There is a wealth of material that discusses the variety of shapes and forms these two personalities can take- especially concerning their differences and their bonds to one another. Joan Lakhar Ph.D has been writing on this subject for many years, even before the advent of the Internet. bpdfamily.com/book_review/joan_lachkar.htm
Contrary to popular belief, Narcissists and Borderlines are not evil or untreatable, they just need to make sense of their behavior if they wish to accept reality. Making sense of the behavior is what object relations theory (Klein) and the psychology of the â€śSelfâ€ť (Kohut) is all about.
Lakhar makes a point to diffuse stigmatization with â€śalthough I use the terms borderline and narcissism as distinct entities, neither disorder is the same across individuals or even in an individual over time. Discussion would be impossible, however, without making certain abstract distinctions between them in order to frame the conflict.â€ť
Rather than lumping them into one big wastebasket of broken humanity as a statistic, Lakhar realized that the anxiety of this arrested behavior each person experiences is as different as snowflakes, but these differences must be respected as qualitative differences in order to be assessed.
In her theory, Lakhar felt that Narcissists were more concerned with mirroring that was â€śSelfâ€ť-directed while Borderlines were more concerned with becoming a part of something = â€śObjectâ€ť-directed.
The Narcissist has been taught that they must be closed off and carefully protected from engulfment by others- and he/she inflates in much the same way a puffer fish does for protection. The Borderline is more like a remora, a clinging, parasitic, part-self, other-directed persona that seeks to attach and go along for the ride.
The real construct here is the extent to which people control or allow themselves to be controlled by others.
There are so many people who are brilliant theorists that it would be a shame not to at least delve into one or two of the ideas about arrested development to see where the origin of the problem begins.
James F. Masterson spent 40 years of his life detailing the differential diagnosis of Narcissism and Borderline and even went so far as to contribute a differential diagnosis on their high and low functions. In his 1981 book, the â€śNarcissistic and Borderline Disordersâ€ť he details many case studies and differentiates the developmental theory of both personality types as well as treatment outlines.
Borderline failure to separate/individuate during the pre-oedipal period causes a lifelong view of â€śother-directedâ€ť actions. The same is true for Narcissists; however, Narcissists â€śsubsumeâ€ť others into their intrapsychic World as extensions while Borderlines (part-time selves) fuse to others in the mistaken belief that they will become whole persons.
Both partners wear masks of â€śfalse selvesâ€ť to hide their vulnerable true selves. Narcissists are gullible, and instead of seeing their perfect â€śfalse selfâ€ť reflection in the Borderline as fraudulent, they believe that they have found a fellow narcissist who shares their World view and compunction for perfection.
Both partners present themselves as misunderstood in life and now share each otherâ€™s World view- but the Borderline does this as a Trojan horse offering in order to slip inside the Narcissists protective outer. The Narcissist unwittingly subsumes the Borderline as a part of themselves and gives rarely allowed access- thinking that the Borderline has the same protective outer that demands rigid rules for membership. Alas, not only does the Borderline *not* know these rules- they cannot even try to implement them- and the Narcissist becomes aware of dis*ease* between them (a.k.a. red flags of odd behavior) Something clicks in the Narcissist, that this person really wasnâ€™t who they said they were and control issues arise when the Narcissist tries to get the Borderline back in line with the idealized self that was initially presented. When this fails (as it always does) the anxiety turns persecutory for the borderline and the Narcissist withdraws.
Eventually, the Narcissist comes to a painful process of understanding that the borderline actually mirrored the Narcissist and the Narcissist actually mirrored their own self. Judging the amount of shame that arises during Smear campaigns, distortion, and the blame game are all narcissistic injuries in the aftermath of the broken mirror. (Note: One does not need to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder to have narcissistic traits. Narcissistic traits can be healthy unless they subsume others.)
Fortunately there are many books that stay away from the stigmatization of the â€śall or noneâ€ť characteristics to personalities- these books concentrate on the quality of behavior instead. Schema therapy by Jeffrey Young Ph.D, was created n 1994. It is a beautifully modern interpretation of the diagnostic manual which applies to everyone who struggles with abandonment, mistrust and abuse, dependence, vulnerability, emotional deprivation, social exclusion, defectiveness, failure, subjugation, unrelenting standards and entitlement. These eleven "lifetraps" are lifelong patterns or themes that replicate the DSM diagnostics. They are self-destructive personality traits and yet they struggle for survival. The end result is that we manage to recreate the conditions of our childhood that was most harmful to us because we are familiar with the feelings.
Youngâ€™s theory is tightly woven into a structured, systematic model of therapy themes, called Schema. Both Narcissists and Borderline personalities are behaviorally dissected in a way that shows distinct differences to how they view themselves and how to approach them in treatment. Add that to the 30 year old Masterson approach and the treatment options keep encouraging people to get at what ails them in talk therapy. The understanding of the wants and needs of people vs. fantasy/reality is confronted. The end result is reality testing and truth.
There are, unfortunately, a plethora of books and blogs that do stigmatize, born out of frustrating personal events and without much introspective clarity for the whys and hows of getting involved with the Borderline or Narcissistic personality and the reasons for continuing to stay with them. (Yes, there are reasons.) According to Joan Lachkar, â€śitâ€™s not that people are crazy, itâ€™s just that each partner stirs up some un-developmental issue in the other that desperately needs to be worked through.â€ť
In 1988, James F. Masterson M.D. released his brilliant analysis, â€śThe Search for the Real Self, Unmasking the Personality disorders of our age.â€ť In the preface he writes: â€śThis negative attitude about the difficulties of successfully treating borderline and narcissistic patients survives to the day in many areas where therapists have not become aware of the newer discoveries. It often continues to be the prevailing attitude in lay circles and in the media, which is one of the important reasons I wrote this book. Not all, but many patients, given the proper therapeutic support, can and will overcome their developmental problems and their real selves will emerge.â€ť ~ Masterson
Masterson knew that we all had bits and pieces of maladaptive coping mechanisms- and a little bit of family history went a long way toward understanding, but it wasn't all or none. There was a possibility of acceptance and change.
Lachkarâ€™s â€śThe narcissistic/borderline couple: new approaches to marital therapy.â€ť is now in its second printing. â€śListen for the theme,â€ť Lackhar says. â€śAt the core of the dynamic flow between narcissistic/borderline partners is a duel between omnipotence and vulnerability.â€ť One partner withdraws and the other chases, one partner closes in (engulfment) and the other fleesâ€¦ Both people are desperate for love but unable to trust it. It is a dance. Again, The real construct here is the extent to which people control or allow themselves to be controlled by others.
Investigating and treating the behavior of both parties offers less stigmatization of the separate personalities and more treatment avenues - and this is what the Masterson institute, Jeffrey Young and Joan Lachkar specialize in.
Whether itâ€™s object relations therapy, or Self psychology or Schema therapy, there is no such thing as a NON. We are all human beings and we all need to work on our separate issues in the aftermath of the relationship. Understanding your partnerâ€™s negative life patterns will allow you to see your own- Young calls these self defeating maladaptive coping mechanisms â€ślifetrapsâ€ť and he even has information on his website. Itâ€™s not enough to turn your back on a Borderline- you have to confront your reasons for being attracted to this cipher in the first place. Youngâ€™s book, â€śReinventing your lifeâ€ť is also a good start. amazon.com/James-F.-Mastersonamazon.com/Schema-Therapy-Practitioners-Jeffrey-Youngamazon.com/Reinventing-Your-Life-Breakthough-Behavior