Extreme BPD / NPD Behaviors Are Internally TriggeredWritten by: Rob Print This Article
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Recently a reader of our site wrote a comment about our article Talking With A Borderline citing how it didn’t show how non-Borderlines trigger the negative behaviors associated with Borderline Personality Disorder. The comment seemed to be intended to place some of the blame for Borderline behaviors on the people around them, particularly people who are essentially the targets of Borderlines who do not suffer from a personality disorder or engage in abusive behaviors themselves. This is mostly a mistake in my view. It also makes me wonder if the comment came from somebody with a Borderline son or daughter or who is personally suffering from BPD and therefore may be prone to blame-shifting as a means of coping with his or her own guilt or shame.
Most of the people around a Borderline are not abusive, yet they may trigger reactions in Borderline akin to an actual abuser even when they aren’t displaying an iota of aggression or hostility. In most of these situations, the Borderline perceives aggression or abuse in their own minds, even when a neutral disinterested person would say none is present, and then launches into a reaction that is similar to what they might do if there actually was an abuser trying to harm them. The trigger is much more internal, in the mind of the Borderline, than external. This is what makes is so difficult for others to understand why the sociopathically inclined individuals, be they Borderlines, Narcissists, or something else, behave as they do.
Extreme Reactions Product of Child Abuse
Borderlines are sometimes said to suffer from “emotional dysregulation” because they react in extreme ways to normal stimuli. This extreme reaction in many cases developed from their experience as child abuse victims, an experience most of them share, and trying to find ways to avoid being abused again. Many of them have found that extreme reactions including false blaming, projection, lying, and other behaviors associated with Borderlines and Narcissists alike are reasonably effective at either drawing fire away from them and making somebody else the target of their abuser. Other times, their extreme behaviors may somehow justify in their own minds why they are deserving of abuse, perhaps giving them some delusional feeling of control over the abuse. Over time, many of them may generalize these maladaptive behaviors by applying them to people who are not abusing them but by whom they are reminded of what it feels like to be abused.
For instance, a partner who discovers a Borderline’s stash of drugs or alcohol and expresses displeasure at the discovery may cause the Borderline to feel intense disapproval and the threat of a rage or physical abuse. That’s because when they were child abuse victims, they probably had similar feelings before an abuser attacked them. The triggers for the abuse may have been coming home late, getting a C on a report card, forgetting to buy groceries, or some other even more minor “just cause” cited by the abuser as being a valid reason for ensuing physical, verbal, or emotional abuse.
Borderlines generally learn a few things from such repeated experiences. One is that relatively inconsequential observations, words, or actions may be the direct precursors to abuse. They become hypervigilant and may “detect” impending abuse even when there is none forthcoming.They also learned to detect feelings in others and in themselves that they have associated with impending abuse, feelings like disapproval, uncertainty, guilt, shame, and apprehension.
Even a simple polite request can be viewed by them as a warning sign or precursor to abuse. This is particularly so if their abuser turned on them after making requests or demands. Such people are likely conditioned to react to request and suggestions including phrases or words like “give me that” or “you should do (or say) …” as if they may be quickly followed by abuse.
But perhaps most disturbing, they learned that abuse is appropriate and expected in such situations. As they desperately want to avoid being abused again, they may quickly resort to blame shifting or even instigating abuse against another person in such a situation as a sort of pre-emptive attack to ensure they will not be abused again. They may attack the person they perceive as the abuser, or they may attack another person in proximity, perhaps in hopes that the perceived abuser will turn on that other person.
BPD / NPD Abusive Behavior Often Has No Apparent External Trigger
The behaviors of a Borderline or Narcissist can be extremely aggravating and puzzling to people who do not understand the maladaptive behaviors. A simple and polite request such as “can you pass the butter?” might trigger a rage about how you are so demanding, unfair, unreasonable, and never do anything for the emotional abuser. Or it may trigger blame-shifting, attempting to get some other person at the table in trouble for not having passed the butter. “The butter is right next to Sarah, she moved it away from you and didn’t put it back like she should have done!”
Even a simple and genuine compliment like “wow, that was a tasty dish!” might also trigger such behaviors rather than a normal response such as “thank you” or “glad you enjoyed it”. It is possible these people are so conditioned by emotional abuse via manipulation that they perceive this is what is happening even when it is not. They may perceive that a compliment is tightly couple to emotional abuse and therefore assume that the only reason you might compliment them is because you’re about to make some emotionally abusive demand of them. Often, this is a projection on their part as they believe that others would do this because this is how they themselves function.
If you as a non-Borderline get such a disproportionate and nonsensical response, you’re likely to be taken aback by it and instantly put on the defensive. You may apologize that you were misunderstood, try to disengage, or respond back with retaliatory aggression of your own. But no matter what you do or say, it may have very little impact on what happens next. That’s because Borderlines are often entirely unable to hear or process your words once they have entered an emotionally triggered state. They may spew hate and aggression continuously once enraged like this. If you don’t cower and act injured, they may feel they are expected to spew more hate and aggression until they are sure you will not abuse them back, you run away in fright, or they manage to trigger a physical altercation in response.
No matter what you do or say, you are likely to be blamed for their words and actions. “You made me… (scream, hit, kick, etc.)” is a common sentiment from Borderlines. Many of them seem to be unable to stop the hate and aggression unless their target leaves and thereby becomes inaccessible or physically responds against them. If they don’t get the response they seek, they may initiate physical violence against their target. It is like they have a compulsion to repeat the cycle of abuse and become a victim of abuse again, even though at the same time at some level they are trying to desperately avoid it by being abusers themselves.
While Borderlines are not the only ones who behave in such a fashion, it is reasonable to hazard a guess that a person who responds in this way to non-abusive behavior has suffered from abuse to the point of it severely impacting personality. Such people are likely to exhibit behavioral traits of the DSM-IV Axis II Cluster B personality disorders including BPD, NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), HPD (Histrionic Personality Disorder), and ASPD (Antisocial Personality Disorder) and related conditions such as PPD (Paranoid Personality Disorder).
If you realize that a person emotionally close to you often responds similarly to the above discussion, it is very likely that you’re dealing with a person suffering from a personality disorder. Such responses and behaviors appear abnormal and unreasonable to you because you had no intent to abuse and little or no experience being abused yourself prior to the abusive relationship in which you now find yourself.
Avoid Contact For Your Own Sanity
For your own safety and sanity, one of the best things you can do is to stay away from people who respond like this, avoiding all contact with them, if you possibly can. At a minimum, dealing with such people is emotionally draining and exhausting. More importantly, however, you are at extreme risk of being put into a position in which you will be abused, suffering potentially severe psychological damage of your own including depression, anxiety, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), sleep disorders, and even suicidal ideation.
You may also be pushed so far that you break and engage in retaliatory abuse against the PDA (personality disordered abuser), thereby turning yourself into an even more compulsively tempting target.
It is very hard to disengage from these people once they get going. You may find they follow you around, screaming and yelling at you, refusing to let you leave and escape their wrath, even going so far as to block your path, hold you back, or otherwise trap you so they continue to abuse you. At some point, you’re likely to reach a boiling or breaking point yourself. People can only take so much of this kind of abuse that will not stop before they resort to increasingly extreme measures to try to make it stop, be it by yelling back or even escalating to their own physical violence. While there’s no doubt that even this kind of retaliatory violence is also wrong, what may be surprising to people who have not experienced a Borderline or Narcissist raging is that almost anybody short of a saint or a person in a coma can be so severely affected by such attacks that they may engage in very atypical behavior in response.
You can be assured if you reach the point where you retaliate, the Borderline will engage in extensive blame shifting against you. This is especially dangerous for men around Borderline women as so few people can understand the level of aggression and abuse these people can dish out and therefore they are likely to swallow the blame-shifting distortions hook, line, and sinker. You may find that your retaliatory reaction to being abused, no matter how minor, is painted into some story in which you were the primary aggressor, you initiated violence, and you are entirely to blame.
The best policy, whenever possible, is to totally avoid Borderlines, Narcissists, and people like them. If you must move, change your phone numbers, and quit your job to do it, all of those sacrifices may still be far preferable to the risks of remaining in danger from their abuse and manipulations. The main exception to this rule is for parents who would be abandoning children to be raised by a personality disordered abuser, a topic I’ll discuss further in my article Escaping Sociopathic Abuse Almost Impossible When Children Are Involved.
|BPD, Child Abuse, Child Custody, Children, Courts, CPS, Crime, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Family, Government Abuse, NPD, Parental Alienation, Partner Violence, Psychology|