creation attempts.

I would never have chosen a relationship with a BPD had I known about BPD all those years ago. In fact that is part of the problem.  In the beginning, first year, none of the rage, verbal abuse, etc. happened.

The reason I remained so long with the pwBPD in my life is I thought these were just bad days and the problems could be solved by talking, open discussion, reason, and increased attention and affection for the pwBPD.  It took me a long time to realize despite my best efforts no level or attention or communication was going to stop the chaos.  By the time I recognized and faced the facts, however, other factors had come into play.  

To wit, three children.  The children did not choose this.  As the only emotional adult it becomes up to me to make the best of a bad situation.  I could certainly bail tomorrow if I didn’t care about them.
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« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2011, 04:39:23 PM »

Her main motivation for getting me back is only to abuse me more.  


I think Margaret Paul  is telling us not to say things like this to ourselves... that this is were we self inflict our own wounds.

However as to “accepting the treatment” I don’t.  The first step for me was not to and to stop internalizing the verbal abuse.  I try not to internalize it or give credence to it.  It is not always easy.  


This is well said.  We can stop being a victim by not letting some of this conflict get to our hearts.   Its not alsways about leaving the room.

As an aside, I have a friend who is an artist at this.  He tells himself (and me) "I'm not going to get upset about that" when the relationship problems start coming down.  He says it nicely... but he really means it.  And you soon learn from dealing with him that drama just fall on the floor when he is around.

I slip and give the pwBPD intermittent reinforcement by taking the bait or responding to the chaos creation attempts.


Even if you are only 50% successful - that is a big improvement.  It's like learned  skill.

In a lot of areas in life we don't take bad behavior to heart... we brush it off.  I think the part of the issue is that we have much higher expectations of the spouse.  And we feel very compromised when we lower those expectations.  It is not our image of a relationship.

Given the options before us - it may be an important compromise to make.  Something to radically accept.
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« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2011, 12:25:53 PM »

The example to me doesn't seem so irrational.  If your SO is angry at you, particularly if they misunderstood something you did, doesn't it make rational sense to want to explain the misunderstanding and dissolve the anger?  My biggest difficulty with my BPDbf is that he makes irrational claims that I am hurting him.  For example, he claims that my facial expressions hurt him.  My natural response is to try to work on this conflict and explain perhaps he is misinterpreting my facial expressions.  Of course, this just ramps him up into a rage.  His reaction is abnormal - not mine.  What I am learning in therapy is that some of his positions are no-win situations for me and I have to learn to walk away.  Now I can do this with some success but it goes against my nature to want to comfort him and help him see I am really on his side.  The healthy person in a BPD relationship is still learning to adapt to the BPD's disorder - that takes a lot of education and a deep well of patience.

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« Reply #18 on: June 17, 2011, 07:06:21 AM »


Paul uses the following to exemplify her point...

When I asked Don why he sits and listens to Joyce, he stated that he hoped if he listened to her she would listen to him. I asked if she ever does listen during these conflicts, and he answered "No."

"Why do you need her to listen to you?"
"I want to explain to her why I did what I did with the children."

"Why do you need to explain it to her?"
"So she won't be mad at me."


According to Dr. Paul, Don allows himself to be yelled at by Joyce as his way of trying to control Joyce, hoping to get her to approve of him. Then he tried to explain to further control how she feels about him. When she won't listen, he feels victimized by her yelling, blaming her for being such an angry, controlling person.


Taking responsibility for our own feelings of worth and lovability, instead of giving that job to others, moves us out from being victims.


Ahhhhhh so true. You know, I read somewhere once, that 'help is the sunny side of control'. I believe that. That makes me wonder how I was controlling or trying to be controlling in the r/s by being sooooo helpful and always there. I must say, I was not aware I had intentions of being controlling  to my ex BPDbf, yet I can see now this is the case. Passive aggressive controlling perhaps. Trying to control something so out of control. I knew that if I accepted enough, forgave enough, listened enough, was there enough, that I would 'outshine' any other girl and would be the one he would always come back to. When I look at that behaviour of mine, sure it was partly 'survival' to 'keep' bf but it was also control. Lack of control, for my own actions/behaviours, that were rooted in seeking validation from him, and passive aggressive control over him disguised as 'help'.


I gave him control over me and tried to regain my control over myself by being loved validated etc by controlling him through help. 

My analytical mind can see all this and own it, my emotional mind is still very hurt and wants to cry out that my heart is sore and I didn't mean to bring this on myself.  Then none of us meant to but did. 
 
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« Reply #19 on: December 23, 2013, 05:45:46 AM »

Boy oh Boy I did the dance. I have been looking much deeper into myself and asking myself why I danced. It is much easier to look at everyone else but ourselves. I used to think I knew my self pretty well I think I was an extremely compassionate person. I started to really look at why and what is inside of me that I allowed this dance to continue for so long. I was as healthy as I thought but getting a lot firmer with my boundaries. Not trying to fix anyone but myself now and accepting that each one of us is responsible for fixing themselves. Great Article
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