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Author Topic: What is "re-engagement"  (Read 3104 times)
Skip
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« on: September 20, 2009, 12:07:30 PM »

re-engage

The term "re-engage" is "urban slang".  The term was born on an Internet support forum in the early 2000's.

"re-engage" has no recognized meaning in the mental health community.  But it is very popular on message boards.  It appears in 10% of the posts on this board in the last 20 days.

It has been defined on other websites as:

"re-engaged=After the vacuum cleaner, to be sucked back into the relationship for another ride on the rollercoaster. Non-BPs keep the  sucking by responding to the re-engagement. ~ BPDCentral"

"The re-engagement maneuver is named after the famous vacuum cleaner. In the language of our community, it describes behavior common among those who have borderline traits. It occurs most often when a Non threatens to leave, or actually leaves, a relationship. The intent of the re-engagement is to get the Non back into the relationship. This behaviour has its roots in the intense fear of being alone or being abandoned that is often at the very core of the disordered person’s sense of self. ~ BPD411"

The question I pose here is whether the term "re-engage" is adding clarity and  better understanding of what is happening in our lives... .or whether the term is furthering confusion and misunderstanding?

Some considerations:

1) The term most often used to describe something other than the definitions above. It appears that most of the previous 200 uses on this board are not about attempts by a pwBPD to rekindle a relationship.  Most often it is just an impulsive contact or attempted contact - a text message - an incompleted call - a phone message.

2) Most often the content conveyed in the "re-engages" is not about rekindling the relationship at all. What is most often described is a simple impulsive, validation fix.  The pwBPD is consumed with self doubt. Its the nature of the disorder.  The exnon or stbexnon is a love sick puppy. Where better to go for instant validation fix.  Sure, it is very inconsiderate to do this to a hurting non, but most pwBPD can't see past their own hurt to see the hurt in others.

3) It is often implied or assumed in the use of the term "re-engage" that there is premeditated, thought out, or punishing attempt to manipulate the non.  This is really inconsistent with the nature of BPD which is characterized by impulsive actions and a lack of executive control (seeing the impact of immediate actions in terms of the bigger picture). Sure, some times it is premeditated or punishing - but that is far from universal.

4) Of course, there are times when we leave the relationship with the intent to be gone and one party rekindles or tries to rekindle the relationship.  Most of us have experienced this in a BPD relationship and we are as often the ones responsible as the pwBPD.  Is the term "re-engage", with all its negative connotations,  a useful term for all attempts to rekindle a relationship - those that have resulted in true reconciliation (we have them here), those that were well intentioned but ill fated, and those that were nothing more than escapes from other problems?

I excerpted this from a blog.  I quote the incident, but I interpret that actions a bit different than the the original author.

Excerpt
As an aside, I had an experience with my cat this morning that could be seen as re-engaging.

This cat is not very loving. She was a stray and abused, so she is pretty shy about showing affection. I’ve had her for about 2 years. Anyway, last night she got locked out of the house all night. When I came downstairs at 7 AM this morning, she was sitting in the back window (on the outside) meowing. I opened the door for her and she ran inside and rubbed up against me, followed me around for about 20 minutes and made me pet her by pushing her head against my hand. This was all before she went to the food bowl, which is usually the first thing she does in the morning. Again, this is not an affectionate cat, normally. But she was upset and needed to have affection shown to her. After she calmed down... .she went upstairs, climbed in the linen closet and went to sleep. My point is that even a simple animal undergoes emotional dysregulation and needs assurances and needs to feel better.

So back to the original question, is the term "re-engage" getting in the way of discussing what is really happening and should we look to other more conventional language to communicate about these events?


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newlife3
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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2009, 12:25:52 PM »

Hello Skip:

Excellent post and yes I agree the term re-engagement does not accurately convey what may be happening when a BPD makes contact. I read a lot of the posts and seems that nons start to get really reactive and start projecting that BPD's have like magical powers of well thought ways to make people suffer, when the whole crux of the disorder is impulsive, lack of executive control and frontal lobe problems in the brain. Often times the BPD are wanting some quick validation and also asking about legimate concerns. There are many BPDS that do not "re-engage" after a break up, out of sight out of mind...

Lastly, even in non-disordered break-ups couples have those grief, mixed feelings where they have contact even though they know the relationship is over.

So thanks again for providing some education and some positive ways of  handling things!
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« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2009, 01:47:55 PM »

Any term that  helps us understand and avoid how BPDs attempt to get back into a relationship works for me  including the term "re-engagement."
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2009, 03:30:55 PM »

I have to say that every contact I had after a split up with my ex was a re-engagement as we know and describe it as nons.

When she cheated and was supposedly happy with a new lover I never heard from her until it ended or was ending.

She never has and never will make contact until she needs something from me, has never genuinely asked how I am after a split up because of the lack of empathy and total focus on her own needs.
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2009, 05:47:15 PM »

If we, as normal minded human beings, look at the break-up aspects of a normal relationship, we will see remorse, and a question of "was it the right decision" in these relationships. If we look it as us, the one being broken up with, we are left with questions that plague our minds as to why, what happened, what can I do, and is this for good? All of these are valid questions in any ending relationship scenario. Lets face it, in all reality, it does hurt to break up with someone, and it hurts to be broken up with. There is pain on both sides of the fence, and to be quite honest, there are feelings of entitlement on both sides of the fence.

It is those feelings of entitlement that conflict. The one breaking up does not want to speak of the "what ifs" and the "what could have beens" because the decision is usually hard enough to make, not to mention the guilt of ending the relationship, and hurting the ones we once shared a dream with. They are entitled to have distance and peace with the decision.

The person being broken up with has questions, and raw emotions of what happened, and what can be done, if only they could speak to the other party, and try to fix it. This sense of entitlement is very common. Neither are right, and neither are wrong. It is what it is.

I think the term "re-engage" is being used because of its negative conotation moreso to the disordered individual, rather than the actions that the term labels. We all have had the victims mentality when it came to our disordered relationship. This term further lengthens that victimization past the realtionship point, and into the post relationship arena. This thinking is furthered by our lack of confidence and resolve to stay out of the relationship, and our fears that we may, in fact, be vulnerable to being brought back in, which is not what really happens, we choose to go back in, against our better knowledge. We dont have the executive control to keep ourselves out, because our emotions are what is in control, and our pain is in the drivers seat.

It is that very fear, and pain, that lends to the term "re-engagement." If we werent afraid of walking back into the abyss, we wouldnt think twice, and we might actually see what the dynamic is, and be able to talk to our exs without that fear, or the term. We wouldnt have the need to see them in such a negative light, but rather, just need to realize that the relationship was not right for us, and needed to be disposed of, for our own happpiness, and future.

I understand this feeling of negativity, and fear, as I was full of it myself. I knew I needed away from her, but lacked the strength and confidence. I diminished her as a demon, and futher brought her down in everyones eyes, to help me feel good about my decision. I used the term "re-engage" and I now see that it was just solely my fear. It wasnt that she had the power to suck me in, I didnt have the power to keep myself out. There is a big difference there.

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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2009, 07:30:10 PM »

PDQuick - Really insightful post!  Very interesting - whether or not it's a "re-engage" is more about the Non than it is about the BPD.  I totally agree with you.  There was a time that my exBPD definitely had the power to suck me back in.  He no longer has that power over me, and therefore has vacuum has lost it's sucking abilities.   Smiling (click to insert in post)  But I think that the term "re-engage" is a very valuable tool when used within the realm of someone who is still trying to disengage from their exBPD, but still vulnerable as they are not yet out of the FOG.

Even though I'm out of the FOG, if my exBPD attempted to re-engagement me again, I'd still like to have a term for it.  I'd like to offer a few variations on the theme - perhaps this will help to clear up some confusion when using the broad generalization of "re-engage" for any contact made by an exBPD:

1.  There is the ":)irect re-engage" where the BPD makes it very clear that their reason for contact is to reconcile.

2.  There is the "Non re-engage" where the BPD makes legitimate contact for reasons having nothing to do with reconciliation, and the sense of being "re-engaged" comes from the Non due to unsubstantiated fear.

3.  There is the "Indirect re-engage" where the BPD uses an arbitrary excuse to open dialogue with the Non in an effort to subtley and underhandedly suck the Non back into a relationship.  I personally think this is the most dangerous re-engagement, because the Non mistakes it for a "Non re-engage" and is vulnerable to being sucked in before they realize what has happened.

4.  And there is the "Pre re-engage" where the BPD isn't looking for reconciliation - they may even be in a new relationship - but they are making arbitrary excuses to contact you just to stay on your radar screen, in the setup for a future Indirect or Direct re-engagement.


I truly believe the "Indirect re-engage" exists, and can be pre-meditated on the BPD's part.  6 months after I broke off our engagement, and after 3 months of NC on both sides, my exBPDfiance sent a box to my house with an item that originally belonged to me, that I had given to him.  Also enclosed were Christmas tree ornaments we had bought together, and a short letter telling me how he was doing.  But nowhere in this contact, did he state that he wanted to reconcile.  He said the purpose for his contact was to return something that didn't belong to him, and because he couldn't bring himself to throw away the ornaments.  I took it as a "Non re-engage" and didn't respond.

Many months later, when I did succumb to more Indirect re-engages and eventually got manipulated back into a relationship with him (I didn't know about BPD and he convinced me he had changed), I asked him about the box he sent to my house after all that time.  He said that he was hoping to tug on my heart strings, and that maybe I'd call him and he'd be able to talk me into getting back together with him.

After the last break-up, I sent back everything my ex left at my place - but he did not send me anything that I left at his place.  I am sure he has held onto it all, so he has an excuse to make contact with me again in the future.  He has not Directly or Indirectly re-engaged me since our last break-up, but he has emailed and texted many Pre re-engages, by asking for completely random stupid things from me, long after we have gone our separate ways.


I think it's important that people be aware of the differences, because discerning genuine contact from a real re-engagement can be tricky business.  There's no sense in freaking yourself out over a "Non re-engage" but leaving yourself naively open to an "Indirect re-engage" or not understanding the future implications of a "Pre re-engage" can really result in some bad consequences.  But I agree - once you're out of the FOG, then it becomes a "re-engagement Attempt."  The vacuum no longer works, and it's just arbitrary communication.  Noise with no suction.   Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2009, 07:38:43 PM »

The tone of my reply here read back as something other than what I wish to convey. I'm unable to rewrite it to my satisfaction so I do hope that readers understand that this is not posted to Skip and my intention is simply to point out that I think the way "re-engage" is currently used on bpdfamily.com forums is appropriate and necessary given the context of BPD relationships and the medium by which we are all attempting to express our situations and emotions.


"re-engage" has no recognized meaning in the mental health community.  But it is very popular on message boards.  It appears in 10% of the posts on this board in the last 20 days.

It would seem to me that, for now at least, we perhaps have latitude to define it more roughly than elsewhere. IMHO, the definition works for many of those that post here. When someone writes about a "re-engage" it is usually apparent to me if it was a reverse/self "re-engage" or in what sense they mean the term.

It has been defined on other websites as:

"re-engaged=After the vacuum cleaner, to be sucked back into the relationship for another ride on the rollercoaster. Non-BPs keep the  sucking by responding to the re-engagement. ~ BPDCentral"

"The re-engagement maneuver is named after the famous vacuum cleaner. In the language of our community, it describes behavior common among those who have borderline traits. It occurs most often when a Non threatens to leave, or actually leaves, a relationship. The intent of the re-engagement is to get the Non back into the relationship. This behaviour has its roots in the intense fear of being alone or being abandoned that is often at the very core of the disordered person’s sense of self. ~ BPD411"

1) The term most often used to describe something other than the definitions above. It appears that most of the previous 200 uses on this board are not about attempts by a pwBPD to rekindle a relationship.  Most often it is just an impulsive contact or attempted contact - a text message - an incompleted call - a phone message.

2) Most often the content conveyed in the "re-engages" is not about rekindling the relationship at all. What is most often described is a simple impulsive, validation fix.  The pwBPD is consumed with self doubt. Its the nature of the disorder.  The exnon or stbexnon is a love sick puppy. Where better to go for instant validation fix.  Sure, it is very inconsiderate to do this to a hurting non, but most pwBPD can't see past their own hurt to see the hurt in others.

Nons and disordered alike can engage in re-engaging as it appears to be used on bpdfamily.com forums. For those suffering from BPD, IMHO, it can be done in a dysfunctional and boundary violating way. When a non does it, it appears to me as being called a reverse/self re-engagement on bpdfamily.com. If the non continues to violate the BPD sufferer's boundaries then I would like to think we thread posters would call the non on that behavior as a forum community.

As we can not truly know what the BPD sufferer or non is thinking, I believe assuming repeat and sometimes bizarre contact from the sufferer is indeed a re-engagement. If we were to take an opposite approach and assume otherwise then I think the results could be troublesome for the non. What if a contact from a BPD sufferer to a non after that sufferer was told (message, in person, RO, whatever) to leave the non alone was assumed to not be a re-engage? Firstly, I think it could be somewhat invalidating of the feelings of the non. Secondly, if the non were to take away a sense from others that it was not a re-engagement and it turned out otherwise... .oh boy, what a mess for the non. IMHO, it is safer to assume unwanted and sometimes repeated contact to be a re-engagement. It is safer for the non and the BPD suffer as well.

Besides, who can tell from a message board if that contact from a BPD suffer doesn't have its "its roots in the intense fear of being alone or being abandoned"? I'm sure some of the posts by nons here describe actions that have the same roots. The difference is when the non will and is capable of self examination and change.

3) It is often implied or assumed in the use of the term "re-engage" that there is premeditated, thought out, or punishing attempt to manipulate the non.  This is really inconsistent with the nature of BPD which is characterized by impulsive actions and a lack of executive control (seeing the impact of immediate actions in terms of the bigger picture). Sure, some times it is premeditated or punishing - but that is far from universal.

I agree. However, error on the side of caution for the non is likely prudent.

4) Of course, there are times when we leave the relationship with the intent to be gone and one party rekindles or tries to rekindle the relationship.  Most of us have experienced this in a BPD relationship and we are as often the ones responsible as the pwBPD.  Is the term "re-engage", with all its negative connotations,  a useful term for all attempts to rekindle a relationship - those that have resulted in true reconciliation (we have them here), those that were well intentioned but ill fated, and those that were nothing more than escapes from other problems?

There have been quite a few reverse/self re-engages posted, IMHO. I think this is damaging and unnecessarily painful for the BPD sufferer too. When that behavior seems habitual and appears to be hampering the poster's healing, someone almost invariably posts in an attempt to assist the non in observing and considering their own behavior. Those are the threads in which I often avoid posting because of my sometimes blunt nature. My responses might not be the most beneficial to the poster so I abstain. Others come along and use appropriate finesse in encouraging the poster to examine the behavior.

I'm not responding in this message regarding situations of reconciliation as it is often my personal opinion that some of the posted situations glow of something dysfunctional from both sides of the relationship. That is about all I'm gonna post about my opinion on the subject.

I excerpted this from a blog.  I quote the incident, but I interpret that actions a bit different than the the original author.

Excerpt
As an aside, I had an experience with my cat this morning that could be seen as re-engaging.

This cat is not very loving. She was a stray and abused, so she is pretty shy about showing affection. I’ve had her for about 2 years. Anyway, last night she got locked out of the house all night. When I came downstairs at 7 AM this morning, she was sitting in the back window (on the outside) meowing. I opened the door for her and she ran inside and rubbed up against me, followed me around for about 20 minutes and made me pet her by pushing her head against my hand. This was all before she went to the food bowl, which is usually the first thing she does in the morning. Again, this is not an affectionate cat, normally. But she was upset and needed to have affection shown to her. After she calmed down... .she went upstairs, climbed in the linen closet and went to sleep. My point is that even a simple animal undergoes emotional dysregulation and needs assurances and needs to feel better.


Firstly, that is a cat and not a human.  Smiling (click to insert in post) Secondly, I agree with "{anyone may undergo} emotional dysregulation and needs assurances and needs to feel better". Thirdly, human beings have rights, responsibilities, and risks. When anyone tells another that they do not wish to be contacted and the other has no lawful right to contact then NC is the obligation. Morally it would be nice if we could comfort one another. However, that is the individual's choice to make, the non has likely been doing a lot of the comforting of the disordered individual thus they 'lose their way' when dealing with the disordered person and are particularly susceptible to reengaging in an unhealthy relationship, and sometimes responding to a re-engagement can land the non in legal trouble or even mortal danger.

Is what the author describes a re-engage? I wouldn't have anyway to tell (assuming the writing was about a human and not a cat) since I don't have the ability to divine that which motivates the subject of the blog entry. With the subject as a cat, I think the term re-engagement is a ridiculous stretch.

So back to the original question, is the term "re-engage" getting in the way of discussing what is really happening and should we look to other more conventional language to communicate about these events?

I think re-engagement, as we have been using it here at bpdfamily.com, is appropriate to the types of discussion we have been having and is conducive to healing. I caution that this usage of re-engagement would not be such if there was a trend of enabling a behavior that is harmful to the non or others by not attempting to elucidate how such reverse or self re-engaging can be unhealthy. That is a tough but necessary balance, IMO.

If more defined terminology to distinguish "re-engages" from other forms of contact are developed then I'm all for it. However, please remember that if we engage in an abundance of lingo here then perhaps some posters may get lost in a vast sea of definitions.
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