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Author Topic: BEHAVIORS: Fear of engulfment  (Read 10309 times)
SGraham
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« on: August 05, 2015, 12:57:34 PM »

I have heard the term engulfment used quite frequently and I feel like it basically means when the relationship becomes too much for a BPD person but im not sure.

If anyone can elaborate that would be helpful because it possibly relates to how my relationship breaking down.
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2015, 01:08:10 PM »

What is ENGULFMENT?
 
Fear of engulfment can be experienced by anyone.  Engulfment is not limited to people with mental disorders or BPD, although clearly some personalities are more prone than others.
 
What happens in engulfment?  We have a fear of losing ourselves in the relationship. Typically, when this happens,  the more we like a person, the bigger our fear of engulfment and commitment becomes. According to Margaret Paul, PhD, there are a number of reasons we might fear losing ourselves in a relationship:
 
  • We've been taught that we are responsible for another's feelings, especially someone we love. We believe that if our partner is unhappy, it's up to us to fix it, even if it means giving our self up.

  • We believe that taking loving care of ourselves, with no intent to harm another, is selfish -- that being a caring person means we are willing to put ourselves aside to do what another expects us to do, even if it's not what we want or need to do.

  • We have a deep fear of rejection, and we believe we have to give yourself up in order to avoid being rejected. We believe that no one will love us if we stay true to ourselves. We are trying to control how the other person feels about us by giving ourselves up to avoid rejection.

  • What all these fears come down to is a deep false belief that we have to give ourselves up to be loved and to be seen as a caring person. Giving ourselves up - giving up our freedom to be ourselves and do what brings you joy - is a terrifying prospect. As long as we have these false beliefs - and they might be unconscious - we will likely find ourselves running from love.

Fear of engulfment comes from trying to control how the other person feels about us by giving ourselves up (e.g., mirroring, idealization, etc.) instead of just fully being ourselves.
 
This condition clearly aligns with other aspects of Borderline Personailty Disorder and is common in BPD romantic relationships (as well as NPD, OCD, ADHD, BiPolar etc).
 
The simple definition is:
1. The extreme distress and anxiety related to feelings of being taken over by an external force.
 
2. The fear of a close interpersonal relationship.
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fromheeltoheal
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2015, 01:19:36 PM »

A pwBPD does not have a fully formed self of their own, and the one that's there is unstable, so if a pwBPD gets too close to someone emotionally, feelings of losing themselves, their self, entirely, show up and they fear being engulfed in the other person, so they don't exist at all, and become part of that other person.  

That fear will cause a pwBPD to push the other person away when they feel like they're getting too close.  

Sad that, since getting close to one another emotionally is what we all want, including pwBPD, a pwBPD just can't handle the emotions that come up when they do, along with they don't know where they come from.
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2015, 05:45:50 PM »

I have to admit that engulfment is a part of BPD behavior that I have a hard time wrapping my head around.  I've read the definition over and over again and still just can't quite make it seem real as an actual experience.  

At a gut level, I can't feel it somehow.  The fear of abandonment makes sense, as a definition and as a fear I've felt and can empathize with, in a way that engulfment just doesn't.

That said, it's become clear to me that some of the worst episodes with my BPDexgf seem to have been triggered by her feeling too close... .after I met and got along with her mother, after she instigated a discussion about marriage, after I told her I felt close to her and that I could confide in her.

I kind of wonder if other people on here have stories that illustrate the idea of engulfment, maybe make it a little easier for the rest of us to understand?
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repititionqueen

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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2015, 06:12:39 PM »

This can happen between a parent and child, or within a romantic endeavor. Fear of engulfment may look like, or be acted-out as fear of commitment. The feelings involved with this issue are; "I'm afraid that if I get too close to you, I'll have to give up too much of me," or "I can't be myself, when I'm around you." Engulfment means loss of Self--or the surrender of one's own needs and desires.

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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2015, 06:40:11 PM »

Engulfment is a very alien concept to a Non because we never have to face the loss of self, under any circumstances. For a pwBPD, that is a real perceived threat.

When the fear of engulfment is triggered, that's one event where the hurtful tools are employed---raging, silent treatment, marginalization of the Non, etc.

These tools (which push) create distance between the two parties. When the engulfment lessens, the gap is usually closed. If it's a normal BPD push/pull cycle, fear of abandonment is usually triggered due to the gulf between the parties. Different tools are used, the "feel-good" tools are employed----compliments, unwavering attention, porn sex (not to be confused with emotional and/or sexual intimacy), etc. These tools pull the parties back together.

I watched a toddler do this at the park the other day: run away from mom to explore, get too far away from mom, then run back to mom. Too close to mom, run away to explore. The circular cycle repeated over and over.

Sound familiar?
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SGraham
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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2015, 01:07:44 AM »

It just hurts to think i did anything to make things harder for her and subsequently end our relationship.
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HappyNihilist
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« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2015, 07:01:48 PM »

It just hurts to think i did anything to make things harder for her and subsequently end our relationship.

I know it hurts to think that. But go easy on yourself. You couldn't have known.
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« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2015, 09:05:05 PM »

I watched a toddler do this at the park the other day: run away from mom to explore, get too far away from mom, then run back to mom. Too close to mom, run away to explore. The circular cycle repeated over and over. (Sound familiar?)

I'm not sure I see how this relates to engulfment - are you saying the child feels engulfed at some point in this cycle?
 
I think we (all of us) need to be careful to not take what we are learning and cast it all in terms of pathology.  Many of us have felt engulfed at one time or another in a relationship.  Everyone of us have mirrored our partners, bosses, and friends. Many of us have rejection sensitivities (fears of abandonment). These are very normal human dynamics.  These are not pathologies or alien behaviors.
 
How many of us have lived out a scenario where we idealized a partner (overvalued them), really didn't want to loose them (feared rejection), changed ourselves to accommodate what they seemed to want/need (mirror), and then felt that we gave too much and lost ourselves (engulfed)?  We have thousands of members here telling this story.
 
The issue with BPD is the extremes of some of these conditions, the consistently for a lifetime, and the inability to get to a workable baseline.
 
For example, here are the stages of falling in love:
 
The Romance Stage
The Power Struggle Stage
The Stability Stage
The Commitment Stage
The