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Author Topic: SELF-AWARE: What it means to be in the "FOG"  (Read 17107 times)
eeyore
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« on: October 19, 2008, 08:20:06 AM »

What it means to be in the "FOG"

What is F.O.G.?

FOG is an acronym for FEAR, OBLIGATION, AND GUILT.  Simply said it’s EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL.  It is common for the BPD to use emotional blackmail to get what they want/need.  Many times it is the only way they know how.  Many times the recipients also suffer from the same low self esteem and have difficulty setting personal limits and communicating so they capitulate to the BPD and the pattern of abuse is formed.  

According to Susan Forward in Emotional Blackmail, the heart of emotional blackmail is flawed reasoning.  The reasoning is illogical and there is a double standard.  “It is permissible for me to push your buttons to get my needs met, but if you try to do the same thing, I’ll make sure you will regret your selfishness.”  

Examples of F.O.G.

FEAR: Quote from: ohash, “I want so badly to cut him out of my life, but know that I would regret doing so...”

OBLIGATION:   Quote from:  JerryKew, “I got caught up in the "game" of trying ever harder. If only I could do this or that, or change this or that, he would finally understand. I didn't realize I was trying to do all the work for us. My perception of things had grown so skewed and distorted over the years that I just couldn't see clearly anymore.”

GUILT: Quote from  CrazyNoMore, “By the time I was in high school, my home situation had pretty much isolated me, and even then, the very few invitations I would receive to attend a party, go roller skating, go see a movie, I felt obligated to decline because I didn't want to risk the fallout at home. The very few times I went, there was hell to pay later with either a raging inquisition or a never-ending list of chores that needed to be done "now that you've spent your time having fun."  

Defenses to F.O.G.

The FOG keeps us from seeing that we have choices, we have the power to take back our lives, and we can't cure another person of their mental illness and we don't deserve or have to put up with abuse.

Boundaries/personal limits and valuing yourself are the best defense to FOG.  Most BPD are fundamentally insecure. Converse to logic, many times you may need to create distance from them when you think they are most needy.  Taking time for yourself and making your needs your own priority may be the best defense to FOG.  
 
It is futile to try to discuss the subject of emotional blackmail with the BPD because the bpd will not be pinned down, will project FOG back, deny its existence, try to change the subject, or start an angry outburst.  
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MathCoreChick
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2008, 09:20:07 AM »

to me FOG meant denying all the bad things to myself so i could continue on in my 'make-believe' world thinking that everything was all okay and it was going to get better.  the reality was it wasnt ok and it would never get better.

good topic !
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2008, 02:32:30 PM »

I know the official definition of F.O.G. here on the board is fear, obligation and guilt.  And yet, all three of those things are good things in the right context.  I.E. - we fear doing something harmful to our family, we feel obligated to work on our relationships, we feel guilty if we have unfaithful thoughts or actually are unfaithful.  All of that is good.  

I think the definition of F.O.G. may even change for us at different stages of our relationship or depending upon the severity of the BPD's condition. 

For me, F.O.G. was when I thought I could somehow make our relationship into a healthy one if I said the right thing, did the right thing, responded the right way etc. etc. etc.  Then I realized how little power I actually had to "fix" things and it was liberating.  It made me feel like I was in the "bright sunlight" again so to speak.  It doesn't mean I don't care - doesn't mean I don't try to use the same consideration and kindnesses and even "customization" in my interactions with my husband as I would with every other person I have interactions with - just means I really don't want to go back to analyzing and agonizing over every interaction I have with him. 
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2008, 09:39:31 PM »

What is my FOG?  I fear the divorce process.  I fear the trashing that will I will get in my social life, the trashing that I will likely get at work and the trashing I will get with the kids.  I fear that I will have to change jobs and move out of state.  I fear that I will lose lots and she will stay in my life harassing me.  I fear letting go of my dream.

I struggle with a sense of obligation to take care of the kids and her before I take care of myself.  Guilt eats at me when I don’t take care of them before myself.  Guilt eats me up when I let myself down and put others first. 

This hero crap has really got to go.  Being pissed off helps.  It pisses me off that we would have a pretty nice life if she would just act half way normal. There is not a reason in the world that I should have to put up with this sort of crap. I am not wanting all that much.  The task ahead of me to let go of the anger and stay just as fed up.   But then again, the anger helps to burn off the FOG.
 
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2008, 09:46:52 AM »

Quote
I fear the divorce process.  I fear the trashing that will I will get in my social life, the trashing that I will likely get at work and the trashing I will get with the kids.  I fear that I will have to change jobs and move out of state.  I fear that I will lose lots and she will stay in my life harassing me.  I fear letting go of my dream.

Ok, add all of those to my list too.  I couldn't agree more.  Sometimes it just seems easier to stay and work with it and try not to believe that all my hopes and dreams we had planned for the future can never be.  I really need to get out of this FOG and and try to remember the things I feel passionate about about do them again.  But that FOG sneaks up on you, sometimes in the middle of the night, like a thief, and you just hope and pray the sun can somehow break thru and burn it off.

I am so terrified that he will do something stupid again and our marriage will be damaged beyond repair . . .  My love for him will be damaged beyond repair.
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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2008, 10:11:17 AM »

I know the official definition of F.O.G. here on the board is fear, obligation and guilt.  And yet, all three of those things are good things in the right context.  I.E. - we fear doing something harmful to our family, we feel obligated to work on our relationships, we feel guilty if we have unfaithful thoughts or actually are unfaithful.  All of that is good. 


Susan Forward PhD coined the acronym FOG to stand for fear, obligation, and guilt - three vulnerabilities that an emotional blackmailer manipulates, and 3 vulnerabilities that most of us can't figure out how to escape.

Her point is pretty much your point - that these are normal, often helpful, feelings - so we trust them.  And this can be debilitating if we can't recognize when they are being manipulated.
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Christy2
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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2008, 04:10:10 PM »

Quote
Her point is pretty much your point - that these are normal, often helpful, feelings - so we trust them.  And this can be debilitating if we can't recognize when they are being manipulated.

Very interesting elaboration Skip - something so important for all of us to remember!
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2008, 01:37:25 PM »

To me the FOG was another extension of OZ...reminded me of the poppy fields...where you end up so confused

Now this can be by both whatever FOG your BPD is handing out as well as your own experiences thickening the fog...we all have our pasts, that affect who we are today...childhood, prior relationships, faith, expectations...all combining like a storm front creating that FOG.

For me it was fear - mostly of failure, of failing at a second marriage...of failing to provide a stable father figure for my kids...fear of being alone again...and yes, some fear of his volitile behavior

Obligation and guilt - mostly based around the same reasons above...I had put sooo much work into this marriage, I felt obligated to see it through...obligated to somehow take care of this man who could not seemingly do so for himself...guilty that I couldn't hold it all together, guilty that my kids were hurt by all of it...guilty for giving up on the marriage...and him.

All of it is much more about us and our feelings than it is about the BPD in our lives, and only we can shine enough light to see through that FOG...

See because if I could have seen that for me the light was chosing me and my kids first...that by not choosing I was failing, failing them, failing myself...turning and chosing a different perspective and seeing that by doing so I could see that light...
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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2008, 03:57:50 PM »

I thought the term FOG was originated by Beverly Engel in her book "Emotional Blackmail." I used it in Stop Walking on Eggshells. When I see people use it, I like them to know that.

Here is what I write about FOG in my new book, the Essential Family Guide to BPD." This i s from my files, so there is extra stuff you can ignore. Sorry, the formatting isn't all that great, either.

Steering Clear of the FOG
In chapter 8, Uncover What Keeps You Feeling Stuck, we discussed FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) in the context of the relationship. FOG also comes up like little wisps of smoke during limit-setting conversations. If you don’t prepare for it, it can blur your vision and make it hard to see and remember what you want and need. The next few pages will show you how to prevent FOG from sabotaging your convictions about the limits you must set to make this relationship work (or make your living situation bearable).

Fear of Losing the Relationship
There are many different kinds of fears. Most of them can be approached using the Carnegie problem-solving methods described in chapter 7, page XX. The fear we will deal with here is fear of losing the relationship.

Members of Welcome to Oz say that underneath the disorder, their loved one is a great person. Common adjectives members use to describe their BP include bright, funny, compassionate, loving, and beautiful. It’s very hard to accept that their loved one’s borderline behaviors aren’t isolated anomalies, but a central part of who he is.
To keep themselves safe from their loved one’s erratic and often abusive behaviors, family members give in on issues they actually feel strongly about. The BP’s emotional blow-up acts as a punishment; the non-BP giving in to prevent the punishment acts as a powerful reward. Over time, non-BPs have let their limits slide so far they can no longer be seen with the naked eye.
 
Psychotherapist Beverly Engel, a recognized expert in the field of relationships, explains how limits disappear. She says:

Most of us begin a relationship thinking we have certain limits as to what we will and will not tolerate from a partner. But as the relationship progresses, we tend to move our boundaries back, tolerating more and more intrusion or going along with things we are really opposed to. . . . [Individuals] begin tolerating unacceptable and even abusive behavior, and then convince themselves that these behaviors are normal, acceptable, [and deserved].[5]

Maura, like many non-BPs, is boxed in. She knows just what will happen if she makes any demands on her boyfriend, Fred. When she says she needs time alone or time with her friends, he says he’ll leave her. Not only leave her, but make her life miserable by spreading rumors and lies about her to their friends. Her family and friends tell her the relationship isn’t healthy and that Fred has problems. But she is terribly afraid of losing Fred and wishes that others could see what a wonderful person he is underneath it all. If she can just settle Fred down, get him not to make waves, things will be fine.

Signs of abuse include dictating how others should live; isolating them from family and friends; controlling money or other resources; blaming those they mistreat for the mistreatment; being overly jealous and possessive; or pushing, grabbing, hitting, kicking, punching, or throwing objects.

If this describes your family member, you may think that by remaining silent, you are “helping” this person or “saving” the relationship. This is untrue. Both of you need help immediately from experienced mental health professionals. Call someone who cares about you or a domestic violence hotline. Men and parents can be abused too. If you don’t seek help, the consequences could be tragic.

Obligation and Guilt
Yeardley just knows that her borderline sister is going to ruin her wedding. “You have to ask your sister to be your maid of honor,” their mother insisted. Yeardley had wanted her best friend in that role, but she gave in to her mother’s wishes. It’s been like this her whole life—she always receives love and praise from her parents when she “does her duty” by her sister.
Author Suzanne Robert writes about boundaries and families on her Web site about aging parents: suzanneroberts.net. She points out that we rarely consider setting boundaries with our families for two reasons: self-induced guilt (“He’s my family. I can’t say that.”) and the external fear of what people will think. Roberts believes that we have not only the right but also the responsibility to “allow our family members to be subject to the same criteria as anyone else on this planet,” even if we appear selfish. It is not selfish, she says, to take care of yourself. A person with no boundaries, who functions with knee-jerk reactions to every demand, is too tired, angry, and resentful to be kind and loving, she points out.
Feelings of guilt and obligation are common when they set limits, say members of WTO. Here are some examples:

•   “She said my limits about having my own money meant I didn’t love her or take our marriage seriously.”
•   “She said, ‘How can you do this to your own mother? What kind of a son are you?’”
•   “She accused me of being like her terrible ex-husbands.”

Fear, obligation, and guilt—or FOG, a term coined by Susan Forward in her excellent book Emotional Blackmail —is “penetrating, disorienting, and obscures everything but the pounding discomfort it produces.” Forward says pressure is so uncomfortable, we give in as quickly and as automatically as we would put our hands over our ears when a siren shrieks past.[6]

Once the FOG button works, BPs will press it again and again. One WTO member summed up this dynamic beautifully: “When I try to set limits, my BP keeps at me until I give up, even if it takes hours. It is much easier to give in within the first thirty seconds.”

Forward says that one of the most powerful techniques people can use to cut through the FOG is to say, “I CAN STAND IT” [caps in the original] repeatedly. This puts a new message into the conscious and unconscious mind. When thinking about taking steps to end the blackmail, breathe deeply and say, “I can stand it” at least ten times. The rewards are worth enduring someone getting upset. At a minimum, the rewards are increased self-confidence and a sense of mastery over life.[7]

FOG, however, is just one aspect of what keeps people stuck in relationships. There are other reasons. In the book, I talk about these other reasons:

•   unhealthy bonds forged by emotional abuse (Stockholm Syndrome)
•   feelings of fear
•   obligation, roles, and duty
•   guilt mingled with shame
•   low self-esteem
•   the need to “rescue”
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2008, 08:20:44 PM »

 i really never knew what F.o.G stood for 11  years ago when i first found out about BPD none of this was used at least not on the site i was on, but when i first kept seeing this i thought of where i was 11 years ago so confused, i was like in a fog trying to get out i was lost, not understanding anything, why was my husband acting the way he was?  then when i was told and figured out my husband has BPD it wasn't me.. boy i was in a whole new world i seen things so differntly, and had to learn so much and the more i learned the more the fog went away.. it was better i knew he had a personality disorder then not knowing anything and not understanding. i always just wanted to know why once i got that answer i was so much better.. out of the fog so to speak wink  then when i found out what F.o.g really meant i am like okay i might of had fear, not really and obligated but not guilt that i never felt i was more confused then guilty because i knew something had to be wrong.
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Letting go of what was or what you thought was, and accepting what is, is all part of the piece to the puzzle  we need to move forward.


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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2008, 12:32:15 AM »

FOG is the most frustrating, interesting aspect of a BPD relationship.  It changes depending on where you are on the road out of Oz.  when I was in the center of oz and undecided the FOG was so think I could not see anything.  I could not see the way out. 

I Feared...being alone, being a single mom, what others would think, what it would do to my D, staying with him, what he was doing to my D
I was Obligated...to be a good wife, to do everything to make him happy, to do everything "right", to keep my wedding vows, to do what he wanted me to do, to follow Gods will
I felt Guilty because...I wanted to leave, I did not want my D growing up in a broken home, he might hurt himself, this was going to hurt him, God hates divorce
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« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2008, 02:50:45 AM »

Fear that I was a horrible person for wanting more than I had, fear that such ungratefulness would leave me all alone and without anything.
Obligation to put up with all kinds of behaviour and to make myself believe that I was the root of it and that I was responsible, therefore I had to suffer and rescue those people.
Guilt that I wanted more, that it wasn't enough, guilt that I didn't see only the good things in people around me, guilt that I was a burden, guilt for believing that there had to be more to life.
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« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2008, 04:10:07 PM »

FEAR:
When I was in a dysfunctional relationship I used to fear a future of being alone; I feared change in general.
I'd rather stay an sit in my own filth then to take a step aside & find a new spot...
I feared the moment my partner came home. Was I all-good today or all-bad?
"Hello honey, how was your day?"  barfy

OBLIGATION:
I was a responsible adult & had to take care of my partner, as if she was my helpless infant daughter. I had to prove myself that I was no longer the irresponsible teenager I once was. I can take care of someone. She doesn't have a father...I should compensate  barfy

GUILT:
Maybe it was me. Maybe I actually did something wrong and I wasn't aware of my mistake. There is no other possibility: I must have done something to get
my partner to scream & shout. Nobody reacted to my behaviour like this...ever.
 barfy
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« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2009, 10:13:44 AM »

Great Workshop topic!

I think it's important to remember that most with bpd are not intentionally engaging in emotional blackmail.  Their brains work differently from the non and they actually believe that the non (or others) are hurting them... that the non "should" do whatever or is responsible for whatever.  That's why trying to talk about the emotional blackmail won't work.  

If you are still with the partner or still in touch with the family member and you want to work through the Fear Obligation and Guilt, you may want to check out Lessons for members who are staying in their relationships.  If you are out of the relationship or in limited/no contact with the family member, but you are still being psychologically hammered by your own FOG, it's important to remember that you are doing this to yourself...  
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« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2009, 03:42:10 PM »

I'll give a personal example of obligation. My mother is uBPD. She became growingly abusive toward me in the last few years. Although I was providing her a great deal of support, I was clearly in the "bad" category in her black and white thinking, and she's treat me very disrespectfully, callously, and critically, coupled with some creepy stalkerish behavior. My line of thinking about this abuse went like this:

1. With anyone else, I'd set boundaries and refuse to be treated like this.
2. With my mother, if I set any boundaries or put a halt to any mistreatment, she will become enraged and/or rejecting.
3. If she's enraged, that's okay, I can take it, even though I won't like it.
4. However, if she becomes rejecting, she may cut me off.
5. If she cuts me off, I won't be able to support her anymore, and I am obligated to help her.
6. Therefore, I must accept the mistreatment, because otherwise, I may not be able to help her.

I took years of abuse not so much out of a hope that things could be better for us, but out of obligation to take care of her.

Among the resources that have helped me release this terrible and destructive sense of obligation (and fear and guilt) are the books Toxic Parents, Understanding the Borderline Mother, The Narcissitic Family, and Surviving the Borderline Parent. These are all geared toward adult children of dysfunctional families, as the titles make clear.

Also very helpful to me was an exercise my therapist did with me to get at the beliefs behind the feelings of fear, obligation, and guilt. Here's an example of how the exercise works, from an exchange between me and another member, lightanddark:

Does anyone struggle with the (in my case constant) fear that you'll be "busted" for bad behaviour? The result being subjected to a rage or sobbing accusations that you've done the wrong thing and how could you do this after all they've done for you. But the bad behaviour is, like, having your dad over for dinner and not telling momster (divorced), or not defending her when she's being "attacked" by dad. Or being caught talking about her to pretty much anyone, even when you're just venting after a fight or you've been hurt by her actions.

I'm a grown woman and I'm sick of being afraid I'll get in trouble for making the choices that feel right to me. I'm sick of coming up with "feasible" explanations in my head for almost every scenario in anticipation of the moment I get busted doing the "wrong" thing.

But then, how do I know when she's making a valid point? How do I know if my attempts at setting boundaries have become cold and selfish? How much am I meant to give, because she is my family?

I'm just always scared.

lightanddark,

Yes indeed, I know that feeling well. Your fear is the internal mother. I've experienced this as well.

Something that might help is Tools: US: Do not allow others to 'rent space' in your 'head'. Another thing that helped me was to get at the beliefs I was unconsciously holding that led me to the fear. For example in your post I read:

Quote
But then, how do I know when she's making a valid point? How do I know if my attempts at setting boundaries have become cold and selfish? How much am I meant to give, because she is my family?


If I break that down:

Quote
How do I know when she's making a valid point?
(My view and instincts are not valid. Hers outweigh mine.)

Quote
How do I know if my attempts at setting boundaries have become cold and selfish?
(Having my own point of view and making choices about my own life is cold and selfish.)

Quote
How much am I meant to give, because she is my family?
(She determines how much I am supposed to give. Family means sacrificing your autonomy.)

Once you identify the beliefs, you start to work on them, because they're not really that logical.


 xoxox

B&W
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« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2009, 03:55:50 PM »

My uBPDp says I "owe" her because she stayed home with our daughter.  But, the reason she was the one to stay home was really that she couldn't hold a job.  I would much have prefered that I be the one to stay home.  She got the job I wanted and now I "owe" her.   ?
So, I have to stay with her or "I'm just like any other person who decides to walk out once the kids are grown."  Very twisted thinking.  Yet, it works to a degree.  I know that I would have a more peaceful life without her.  Yet, I would feel guilty walking out right now.  It's almost like she's set me up.  She won't be the one to leave no matter what.  If I leave everything is lost - home, pets, etc.  If she leaves - I could afford to maintain the home daughter is used to.  She has enmeshed daughter so that d would have to chose between BPD parent and her home.  I don't want d to have to make that choice.  So, I stay out of guilt and obligation.
Peace & Metta
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« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2009, 08:42:58 AM »

Hi eeyore,

It is good that you brought up this topic - FOG so that the nons are more aware of what they are into if they just started the relationship not too long or drag on so long for over a year or two.

Anyway, you might have finally found out where you stand now. For most of the BP relationships, in my opionion, both parties are losers.

Wish you well.

Peter
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« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2009, 03:11:49 AM »

My line of thinking about this abuse went like this:

1. With anyone else, I'd set boundaries and refuse to be treated like this.
2. With my mother, if I set any boundaries or put a halt to any mistreatment, she will become enraged and/or rejecting.
3. If she's enraged, that's okay, I can take it, even though I won't like it.
4. However, if she becomes rejecting, she may cut me off.
5. If she cuts me off, I won't be able to support her anymore, and I am obligated to help her.
6. Therefore, I must accept the mistreatment, because otherwise, I may not be able to help her.

Wow, blackandwhite - that breaks it down just about accurately for me with my uBPm, with the possible exception of #3. It's not "ok" that she becomes enraged; it just "IS" and as if millions of tiny fleas were zipping around my head, I begin swatting -- fighting back. Or trying to wave the smoke screen away, not to get clouded again by the craziness and confusion. I begin declaring my right to be treated respectfully, at least appreciated for all that I do. And as my blood pressure rises and my voice gets louder I FEAR I am making my uBPm "right" -- which in effect I am, because I have fallen into her trap.

I have told her many times that were she anyone but my mother, I would be GONE. It is OBLIGATION that keeps me stuck, as well as love. She is my mother; I believe that I love her.

She needs to regain some semblance of control, she uses me as the outlet for her rage, fear, hurt, crazies and pushes every button knowing full well that I will "blow" and then she can reel in all those crazy emotions and point the wagging finger of blame at me for upsetting her.

And despite my own anger, I am then filled with GUILT for not being able to control my reactions and behavior. Guilt because I know intellectually that I cannot change another person -- particularly one who does not recognize the reality of the situation -- and that the change must come from me. But the perpetual FOG keeps me from seeing clear, or rather steering clear and keeping my mouth shut.

I think it's important to remember that most with bpd are not intentionally engaging in emotional blackmail.  Their brains work differently from the non and they actually believe that the non (or others) are hurting them... that the non "should" do whatever or is responsible for whatever.  That's why trying to talk about the emotional blackmail won't work.

I believe that my uBPm is in her own FOG, so to speak. Her own FEAR of life, abandonment, loneliness creates resentment in her for the OBLIGATION she feels to her family and to her own misguided needs; and she acts out because the world doesn't play by the script in her head. I'm at a loss to find a G for guilt, however. If it is true that they are unaware of the organic root of it all, then I suppose guilt is not possible for them. And that if there is any inkling it is far too uncomfortable for them to process and the entire scenario must play itself out again and again.
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« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2009, 10:51:16 AM »

This is a wonderful workshop. I thought I fully understood F.O.G., but now I'm seeing how it affected me (and still does, even though I'm NC with BPD/NPD mother) in more ways than I knew.

I think I did suffer more from obligation and guilt than fear, though I did (and still do, in my head) think like B&W's sister who's first thought was, "Don't tell Mom," and I did used to prepare my explanation for whatever thing I knew was going to raise her ire, such as having dinner plans with someone else and not including her.

I have been thinking that something that may be related to F.O.G. is gaslighting. I think it definitely adds to the guilt part, when the BP makes the non feel like they are the one in the wrong, or overreacting, or whatever particular "crime" the BP claims one is guilty of. This, along with projection, really does make you feel like you are in a thick, pea soup fog, and don't know which way to go.

I found these threads really helpful:

On Gaslighting: http://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=65549.0
On Projection: http://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=99096.0
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peter chu
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« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2009, 11:55:57 PM »

Hi,

The way I handle FOG is to leave everything out of yr head - the so-called "Don't rent any space out for those bad things in yr mind".

Anyway, it does not come easy but you have to condition yourself to do it.

Stimulus - Response Psychology - just don't react to those stimulus. Once you get used to it, it will disappear sooner or later.

In short, the expert says : be non-judgemental.

Peter   
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