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Author Topic: Their greater fear: Abandonment or Engulfment  (Read 255 times)
ColdKnight
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« on: September 08, 2019, 06:42:10 PM »

HI all,

In your experience with your pwBPD which fear do you feel was the greater of the two for them. What makes you feel this way?
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« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2019, 08:08:09 PM »

Good topic, Coldknight!

My experience:

In the beginning of the relationship, till about one and half year into relationship, I.e. during the honeymoon/idealization,  it was more about a fear of abandonment. He even admitted it once, after another crazy fight  where he again wanted to leave me. He said that it were so much easier him leaving before  I will do it. And that actually he is afraid all the time that I would leave.
For the records, I really had not done everything that  could have made him so insecure, so was very puzzled , until realized and learned about BPD.

Well, after the ‘trial period’ of that approx 1,5 year , and  when he started to trust more- of course very paradoxically- , then the engulfment really kicked in.
Every specially lovely time together, was followed - sooner or later - with a horrible rage episode and/or a break.

I think he hates himself so much that he often despises anyone who even tries to love him.





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Vincenta
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« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2019, 08:41:54 PM »

Addition to my previous message- when it comes to the engulfment: how very sad  and bizarre it was that all my kindness was indeed seen as weakness(es). I still struggle especially with this one.

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ColdKnight
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« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2019, 12:25:22 AM »

Hi Vincenta,

Are you still involved with him?
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« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2019, 01:50:46 AM »

If I had to say one, it'd be engulfment. She'd say when we were breaking up (frequently) that she felt claustrophobic and trapped, of course her frequently (3 times in a year) breaking up with me and numerous threats that we should break up had steadily eroded my self confidence, self esteem and pushed my anxiety about losing her to it's limits. So in hindsight, of course I would try to get closer to her.

She could also be very paradoxical in nature (hence my continuing confusion and struggle to fully detach) in that she would also say that my confidence was the issue, amazingly even though she was the architect of that loss of confidence. She (unwittingly perhaps) kept me in a perpetual state of confusion and anxiety by saying that I 'had nothing to worry about' and how much she loved me and how important I was to her, and then less than 24 hours later dumping me and then singing and smiling along to songs on the radio 20 minutes later.
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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2019, 10:47:15 AM »

Hey CK, I vote for Fear of Abandonment.  Sometimes I think Fear of Engulfment is actually just an outgrowth of Fear of Abandonment; in other words, intimacy makes a pwBPD anxious about a possible b/u, which causes the pwBPD to break up with you first in a pre-emptive strike.  Yet it all stems from Fear of Abandonment.

LuckyJim
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gizmo7247
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« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2019, 11:40:23 PM »

Fear of Engulfment definitely. It's interesting, when my former therapist (who'd had the chance to meet her with me numerous times) explained BPD to me, he started with the lack of identity. I've never believed Engulfment is a "push" because they're afraid of being abandoned - I think it comes down to the lack of identity.

When I had the whole lawyer incident, and had to go back through years of text messages to find evidence to discount her allegations - I stumbled upon a text conversation we had in the first year that was as telling as it was (in hindsight) perplexing.

In it, she talked about how she didn't know what was wrong with her. She couldn't focus on work, she couldn't focus on family, her friends, her workouts - all she could think about was me. But she went on to say her bulimia had gotten worse, and she felt out of control - and she talked about how her bulimia always raged the worst when she felt she was being controlled. She overtly talked about how it didn't make sense - she consciously knew she wasn't being controlled, that she wanted to be with me. But said subconsciously, she must feel controlled and that's why the bulimia was spiraling.

She pretty much, in textbook fashion, spells out engulfment in that text thread. I think because she didn't have a true firm identity, she struggled with the boundary of where she ended and where I began - and the losing herself within our relationship is why she always pushed away. The fear of abandonment was more subtle, perhaps because I never really put my foot down and walked away (aside from a couple really over the top times.)

There was obviously a big internal struggle going on within her - she always talked about needing to find herself, about not knowing who she is, about not knowing if she was doing things because she wanted to or because others thought she wanted to. Engulfment, and lack of identity, were definitely the more prominent aspects in my relationship with my ex.
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« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2019, 01:18:16 AM »

Excerpt
the losing herself within our relationship

i think regarding the fear of engulfment, this is spot on.

i think often times, regarding the fear of engulfment, we conclude that there was such closeness in our relationship that our ex partners had to push us away.

i think thats probably a comforting sentiment that doesnt entirely hold up. think about it: in most of our cases, there was an intense connection off the bat. if closeness was the problem, they would have checked out quickly. furthermore, most of our relationships were characterized by a lack of trust. you generally cant have "too much" closeness simultaneously with a lack of trust.

people with bpd traits will tend to subjugate themselves toward the beginning of a relationship. we all put out best foot forward, our most attractive version of ourselves in the beginning of a relationship, but people with bpd traits do this to an extreme with a desperate fear of rejection and need for acceptance. unfortunately, when you subjugate yourself in a relationship, you tend to ultimately end up resenting the other person you subjugate yourself for. its a sort of "you made me do this" kind of thing. rather than a healthy transition between independence and interdependence, realizing who one is within the relationship and without it, it can become a power struggle. we often play directly into this, trying to encourage the person that was the best version of the lover we wanted, and discourage the version of the person we didnt want. and on some level, on a good day, it may work. and under the surface, on a bad day, the resentment of the person on the receiving end of that will only build.

the fear of engulfment is the fear of losing yourself in a relationship. the sneaking fear that your partner loves you as someone you are not, and the exhaustion of, and resulting resentment of, trying to be that person.

i think for my ex they were competing fears. i think that the fear of abandonment was a dominant fear in my exs life overall. i also think that she hates herself, and would become someone she wasnt in relationships, and as a result she would feel greater hatred toward herself, feelings that she wasnt loveable for who she was, and resentment toward her partner for not only not loving her for who she was, but "loving" her for who she wasnt.
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ColdKnight
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« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2019, 03:01:09 AM »

Once Removed and Gizmo,

I agree with you both wholeheartedly in my situation.

When we first met she tried very hard to impress me. She was new in the company and I had been around a while. She tried to come across as a super hard worker. I thought this was the case at first but looking back I see that she is not. She is lazy, calls in sick often and manipulates others around her to get what she wants.

She told me after the first hiccup we had “when I’m not in control I feel like I’m drowning”. She also expressed some jealousy and expressed that she hated that I made her feel jealous.

Towards the end of this last recycle she said “I don’t know why I cant stop thinking about you” She had a very resentful look on her face when she said it.

I think she eventually resented that she felt she had to live up to this model employee that she had built herself up to be. She resented that I was able to make her jealous and she resented that I was able to make her lose control of herself by making her think about me all the time.

All of this because she has no real self, there is nothing of substance inside of her. She is a surface skimmer with no depth at all.
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gizmo7247
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« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2019, 12:52:51 PM »


the fear of engulfment is the fear of losing yourself in a relationship. the sneaking fear that your partner loves you as someone you are not, and the exhaustion of, and resulting resentment of, trying to be that person.


Very good insight, and honestly a perspective I'd never thought of. I'd always considered it merely at the lack of identity perspective, and losing themselves in the relationship - as in not having a strong enough identity to anchor them. I'd never thought of the resentment aspect of trying to be a person they're not.

Resentment was VERY real with my ex, even when not manifested outwardly. In therapy together, she admitted how she woke up every morning resenting me. It was shocking to hear, because this was during a time when we had grown closer, when she would constantly seek me out, constantly want to be near me.

Further to your point - even when I first met her she'd write me poems talking about how people passing her by must think she has it so easy, but they didn't know she was living a lie.

Engulfment was the hardest aspect (after lack of identity) for me to understand. The push/pull cycle never made sense to me - the pull is obviously fear of abandonment. But the push being merely a triggered premature action stemming from fear of abandonment never made sense to me.

I think the push/pull was really her swaying back and forth between not wanting to lose me - and not knowing who she was without me. Without a core identity, she had no anchor to root herself in.
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« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2019, 03:53:53 PM »

In my short lived experience it was abandonment. The relationship started out on fire, and the mirroring of me was incredible. I thought I had met my soul mate. When I broke it  off the first time due to it all being a bit too much, that's when all the craziness set in. It's like her personality just split after that moment.

r
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ColdKnight
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2019, 02:32:21 AM »

Back to to the concept of them resenting you for them liking you so much.

When we had our first “fight” if you will. She told me how she felt pathetic having to beg me for my attention. I never once felt like she was begging for my attention. I often felt I needed to pull back as not to smother her. I could have texted her 24 hours a day if I didn’t have self control.

I went back and counted who initiated the texts the most in the time before she said this and it was right at about 50/50. In her mind however she was “begging” for attention because I was not the one giving the most of it. So she was probably starting to resent that she felt like she was chasing me.

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