Make Good Choices

Choices are the opportunities we have to change things for the better - or worse.

What are Choices?

Our futures are essentially determined by two factors:

  1. circumstances which are out of our control and
  2. choices which are under our control.

By circumstances, we are referring to everything that is true today and everything in the future which is outside of out control, including, world affairs, acts of God, the laws of physics, who our family is, everything that happened the past and - importantly - other peoples choices and actions.

By choices we mean just the opposite - everything that is up to us to decide.

Although it may be an obvious statement to make, it is incumbent on all of us to devote our best energy to making good choices, and spend less energy worrying about our circumstances.

Big Choices and Small Choices

Life is made up of all kinds of circumstances and choices, and our choices can be big - such as changing jobs, getting married, buying a house or a car - or small - such as deciding what to eat for dinner, whether to take an aisle or a window seat and choosing what socks to wear.

With the notable exception of some people who suffer from personality disorders - especially Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), most of us spend a lot more energy thinking about our big choices than we do about our small choices.

However, there are two important exceptions that are worth bearing in mind:

Repetitive small choices - Repetitive small choices can have a big cumulative effect. For example choosing to eat healthy and exercise every day can have a large effect over long term health and life span. SO repetitive little choices can actually add up to a bigger effect than so-called big choices.

Chain reactions - Chain reactions are events that stimulate more events and so on. An example of a chain reaction is a nuclear explosion, which starts at the atomic level, with each little atomic explosion igniting further atomic explosions to produce a very big effect. In his best-selling book, "The Tipping Point", Malcolm Gladwell explores how small events or trends can suddenly become large movements. Also, in the classic short story "The Butterfly Effect" Ray Bradbury explored the effect of a man who travels back in time and accidentally steps on a butterfly, which produces a chain reaction that centuries later has profound effects on the world he came from.

How Do We Make Choices?

Being in a relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder can be extremely tough. Some are repeatedly exposed to abuse, disappointment, frustration, crisis and uncertainty. Most of us have never been trained or coached in how to respond or manage the situation. Some of us with parents or siblings who suffer from a personality disorder, were thrust into it as babies. Others entered into it unwittingly through a romantic relationship. Still others may have difficult choices thrust upon them through our relationships with employers, co-workers, local authorities, service providers etc. So many of us find ourselves in the hardest struggle of our lives with the least resources to deal with it.

So how do we decide what to do?

  • Many of us rely on our instincts, what feels right in our gut. We may draw from our personal beliefs, convictions, creeds or principles to help us make decisions.
  • Sometimes we rely on what works or has worked in other relationships with people who do not suffer from a personality disorder and hope that what worked in those situations will work here.
  • Sometimes we lean on our sense of justice - trusting that if we do the "right thing" or do what a decent person "should" do then the personality disordered person will be forced by a sense of accountability, responsibility or guilt to reciprocate and do what they "should" do.
  • Sometimes we try "response experiments" - attempting different approaches each time to try to probe and examine our loved-one to see how they will react to a given response, hoping that we can arrive at a formula for what "works".
  • Sometimes, we may copy what we have been taught, advised or learned from others, from books, magazines, from tv and movies, from watching friends, other family and neighbors. We may see what works for others and try it out in our own situation.
  • Sometimes we take the path of least resistance - giving the personality-disordered person in our lives exactly what they want in the hope that we can avoid conflict, "let sleeping dogs lie" or not "rock the boat".
  • Sometimes we are led by our own emotions, and serve our own immediate needs or desires, regardless of the consequences.
  • Sometimes our "fight or flight" instincts kick in and we fire back in a quick, spontaneous, angry or adrenaline charged manner without much thought about what we are doing and the consequences of our actions.
  • Sometimes we get tired and decide to ignore what we see happening and pretend that things are different. Sometimes we choose denial as a means of escape.

All of these are typical human responses when confronted with a crisis or a challenging situation. However, occasionally our instinctive reactions can have unintended consequences. Although we do not suffer from a personality disorder ourselves, that doesn't guarantee that we will always make the best choices or say and do what is best for us, for our children and ultimately for the personality-disordered person with whom we have a relationship.

And that is what this section is all about - how to make better choices. So here are our top 10 "Do's and Don't's" on making better choices when you are in a relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder:

What NOT To Do

1. Don't ignore warning signs

If someone attempts or threatens harm to yourself, your children, to themselves or to others take immediate action to remove yourself from the situation, call the police and put the experts in charge. Don't ignore warning signs. See our Emergency Page for More Info.

2. Don't ignore the mental illness

One over-riding principle that we must bear in mind when it comes to supporting or coping with a loved-one or family member who suffers from a personality disorder is that the "normal rules" of relationships or logic, may not apply. Personality Disorders are mental illnesses, and those who suffer from them are prone to being inconsistent, not logical, unpredictable, self destructive etc. (See our page onCommon Behaviors of Personality Disorders.)

Therefore what "works" in a typical relationship may not necessarily "work" when dealing with a person who suffers from a personality disorder. We need to study a different play book, politely ignore the well-meaning advice of people who have no experience with disorders and stop comparing our situation to those of people who are unaffected by a mental illness the way we are.

3. Don't keep searching for a cure

Many people arrive at our site looking for answers to explain the way someone is treating them and to tell them how to make things better. However, at this time there is no known cure for personality disorders. There are a number of treatment medications and regimes as described on our Treatment Page which can significantly improve some people's situations, especially in the case when the person who suffers from the disorder is a willing participant, and we encourage you to explore them with the help of a qualified mental health professional. But we also encourage you to let go of any false hope that you will find a magic pill or strategy that will immediately make all of the problems go away. This kind of approach will usually lead to disappointment.

Having said that - it is our sincere hope that scientists seeking to understand personality disorders will ultimately discover the root causes and develop techniques that will perhaps one day produce a cure, or a dramatic improvement in symptoms of personality disorders. To those scientists - we salute you and ask you to kindly ignore this particular piece of advice and keep looking!

4. Set and Maintain Personal Boundaries

Many of us Non-PD's have taken a beating for years and over time we can forget what it means or feels like to be in a healthy relationship. We may interpret popular ideas such as "unconditional love", "loyalty", "taking the high ground", "turning the other check" or "till death do us part" to mean that we should give everything we have to give in relationships and expect nothing in return. That is not the foundation of a healthy relationship but of a dysfunctional relationship. That is not love - it is the grown-up equivalent of spoiling a child and will ultimately lead to tragedy. The antidote to allowing people to walk all over you is to set and maintain personal boundaries. You can learn all about Boundaries on ourBoundaries Page.

5. Don't go it alone

Isolation is one of the most popular control strategies in the abusive person's playbook because it is one of the most effective. It is a variant of the classic "divide and conquer" approach. When one person mistreats another person, they will very often try to isolate that person by controlling their access to resources, other people, friends, family, social groups etc.

If you are in a situation where you are being isolated, or someone else is controlling when you can go out and who you can spend time with you must recognize that isolation is a form of emotional abuse which it is not healthy for you to tolerate. Everybody needs support from wherever they can get it including friends, family, outside groups and interests and it is not unreasonable for you to want that - especially if the person with whom you are closest has a personality disorder.

6. Don't get your hopes up at the first signs of improvement.

It is extremely common for people who suffer from personality disorders to go through drastic mood swings and changes in behavior. It is just as common for the people on the receiving end - Non-PD's to get their hopes up during the up's and take it as a good sign that things are getting better. The Personality disordered person may truly believe that they have changed - but they can't really tell until some time has gone by. This can lead Non's very vulnerable to Hoovering and disappointment.

In general it is not a good idea to look at a few days or even a few weeks behavior as evidence of any recovery. Average someone's behavior over a year or two and you will get a much more accurate picture. See out page on Hoovering.

7. Don't work for approval

If you are living with someone who suffers from a personality disorder, their actions, words and moods will go up and down with their feelings. If you are looking to them for approval for your own actions, you will receive very mixed messages from them about what they want,what they think of you , what they like and dislike and what kind of person they think you are. Sometimes they will give you a glowing report and sometimes they will shoot you down.

This can be extremely difficult to live with and it means you are going to have to take your self-evaluation elsewhere - perhaps to a trusted friend, family member or therapist, perhaps in your own mind. You need feedback that is objective and stable and based on truth and you are not likely to get that from a person with a personality disorder, who may not always know what is good fro themselves, let alone you. Therefore don't judge your performance by the approval rating of the personality disordered individual in your life. Do what is right - not what is popular with them. 

8. Don't have a baby!

If you suspect you are in a relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder, you should think long and hard before bringing a child into the mix. A volatile temper and an inconsistent or malignant kind of love is no place to grow healthy children. A large majority of relationships involving at least one person with a personality disorder end in separation or divorce.

9. Don't keep a gun in the house!

Or anything else that is likely to make a volatile situation worse.

10. Don't leave your valuables in temptation's way

You might want to consider separate bank accounts, secure passwords and keeping irreplaceable items out of the house.

What TO Do

1. Put children first

Whether you're committed to staying or getting a divorce. Whether you are dealing with a parent, grandparent or sibling. No matter what your situation it is always good policy to put the needs of minor children first. They don't have the tools - or the legal right - to get out of a bad situation by themselves so they are dependent on the mentally healthy adults in their lives to do it for them.

If you are divorced or getting a divorce and involved in a custody dispute, this is especially true. See our page on Separating & Divorcing for more info.

2. Protect yourself

If you find yourself in any kind of situation which involves violence or threats of violence towards people and property (including self-harm) you should immediately call the police and get the professionals to do their job. See our Emergency Page.

3. Educate yourself!

You've made a good start by coming here. Learn all you can by reading aboutPersonality Disorders, Common Behaviors and learn the lingo at ourGlossary. Read real stories at ourSupport Board and explore our Resources of Books and Links.

4. Accept your situation

This takes time but the sooner you can accept the reality of the mental illness in a loved one and move from thinking about the way things should be to thinking about the way things really are the sooner you can start making better choices for yourself, your kids and ultimately for the personality disordered person in your life.

5. Get Help!

Surround yourself with as much stable and reliable support as you can muster. Join A Support Group and Visit ourSupport Forum.

6. Work on Yourself - Pursue your dreams!

When you spend so much tie and energy worrying about a loved one it can be very easy to neglect your own needs. This can lead to depression. We encourage you to consider your own needs just as highly as any loved-one or family member who has a personality disorder. Visit our Working on Ourselves Page for some ideas.

7. Take the Long Term View

Living or dealing with a person who suffers from a personality disorder can be a volatile struggle full of ups an downs. We encourage you to take the long view in your decisions, so that you are not thrown off course by the passing storms.

Talking to Kids about Personality Disorders

How to talk to your children about the personality-disordered behaviors of other adults in the family.

Why talk to children about Personality Disorders?

Dealing with a personality disordered individual is difficult enough for an adult. For a child, who has little control over the situation, and lacks the emotional maturity to understand the behavior of an adult with a personality disorder, this can be a confusing, hurtful, and emotionally damaging experience.

Children are completely dependent on the adults in their lives to ensure their personal safety and well-being.  Whenever children are exposed to someone with a personality disorder, be it a parent, grandparent, sibling, teacher, coach etc., they are extremely vulnerable.

When a child experiences sustained exposure to dysfunctional behavior or abuse, this can result in Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder , a psychological injury that develops from prolonged exposure to social or interpersonal trauma and dis empowerment from which there is no escape. 

Therefore we, as non-PD adults have both a moral and ethical obligation to always put children first. Putting children first involves safeguarding them from both emotional and physical abuse, both of which can be equally devastating.

Dysfunctional Family Roles

Author Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse defined certain roles that are common in dysfunctional families including:

  1. The Golden Child – This is the child in the family who can do no wrong and is pressured (overtly or covertly) to be successful to maintain or add to the positive image of the family.
  2. The Scapegoat – This child is the “black sheep” of the family and is regularly targeted or blamed for the faults in the family. No matter what they do they are never good enough.
  3. The Lost Child – This child is ignored and left to fend for him/herself so that s/he and does not take up any of the family’s energy or resources.
  4. The Mascot- The role of this child is to be funny or cute and distract the family from its pain.  

In dysfunctional families children are not allowed to be their authentic selves because it takes time and emotional energy away from the problems and issues the family is trying to deal with (e.g., a PD person).

However, by creating an atmosphere of openness, respect and safety children will feel more inclined to be who they are and less inclined to adopt any of the above roles to compensate for the family’s dysfunction.

What it feels like

In terms of emotional well-being, children are vulnerable to PD behavior and when left to figure things out for themselves, they can come to believe that the behavior is something they caused, perhaps even deserve, because they are somehow not good enough or different than other children or their siblings.

Further, because children are so dependent on adults, they often feel they have no choice but to accept the PD behavior. Thus, if we never talk to children about what is going on, we are potentially leaving them unprotected and vulnerable to abuse.

It is critical, then, to children’s emotional development and well-being, that non-PD adults do step in and educate, support and protect them.

Learning to Cope

First and foremost, children need to understand that what they are experiencing with the PD person is something they can talk about with you.  Listen to what they have to say and let them know that you believe them.  

Be careful not to call the PD person names such as “bad", "crazy", or "nuts”. If it seems appropriate and they are old enough to understand, then you can tell them that that the PD adult has trouble controlling their emotions. Explain that it is “not OK” and that it is not due to anything the child has done or not done even if the child feels that they have behaved badly or have been told they are doing something wrong.  This can greatly reduce feelings of confusion, guilt and self-blame in children, release them from responsibility, and reduce the chance that they will feel alienated from the PD person. 

This is especially important with a PD parent (see Parental Alienation Syndrome). Although it may feel like it is difficult if not impossible to educate children without alienating them, it can be done with the use of some of the suggestions outlined below in the "What to Do” section.

While children need to understand that the PD person is not “bad,” it is also important for them to know that an adult who has trouble controlling their emotions or reactions  explains but does not excuse PD behaviors and they do not have to accept whatever comes their way.  

Adopting an attitude of openness rather than not talking about “the elephant in the room,” invites children to express their feelings about confusing or hurtful behavior and to have those feelings validated. Moreover, it fosters the development of healthy boundaries, and decreases the chance that children will end up adopting unhealthy roles in the family.

In terms of protecting children from physical harm, it goes without saying that non-PD adults must always put children first. If, as a non-PD, you believe someone in your children’s life may be dangerous, you need to explain this to them. It may be difficult when the person is the children’s parent, but safety must come first. It also ensures that children know that they will be protected and cared for by the non-PD adult(s) in their lives. 

Being Age-Appropriate

What is appropriate to say to children depends on their age. Here are some guidelines:

Age 0-5

It is not appropriate to talk about personality disorders to a child of this age. Infants and Toddlers need to be told they are loved by all adults close to them and physically removed from any dangerous situations. Avoid expressing any kind of conflict in the presence of a young child. Don't talk about it or argue with anyone while the child is in the house - even in a separate room. Keep your focus on the child and their needs. Model for them an environment which is safe and predictable and a love which is fun, optimistic, and dependable. Take an interest in what they are interested in. Keep the drama as far away from infants and toddlers as you can.

Age 5-10

Children in these ages often have an acute sense of fairness and what is right and wrong. They often relate to all adults as figures of authority. Therefore it may be appropriate to discuss any dysfunctional behavior they witness in terms of "mommy made a mistake", "daddy should not have said that" or simply stating "I know at Dad/Mom/Grandma's house the rules are different but at our house the rules are..." Discussion about whether a parent or close relative suffers from a serious mental condition such as a personality disorder may be confusing, frightening and counter productive at this age. Keep the discussion on the level that the child is at. Address behaviors rather than personality. Reassure the child that they are loved and that their needs are important. Above all, keep your own word with the child to demonstrate to them that what real love and commitment is about.

Age 10-15

During this time, children begin to form their own opinions about the people around them. Their primary focus will begin to shift away from home towards their peers and they will begin to express independent opinions about the choices made by the adults at home. This will give you glimpses of what they are thinking. This independence will often lead to increased levels of conflict between the child and any personality-disordered individuals at home. During this time it is important to validate the child's concerns and feelings and show that you are taking them seriously, while working to maintain a level of objectivity when it comes to discussing others in the family. In general you should let the child do most of the talking. Avoid the temptation to add PD war stories of your own. Let the focus stay with the child and their concerns. Focus on what works rather than what should be. Help the child figure out strategies for coping that will help them navigate in an imperfect environment. Avoid using jargon about personality disorders. Keep the discussion on the level of the child's experiences.

Age 15-20

As children mature into adults, they will make many mistakes of their own, while at the same time making judgments about the mistakes of others around them. Their primary focus continues to move away from family and towards their own independent future. However, they will continue seek to understand the contradictions they have experienced in dealing with personality-disordered family members. This is a time to encourage discovery and independence in your young adult. The focus should be on them making good decisions for themselves and reaching their own conclusions in their own time frame. You can occasionally introduce a concept or idea about personality disorders but if you do, you should use little jargon and focus instead on validating and encouraging any productive self-discovery and development pursued by the young adult.

What to Do

  • Be flexible in your approach depending on the age and temperament of the children.
  • Keep your explanations as neutral as possible – you do not want to alienate the child from the PD person
  • Explain but do not excuse the behavior. For example, “When your father does such and such, it is absolutely not okay. He needs to work on that just like everyone has something they need to work on.  We are all human and humans make mistakes.”
  • Show compassion for the person with the PD while at the same time not excusing their behavior.
  • Reassure children that you are not angry with them for expressing how they feel. Asking validating questions can help them voice their concerns or fears and let them talk these through.
  • Be the solid adult in the children’s life who provides a consistent, safe and loving environment with healthy boundaries and expectations
  • If you are in a position to do so, ask a family counselor for guidance in how to talk to your children about this in an age appropriate manner
  • If you are in a family court situation with a PD parent and want to avoid accusations of PAS, consider having a family counselor explain to your children in an age appropriate and compassionate manner about personality disorders and why the PD person they care about behaves as they do.
  • If the PD adult is a teacher or coach or another student then working with a school guidance counselor and the school administration to be an advocate for your child is important.

What NOT to do

  • When the PD person is a parent, it is important that you do not alienate the child. Don’t verbally berate the personality disordered adult in front of them.
  • Do not tell a child that an adult is ill or mentally ill unless the diagnosis has been discussed with them. (See Amateur Diagnosis)
  • Don’t try to discourage a child’s love for their parent or grandparent. Separate your own feelings from your child’s feelings and allow them to make up their own mind about what they think.
  • Don’t lie to your children. Be honest with them if they ask a question - but don’t take it as a license to say more than you really need to. For example, if your child asks you, “did mommy do something wrong?” you can say, “I think mommy made a mistake.” And leave it at that.

Resources

Boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.

You'll see the word  "boundaries" quite frequently here at Out of the FOG.  Sometimes they'll be described in terms of  "your stuff<---//--->my stuff."  But what does that mean?  It means the ability to recognize what is our responsibility (and what is truly within our power to control) and what isn't.  Boundaries are an essential ingredient to creating a healthy self . They define the relationship between you and everyone else around you. 

Healthy boundaries help us to create our own destiny. They ensure that we are taking responsibility for our own lives; that we knowingly accept the consequences and/or reap the benefits of our choices. And, just as importantly, they ensure that we let others do the same for themselves.  

Boundaries are not an attempt to make someone do something. They are not about getting the other person to understand and comply. Boundaries are about us getting clear inside of ourselves as to what is appropriate and necessary for our mental health, and then taking action accordingly.

A key to boundaries is knowing your inner self: your beliefs, desires, needs, and intuitions.  When you know your inner self, it will become nearly impossible for someone else to manipulate you.  None of us who were controlled by someone with a personality disorder had healthy boundaries in place.

An Unchosen Perspective on Boundaries

It can be difficult to maintain or define boundaries when you are involved in a familial or otherwise unchosen relationship. Often, we are taught as children, not to make waves or to “just get along;” that is, to not assert or define our own boundaries. As children we want to please our disordered parent and get along with a disordered sibling or relative; however, a personality disordered individual lacks appropriate personal boundaries of their own. This can result in inappropriate affectionate gestures and lack of personal privacy for the child.

When our own personal boundaries are routinely broken, the message we learn is that our own needs and feelings don’t count - we are required to accept how others treat us without question. As we grow into adults, these lessons can become our way of life. We often feel taken advantage of, used or that our desires are unimportant. We become frustrated and angry that our boundaries are violated yet we are unable to express what, exactly, our boundaries are. Constant yielding to a parent, sibling or relative becomes second nature. We lose our own sense of self and often find ourselves in unhappy relationships, jobs and life situations. The early lessons, that our feelings, views and opinions don’t count continue to dominate our lives, sometimes subconsciously.

This can result in poor life choices, from entering into careers or occupations that are a poor fit for us, to marrying the person we “should” rather than the person we love. The yielding to others we were taught as children can spill over into every relationship we have as adults. The consequences can be disastrous and painful. It sometimes feels as if we are living someone else’s life.

But it doesn't have to be this way! Learning to enforce boundaries takes practice and patience-yet-it can be done, and lead us to a healthier, happier life.

A Chosen Perspective On Boundaries

One of our members, Tammy, offers this insight from her committed relationship with a person who suffers from BPD...

"The Dysfunctional Dance"

One rather consistent phenomenon in a borderline/non relationship is that neither partner clearly defines their personal boundaries.  Untreated borderlines tend to run over their partner's fences like a tank.  They project their feelings onto us and blame us when things go wrong.   Non BP's tend to give into the demands and needs of their borderline. We become enmeshed in their mental and emotional world: their beliefs, thoughts, feelings, needs, wants, and expectations.  Given enough time, without a clear sense of who we are, we lose sight of which experiences belong to us and which ones are projected onto us by our borderlines.   

With weak boundaries, we become sponges who allow our BP's to step inside our inner self, use up our energy, and define our world for us.  We permit them to tell us what to do, when to do it, and who to do it with. With each passing day, our self esteem deteriorates, and our ability to defend ourselves decreases.   

Non's tend to be compassionate, giving, and sometimes needy people.  At some point in the relationship we might have recognized that our BP's were in pain and out of control.  We were moved to give more of ourselves than was healthy. Or, we may have stepped in to take responsibility for their life. (Sometimes it's easier to deal with someone else's issues than it is to address our own.)  We either didn't know how (or were afraid) to set limits, or didn't know what our limits were.  So the dysfunctional dance began. 

If we accept responsibility for our borderline and handle their duties and responsibilities, we are essentially handling "their stuff" rather than our own. Permitting someone else to make decisions for us suggests that we are letting them define our life for us.  If there isn't a clear boundary line between your stuff<----//---->my stuff, defenses (such as withdrawal, sidetracking, blame, rationalization, and black-white thinking) become handy ways for both parties to avoid self-awareness and growth.

Healthy Boundaries

According to the book Boundaries and Relationships by Charles Whitfield, M.D:

Healthy boundaries are NOT:

  1. Set for us by others
  2. Hurtful or harmful
  3. Controlling or manipulative
  4. Invasive or dominating
  5. Rigid and immovable

Healthy boundaries ARE:

  1. present
  2. appropriate
  3. clear
  4. firm
  5. protective
  6. flexible
  7. receptive.
  8. determined by US

How to Develop Boundaries

An important first step in developing healthy boundaries is to get acquainted with, and take ownership, of your true self.  This is essential before healthy boundaries can be set and maintained.  As adults, we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.  We have freedom to respond, to make choices, and to limit the way others' behavior affects us.  As a "free agent",  we can take responsibility for our freedom by setting boundaries, or borders, between ourselves and those around us.    Some people refuse to set boundaries because they see them as selfish.  Others actually use them to be selfish.  Both are wrong. Boundaries are about self-control. 

Ten Laws of Boundaries

According to the authors, John Townsend and Henry Cloud, there are ten laws of boundaries:

  • The Law Of Sowing and Reaping - Actions have consequences.     If someone in your life is sowing anger, selfishness, and abuse at you, are you setting boundaries against it?  Or are they getting away with not reaping (or paying the consequences for) what he/she sowed?
     
  • The Law of Responsibility - We are responsible TO each other, not FOR each other.   This law means that each person refuses to rescue or enable another's immature behavior.
     
  • The Law of Power - We have power over some things, we don't have power over others (including changing people).  It is human nature to try to change and fix others so that we can be more comfortable.  We can't change or fix anyone - but we do have the power to change our own life.
     
  • The Law of Respect - If we wish for others to respect our boundaries, we need to respect theirs.  If someone in your life is a rager, you should not dictate to him/her all the reasons that they can't be angry.  A person should have the freedom to to protest the things they don't like. But at the same time, we can honor our own boundary by telling them, "Your raging at me is not acceptable to me.  If you continue to rage, I will have to remove myself from you."
     
  • The Law of Motivation - We must be free to say "no" before we can wholeheartedly say "yes".One can not actually love another if he feels he doesn't have a choice not to. Pay attention to your motives.
     
  • The Law of Evaluation - We need to evaluate the pain our boundaries cause others.  Do our boundaries cause pain that leads to injury?  Or do they cause pain that leads to growth? 
     
  • The Law of Proactivity - We take action to solve problems based on our values, wants, and needs.  Proactive people keep their freedom and they disagree and confront issues but are able to do so without getting caught up in an emotional storm.  This law has to do with taking action based on deliberate, thought-out values versus emotional reactions.
     
  • The Law of Envy - We will never get what we want if we focus our boundaries onto what others have.    Envy is miserable because we're dissatisfied with our state yet powerless to change it.  The envious person doesn't set limits because he is not looking at himself long enough to figure out what choices he has.
     
  • The Law of Activity - We need to take the initiative to solve our problems rather than being passive.In a dysfunctional relationship, sometimes one person is active and the other is passive.  When this occurs, the active person will dominate the passive one.  The passive person may be too intimidated by the active one to say no.  This law has to do with taking initiative rather than being passive and waiting for someone else to make the first move.
     
  • The Law of Exposure - We need to communicate our boundaries.   A boundary that is not communicated is a boundary that is not working. We need to make clear what we do or do not want, and what we will or will not tolerate.  We need to also make clear that every boundary violation has a consequence.  A boundary without a consequence is nagging.

Types of Boundaries

Reading through the various types of boundaries below you may notice they are intertwined and interrelated. Healthy boundaries mean you understand your individual choices and how you feel in each of these areas.  You understand where you end and others begin. You are responsible for you, and only you.

  • Physical boundaries - your most basic physical boundary is your skin, your body. From infancy one begins to understand where he or she ends and others begin. That we are individuals. Other examples of physical boundaries are your personal space and physical privacy. Who is allowed and not allowed to touch you and how? What do you wish or not wish in your physical space and what you consider private and personal?

  • Sexual boundaries - define your personal comfort level with sexual touch and activity. You define and decide as an individual what is acceptable, where, when, and with whom. For more information see Sexual Coercion 

  • Material boundaries - define what you do or don't allow regarding your property, what you gift or lend such as money, car, clothes, food, etc. Who is allowed in your home? Which rooms of your house are private? What can others do or not do with your belongings? Do visitors remove their shoes or not? Can others eat or drink in your car? 

  • Mental boundaries - define your thoughts, values, opinions. You own your thoughts. Each individual decides what is private, what they wish to share or not share. What do you believe?  Can you listen with an open mind to others thoughts or opinion without becoming rigid while at the same time not compromising core beliefs? 

  • Emotional boundaries - mean you are responsible for your feelings and others are responsible for their own feelings. You own only your feelings, no one else's. How others choose to feel about your choices is their decision. This leaves everyone free make their own choices and decisions. Healthy emotional boundaries prevent one from giving unsolicited advice, blaming or accepting blame. Emotional boundaries protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems, from taking things personally. Becoming highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive may indicate weak emotional boundaries.  Do you feel your emotions without judgement? Do you feel a full range of emotion - sad, mad, glad, scared - and can you readily and calmly respond to your emotions? Ignoring these emotions at a low level means the body will push them to a higher level until we respond. Can you make decisions without Fear Obligation Guilt (FOG)? 

  • Spiritual boundaries - define your attitudes and beliefs, what you choose to accept as true is yours alone to decide. What are your core values? What is important to you and your life? How do you define your beliefs in connection a higher power?

Other types of boundaries and things you own are your words, your time. Your words are yours, no is the most basic boundary and is a complete sentence. Your time belongs to you, what you choose to do, how you spend it and with whom is your decision. How we live our life is our choice. Your choices are yours to make, we sometimes feel stuck and feeling stuck is often basically a boundary problem. Holding others responsible for us or others holding us responsible for them. 

Putting It All Together

Untreated individuals with personality disorders are dependent on the compliance of others. They resist boundaries in an effort to control, manipulate, and dominate.  Non's sometimes use boundaries in an effort to control, manipulate, and dominate too.  For example, we might be tempted to tell someone  "You can NOT rage at me", or "You can NOT say cruel things to me." These aren't examples of boundaries, these are examples of a Non's effort to control someone else's behavior.  A healthy boundary is, "When you rage at me, I feel threatened.  I am going to leave (the room, the house, etc) until such time we can communicate calmly." The other person is free to rage to his/her heart's content, but you don't have to sit there and absorb all their anger and rage.  If you are saying to yourself, "Why should I have to leave the room?  They should have to stop raging!", you are looking at boundaries backwards.  You are taking the same approach as one would take who says, "Oh no, my house is on fire and is engulfed in flames.  I'm standing at the front door but I'm not going to leave the house because my new sprinkling system will turn on an put out the flames."   Are you waiting for someone or something else to make a move so you don't have to?  Are you willing to take a chance of getting burned? Don't do it.

Boundaries are all around us.  We come across them every day.  Cars have theft-deterrent devices to prevent someone from stealing your car. Homes have deadbolts or locks to prevent someone else from invading your home and removing your possessions. Your office desk has a lock to prevent theft.  Your locker at the club has a lock to keep your valuables safe.  If your personal property is protected against theft, but you find yourself feeling like your emotional well-being is being stolen from you, then it's time to take steps to learn how to set boundaries so that your emotional well-being can be kept under lock and key.  

Think about it. We go to a lot of effort and spend a lot of money to protect our material possessions - yet we often do little to protect ourselves.  Aren't you worth more than all of your possessions?

In order for boundaries to be effective, you need to approach it with the right mindset.  Recognize that you must take personal responsibility for your own well-being.  

Whether you end up staying in close relationship or not,  learning how to set healthy boundaries is one of the very best things you can do to ensure that you don't end up in a dysfunctional dance again with someone else.

No Contact

No Contact (NC) - Going "No Contact" means cutting off all forms of correspondence, communication and personal contact with a person who suffers from a personality disorder in order to protect yourself from recurring abuse.

There aren't many long term solutions for dealing with a person with a personality disorder. Going No Contact (NC) is a solution that is sometimes necessary to prevent recurring abuse.

Going No Contact (NC) is an example of setting Boundaries. NC is generally considered to be the boundary of last resort for a Non in trying to protect themselves from dysfunctional or abusive behavior.

Going No Contact is often a painful decision to make - as you may have to let go of the persistent hope that a loved-one will get "better".

Going No Contact is not an attempt to change a person or to teach them a lesson. If it were it wouldn't be "No Contact" but a bluff and an ill-advised one at that. Going No Contact is more about protecting yourself and letting go of the need or desire to change another person.

If you are experiencing recurring abuse as an adult you need to take responsibility that you may be 'enabling' or 'allowing' the abuse to recur to some extent. If the person with the personality disorder doesn't have the self control or capacity to stop abusing you, the only way to make it stop is to go NC. If you have grown up as a child of a personality disordered individual, it may always have been that way and that may have become a way of life for you. You may not realize that you have to make the choice to not be abused.

Going No Contact is a touchy subject. Some people don't feel comfortable with the idea of cutting off a family member for life and facing the consequences of what they or others might think of you. Making the decision to go NC is never easy and is more like choosing the lesser of two evils. It may feel like a death of sorts - the death of a relationship. You may find yourself grieving or mourning the loss of "what could have been". You may feel deeply depressed as a consequence of going NC.

Going No Contact is not necessarily a decision to stop loving the person. It is a decision to stop struggling with them and let them be who they are going to be while not letting their behavior hurt you any more.

People who go No Contact sometimes feel a great deal of Fear, Obligation and Guilt (FOG) about it:

Fear - They may fear the retribution or anger of the person whom they have cut off. People with personality disorders have an intense fear of abandonment or need to be admired and may react destructively, vengefully or even violently when faced with the humiliation of being shut out of a family member or former partner's life.

They may also fear the misunderstanding and anger of other family members, friends and acquaintances. Some of these third parties may feel like they are being left to "deal with it" and may express anger about that . They may also feel anger at their own situation while they don't have the nerve to take such a step.

Obligation - Many people will resist going No Contact out of a sense of loyalty to a relationship, marriage or family unit and out of a fear of being judged by others. People who leave a marriage or family are often misunderstood as being selfish, over-reacting, disloyal, unfaithful petty, shallow and weak.

Guilt - People who go No Contact are familiar with guilt. They will often be subject to hoovering by the person whom they have cut off which serves to play upon those feelings of guilt. They may be made to feel like they are the ones who destroyed a trust, broke the promise or threw in the towel. In reality, the promise was broken and the trust was destroyed by the person who behaved abusively before the relationship ended.

People who go No Contact are likely to face a campaign of hoovering, both by the person whom they have cut off and by other family members and friends. It can be easy right after someone hurts you to feel like No Contact is the right way to go. However, when they start heaping all sorts of kindness and sweetness on you it can take an iron will to resist the temptation to give them "one more chance".

One of our Administrators Aames described No Contact like this on this thread in our support forum

The greater part of NC is exercising our right NOT to be damaged by another person's words, moods or actions. It keeps us out of harm's way. It relieves us from the (often self-imposed) responsibility of carrying the other person's baggage. 

It isn't about punishing them, but protecting, even nurturing, ourselves.

NC in the short term, can give us the distance from a situation or relationship that we require to gain perspective, and the time to examine our own role or reactions as well as how we feel about the other person and whether we can resolve a conflict, or if we even want to. It creates the space we need to heal, forgive (ourselves and others) if necessary, learn from the experience and either resume the relationship in order to take it in a new direction, or, if the circumstances and our feelings about them direct - leave it behind, for the betterment of both parties. 

NC in the long term, isn't necessarily rooted in holding a grudge (though it can be sometimes, of course) - but rather, as part of our own decision to move on and leave behind the damaging people and experiences of our lives while we work towards more healthful relationships and living.

 

When is it appropriate to go No Contact?

  • When a person has used a threat or an act of violence against you, your children or themselves.
  • When there is a history or track record of verbal or emotional abuse directed towards you.
  • When abuse is recurring or habitual or your boundaries are consistently disregarded.
  • When the person who is hurting you is capable of taking care of themselves (not a child or dependent).
  • When you have thought it through and decided this is the best solution for all concerned.
  • When you are able to let go of any desire to change or fix the other person.
  • When you are ready to work on yourself and become the best that YOU can be.

When is it inappropriate to go No Contact?

  • When you want to teach the other person a lesson
  • When you are reacting impulsively in anger over a recent event.
  • When you share children with the other person.
  • When the person who hurt you is a child or dependent or an adult who is not able to take care of themselves.
  • When you are bluffing and intend to go back.

Some thoughts about going NC from one of our members...

One of our members, Catia, wrote the following about going NC with her mother on this thread on our support board.

I'm NC 6+ years--maybe 7...

I will tell you that it has been the MOST LIBERATING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE.

I will never go back to having contact with her, period.
Not for grandchildren (LOL especially not for them!!!), not for illness, not for any crisis real or imagined--not for all of the $$ in the world.

For the 1st time, my life is my own, for real--you will have no idea what this feels like until you're about 1 full year into NC--but I promise you, it's the most life altering experience you will ever have!

I had 2 tries of NC before my 3rd and final--both times lasted less than a year--these "failed attempts" were not a real failure--In hindsight now, I realize this fully.

The "obsessing" happens. 

Under normal circumstances, I'd call it "obsessing"--but these are not normal circumstances. 
What you are experiencing is a lot of different things rolled into 1 --
You have guilt, anxiety, anger--and fear of the unknown outcome as the result of the NC...
Also, there is a "mourning process" that occurs and it takes a year or so to acclimate to your new and QUIET drama free environment, mourn the mother that you never had, and will never receive--heal your inner child...

Lots of stuff happened in my 1st 2 years of NC--this is where you get to work on you--without your mother manipulating and gaslighting and stealing the attention of you being able to focus on yourself.

If you have truly made up your mind to remain NC, you gotta be strong against not only your mother, but her minions as well--they come out of the woodwork to draw you back in--plenty of this the 1st year. She will personally referee this drama, she'll cry victim, you'll want to defend yourself against the accusations that are bound to fly.

This is all just a smear campaign...

If you're ready for NC, you're ready NOT to verbally, or in writing defend yourself against these false accusations as well--there's nothing to defend--it's all fabricated bullshit anyway.

Remaining NC IS THE DEFENSE--
It can empower you on a level you never thought possible. 

NC isn't for every situation, but when dealing with a BPD parent who refuses to stop being abusive emotionally, it is definitely a solution.

Remaining in the abusive relationship will never end the abuse--even if you go MC (Medium Chill) --you'll be forced to still tolerate some level of abuse, and walk away when you can not tolerate it anymore...but NC eliminates that completely.

You will have to put a tremendous amount of thought into this--which I sense you are now doing--and you're trying to process the "what if's"--this is good--it's not obsessing.

You must feel comfortable within your decision, and you have to decide how you will handle all future family events--holidays, birthdays, births, deaths...it's a lot to think about. 

What is it that's on your mind that isn't settled?

BTW--my mother may NEVER EVER be able to see how crazy she is. Nothing I can say or do will ever allow that to occur. In all of my time on several boards, dealing with thousands of people, LOL, we all seem to want this to occur--It does not. It's not in her nature, it's an impossibility. 

Also, don't accept gifts, it opens a window where you've closed the door, and it will make you feel obligated in some way--NC is NC, no contact of any kind, under any circumstances.
Keep that in mind for the future, and send gifts, and cards back--via mail, not in person.
If you have kids, their gifts still count as contact, because you are responsible for them. Best to not let the kids even know of any gifts and send them back--this keeps the kids out of it.
Sorry, but this is a part of it, NC doesn't work as intended if you allow some contact and not other--that's what MC (Medium Chill) is for.

Are you able to be fully NC? 

Like I said, it's not for everybody.

Prioritize Your Personal Safety

Personal Safety - Personal Safety is a list of actions that are designed to keep situations from escalating and to make sure that Physical, Emotional and Verbal abuse is avoided or stopped at the first moment it begins to happen. It contains ideas on when to stop the conversation, when to leave the room and when to call the police.

Ensuring personal safety is the first priority to deal with when trying to learn how to cope with any behaviors of people who suffer from personality disorders. You should always consider the personal safety of the following:

  1. Your Children
  2. Yourself
  3. Any Innocent bystanders
  4. The person who suffers from the personality disorder.

This may mean that you may have to occasionally be willing to do some things that might make you feel uncomfortable, break some taboos, be firm, get out of dangerous situations, call the police, do whatever is necessary to remove yourself from violence, abuse and the threat of violence and abuse.

When to politely end the conversation:

Its easy to spend a great deal of time and energy in conversations that leave you feeling hurt and accomplish little or nothing. There are very few conversations that are urgent in nature or can't be put off to a better time. Sometimes less is more and your words will have more impact if you don't repeat the same things over and over, but just say what you have to say once and then stop talking. Here are some times when it is probably best to stop a conversation to avoid getting hurt.

  • When someone violates your personal boundaries.
  • When someone verbally insults, mocks or invalidates you.
  • When someone engages in thought policing or tells you how you must think or feel.
  • When you are engaged in a circular conversation.
  • When your words are falling on deaf ears.
  • When you are engaged in a one way conversation.
  • When you are angry and at risk of taking the emotional elevator down to a less mature level.
  • When you are tired not able to engage in constructive communication.
  • When your attention is needed to take care of other responsibilities, such as children, driving, work etc..

When to leave the room or building:

  • When you feel unsafe or isolated
  • When you fear violence or abuse.
  • When a person refuses to end the conversation or refuses to leave you alone.
  • When you are being harassed.
  • When you are isolated or alone with an abusive person and there is an opportunity for social support elsewhere.

When to call the police:

Immediately. These are times to get out of the way and let the professionals do their job:

  • When someone threatens harm to themselves
  • When someone threatens to hurt you
  • When someone threatens to hurt the children
  • When someone threatens suicide
  • When someone performs any act of violence towards people or property

Refer to our Emergency Page for More Information.

Medium Chill

Medium Chill - A technique used to disengage oneself from another person's drama when direct contact is unavoidable.

Medium Chill is disengaging emotionally and giving neutral responses to what someone does or says. The focus is on you, your feelings and needs, not the other person or their feelings and needs. 

Someone using Medium Chill is assertive without being confrontational. They will give no appearance of withdrawal, and they will maintain a pleasant and calm tone of voice and demeanor.

There are two key components to Medium Chill: 

1. Don't share any personal information.

Don't volunteer details about your life or your feelings. Everything in your world is perfectly OK, normal and uneventful. Tell them nothing, ask them nothing. Conversation is nothing more than pleasantries about weather, traffic, news etc. Engage in the type of conversation you might have with a total stranger while waiting for the bus. 

When communicating a decision you have made (should you deem it necessary to share in the first place) do not share your thought process on how you arrived at your decision. It is none of anyone's concern. 

2. Don't get involved in another person's chaos or drama.

When asked to help or get involved, be unavailable without offering the reason why you are unavailable. Sharing the details only motivates others to help you clear your obstacle to being there to help them. You are simply busy, you know, same old stuff. 

When others try to draw you into their drama and chaos you are a bored and dull listener. You are there, just not present or terribly involved. Never show anger or compassionate involvement; paying attention but not too much attention. Don't offer any advice or opinions of your own. Don't try to solve their problems. You are simply not involved. 

If someone is angry and manages to get you angry they have successfully projected and transferred their anger to you. Take your leave as soon as possible in cases of anger or rage. Simply and calmly leave or end the phone call. 

When others lash out, show no anger. When others are nice, don't reciprocate. Be distant and flat in both cases. When others can't easily manipulate a reaction, they tend to leave you alone.

Medium Chill keeps things light, fluffy, airy and breezy.  There's no real substance to the conversation.  You wind up doing a lot of listening and giving very uninteresting and inconsequential answers. You don't feed the supply, so you'll find conversations are shorter and not as frequent - because you're not giving the other person anything they can use. You are of no use to them and also quite boring and uninteresting. 

Medium Chill is also 'non answers' to intrusive questions and interrogation. See examples below. 

Medium Chill can be useful in dealing with instances of BaitingBlamingBullyingChaosCircular ConversationsDependencyEmotional AbuseEmotional BlackmailEngulfment / EnmeshmentHooveringManipulationProjection and Verbal Abuse. While undesirable behaviors cannot always be totally avoided, the damage and impact can be minimized if you can keep yourself as emotionally detached as possible.

Examples:

When asked an intrusive question:

  • I don't know. I'll have to get back to you.
  • We'll see.
  • That's a really good question, why do you ask?
  • Let me think about that.
  • It doesn't concern you.
  • My decision is made.
  • This is not a discussion
  • It's simply my preference.
  • It's none of your business.
  • It's already handled, taken care of.
  • The topic is closed
  • I said no and do not bring this up again

Sometimes it can be useful to simply not answer a question and let the question just hang there, pause, then change the conversation:

  • So anyway, how about the weather?

When attempting to draw you into drama or chaos:

  • It's none of my business.
  • I can't be there, it doesn't work for me.
  • I'd love to but no.
  • I'm sorry you feel that way.
  • I don't know what to tell you.
  • I don't know what to say.
  • That's a shame.
  • Now you're just being silly (when they accuse you of something).
  • You'll have to speak to so and so about that (when complaining about so and so).
  • You may need to speak to your doctor / lawyer / electrician about that.
  • This is not my problem. If you want to make it my problem I will find a solution to this that suits me and there is every chance that it will not suit you. If you want a solution that suits you, then you need to go work on that & leave me out of it.

You may need to get in touch with your inner 'tween for some of these:

  • That's too bad/That's nice.  (You may be surprised how long you can keep a conversation going with those words).
  • Now's not the time to talk about that.
  • I can't do anything about that.
  • I want to hear how you're doing.
  • That's up to you.
  • I know you don't understand this.
  • I know you really want to talk about XYZ but now is not the time.
  • It looks like my being here is upsetting you, we'll get together another time.

If the drama ramps up in an attempt to get you involved:

  • Exit the conversation. say "Sorry I have to go now. Maybe we can continue later."
  • Leave the room and house if you can safely do so.
  • Any threats of suicide or harm tell them to call 911 or the suicide hotline.

Remember to convey everything in a dull, flat tone of voice, with a non-confrontational, matter-of-fact manner. 

What It Feels Like

Medium Chill can be extremely liberating. You are in control of you, you are directing your life, you are in charge of you, you steer the conversation and you are protected. You are free to exercise your boundaries and communicate them effectively. 

What NOT To Do:

  • Don't focus on mitigating the other person's anger.
  • Don't worry about how your actions appear.
  • Don't try to solve the other person's problems or try to fix anything

What To Do:

  • Maintain a flat, calm and unemotional tone.
  • Choose to emotionally and mentally disengage.
  • Become uninteresting and boring.

Content in this page courtesy of OOTF Forum members SpringButterfly, VividImagination, WomanInterrupted and Sandpiper

Work On Yourself

Work on Yourself - Work on Yourself means taking your energy, time and focus off of the personality-disordered individual in your life and restoring a more healthy balance where you spend an appropriate amount of time on improving your own situation, regardless of what the person who suffers from the personality disorder does.

It sometimes surprises people who visit our site when we begin to talk about the need to work on ourselves.

But I'm not the one who is sick...

You don't need to be sick to work on yourself! The healthiest people in the world are often the ones who work the hardest on themselves - like Olympic Athletes. It's people who neglect themselves who are most at risk of getting sick. What's true for our bodies is also true for our spirits.

It's very common for people who have been in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder to have put all their own needs into a box and stuffed it away out of sight while they fight the fires of relationship conflict.

When our dreams are put on hold, it is common for resentment to build up towards the person whose needs are taking the priority. We don't mind doing that for a helpless baby or an injured friend - but if we're doing it repeatedly for someone who could just as easily do it for themselves our sense of injustice grows.

Over time, unchecked, that resentment has a way of creeping into everything we do. Like a poison spreading into our thoughts, our words, our body language, our tone of voice, our reactions. It's there and everybody can see it.

If - over a long time - our needs are not getting met, or our plans are repeatedly put aside while we are desperately trying to take care of someone else, it's hard to feel positive. We hold the abuser responsible for the abuse - but it's also common to begin to blame that person for everything that goes wrong - including the bad choices we have made too.

What happens when we blame someone else for everything bad in our lives? Hopelessness. Helplessness, Powerlessness. When someone else holds all the power - even though we may have given some of it to them - we eventually see no benefit to work on ourselves - after all, there's no point in building a house when you can see someone else lining up a wrecking ball.

Do you ever feel that way? - like there's no point in working on yourself? That's despair - and it may be a sign that you've been neglecting your needs for too long, giving your power to someone else and abandoning your post as the captain of your own ship - the ship that is you...

So How Can I Work on Myself?

Faced with those realities, there are a number of ways you can go:

  • You can deny it, or ignore it, or stuff it and refuse to acknowledge it.
  • You can hide it, disguise it, make excuses for it, justify it, explain it away, rationalize it.
  • You can be philosophical about it and say - well that's just who I am and I can't change it any more than a leopard can change his spots.
  • You can punish yourself for it, berate yourself, tell yourself you are worthless, defective, weak, ugly, not good at relationships, nobody would ever love you.
  • You can acknowledge it and you can get to work - on yourself

Spend Time Alone

The right amount of solitude can be a wonderful thing. Some people who are caregivers long for a break away from the demands of taking care of another's needs. To people who are constantly caring for young children, the chronically ill, the elderly the thought of a quiet walk on an empty beach is very appealing.

If that describes you - it's OK to take a break and let the world fall apart without you for a day, an hour - whatever is appropriate. You can't be strong for others unless you take care of yourself first. Human beings need rest. they need food, water oxygen and sleep. Studies show that non-stop caretaking has disastrous consequences on both the caretaker and the patient. Whether that's your kids, your aging parents, your best friend, your spouse whom you promised to love "in sickness and in health" - you can't love them well if you don't love yourself well. Time alone - in the right measure - can be a vital part of taking care of yourself.

Physical Exercise

OK this may come across like a guilt trip for some of you but the truth is that it's possible to feel better about yourself when your body and your mind work together. For some people that means decathlons and grueling workouts. For the rest of us mortals that means going for a walk, or riding a bike, a great stretch, even just stopping for a few seconds and trying a few deep breaths.

It doesn't matter how intense - just do something today to feel better physically.

Medication

There are a whole host of anti-depressants out there which can take the edge off when you're going through a hard time. You should consult with your doctor or therapist about what is right for you.

Find a Hobby

There's nothing quite like doing something you love to do. Do you have something you love to do? Can you write down 3 things? Often, when we are in the throes of a dysfunctional relationship, those are the first things that get thrown out the window.

Are you ashamed to spend time on your interests? Do you feel selfish to spend money on things that only you enjoy? Are you afraid of what people will think if you start being yourself instead of the person other people expect you to be?

Set yourself free - the real you.

Join A Group

Just as there are no two people alike - there are no two groups alike and so every group has its own dynamics, its rules, its strengths and weaknesses. There is little we can say in general.

That said - if you have ever experienced the joy of connecting with a group that shares the same vision - the same sense of purpose - the same journey that you do there can be an almost magic release of synergy - that energy that says the total is greater than the sum of the parts. There's nothing like it - and if you are so inclined you owe it to yourself to unleash the explorer within you and go find it.

Give to Charity/Volunteer for a Worthy Cause

Many of us Non's are givers. We are the cleaner-uppers, the fixers, the caretakers, the rebuilders, the conscientious ones. Many of us get a natural sense of satisfaction from helping someone. We feel drawn to relieve suffering, to lend a helping hand, to look out and worry about the underdogs of our society.

Of course that tendency has got many of us into trouble in the past. We have given to someone who has taken without saying thank-you. We have cleaned up someone else's mess when they were well-able to clean it up themselves. We have paid another's debt when they had the resources to pay it themselves. And many of us are disillusioned, angry and resentful because of that.

But deep down we still want to give, we need to give.

What we need is to find worthier causes. We need to start to give again to people who really are down on their luck - not just looking for a free ride. There is an ocean of need in our world, in our cities, in other continents, in our hospitals, our orphanages, our retirement homes, in refugee camps, in soup kitchens.

It can be a wonderful thing to discover that you have something to share that somebody else needs - truly needs. There are lots of reputable organizations that are looking for help. It's up to us to contact them and find our calling.

Explore Music & The Arts

One of the things that happens to people who live under a repressive regime is that they hide their true selves under a facade of what will get them the least in trouble. Many people have forced themselves to fake interests in things that they do not really care about or hide their real interests just to keep the peace.

When you begin to emerge from a state of codependency, you may find yourself going back to your roots again - the songs, the sounds, the joys that you treasure from moments in your past that you felt really free. It can feel like a guilty pleasure at first - you may feel like it is somehow wrong to be so self-indulgent.

It's not. It's wrong to abuse people. It's never wrong to love yourself. Set yourself free.

Read...

Ever wondered when you were going to find the time to read the classics? Join a book club? Read a bestseller - a romance novel or a suspense thriller? Just Do It!!

People tend to find time for the things they consider important. If you consider yourself important you can begin to make time to do the things that YOU love. Not the things people expect you to love, or the tings that you feel as though you SHOULD love - what about the things you really DO love?

Make A List!

What are your dreams? What would you say is the reason you are alive - what is your purpose? What do you want to have accomplished before you die or you get too old or sick to do it?  Make a list - And then do it!

Pick an easy thing first, just to get you started. Then try something more difficult. Take a risk. Take the road less traveled. Score out lines on your list. See how many you can get done in a day, a month, a year and score off the lines in your list. Reward yourself for each one you do. You'll be surprised how much you are capable of when you are determined.

Go See A Movie

Ever seen a really great movie? How many great movies did you skip because you were too busy running after the needs of another? Enrich your world! Eat Some Popcorn!

Travel

Nothing can broaden your horizons quite like traveling to a part of the world that you have never visited before. It's hard to travel without meeting different people with different cultures than you - different assumptions, different hopes fears and dreams. Travel can be to a different city for a day or it can be to a different continent for a month - depending on your resources and your sense of adventure. Take that trip you always promised yourself you would one day. Take that trip you always dreamed of but never thought you would! Go visit a village in Ecuador, a refugee camp in Africa, The Pyramids or the Rockies or the Golden Coast or the Glaciers. Visit the town of your ancestors, or the birthplace of your hero. Walk on a beach, climb a mountain, explore a cavern, take a motorbike ride. Seize the day!

A Word About Failure

We will fail sometimes. Everyone fails. The person who never made a mistake never made anything.

After we have endured great hardship in our lives, even small trials can seem like overwhelming defeats. It's easy to tell ourselves we're no good, we're weak, we're useless, worthless, doomed. We're just born losers.

Trials and adversity visit everybody. Even great heroes have endured great struggles. Sickness, an unexpected bill, the loss of something or someone we valued, an honest mistake, a poor decision, a disappointment. We don't know what it will be but we know it will be something.

Everybody gets up after they fall, but if we're honest, most of us will admit to spending a moment or two when we're down on the ground wondering if we should just stay there. Those of us who have been knocked down a lot might take a little longer to think about that than others. We may even contemplate how we can make drastic changes to escape our circumstances. If you're seriously thinking about taking your life, please call one of the numbers on our Emergency Page, see a therapist, a friend, a doctor, a pastor. It's easier to get up when someone is giving us a hand.

Times of failure and adversity are not there to prophesy the future - they are part of the temporal ebb and flow of life - and they happen - and just as certain as the tide comes in, it has to go out again.

Hard times will come sometimes, and those are times when it is good to have friends - to share on a support board like this, to call a trusted confidant, to check in with a therapist or to draw on a resource that we have tucked away for a rainy day. Those are good times to read our list of the things we are most proud of and reward ourselves for what good things we have accomplished. Those are good times to work on our list of things we want to accomplish, if we are able. Picture the worst case scenario - then the best case - then the middle case - and try to set reasonable expectations for what might happen.

And as sure as there are disappointments and failures - there will be good surprises and successes too. We promise!

And Finally...

You are the architect and author. You are the inventor and the creator, You are the magic that is waiting to be unleashed. You are uniquely endowed with gifts, with wisdom, with talent and with beauty. You have so much to give and receive in this world. There is so much potential in you. We have offered a few simple ideas here - but you can probably offer a hundred more, better, richer ideas for what you can be.

We wish you every success as you explore your world and work on yourself, and we invite you to share your own experiences on our Working on Us Board - so that we might be inspired by YOUR story.

Take a Time-Out

A Time-Out is a decision to temporarily disengage from an argument, conversation, interpersonal situation or conflict.

The idea of a Time-Out is modeled on the American sporting tradition of spontaneously interrupting play in order for the coach to make substitutions, manage the timing, communicate an offensive or defensive strategy and give a pep-talk to the team. Well-used time-outs can make or break a team's fortunes in American Sports.

Taking a Time-Out when dealing with a person who suffers from a personality disorder is very similar. Time-Out's can be used to change timing, strategize, change approach and manage emotions at a crucial moment or event.

Most commonly, a time-out is a good way to stop a destructive argument and cool down the emotional temperature for a while so you can think more clearly. When arguments happen, our emotional intelligence tends to take the reigns away from our cognitive intelligence - our thoughts become dominated by feelings rather than facts.

When dealing with an adult who suffers from a personality disorder, taking a time-out is not the same thing as sending a young child to a "time-out" in their bedroom for misbehaving. Taking a time-out is not something you do to someone else - it is something you do for yourself.

Comparison of Time-Out vs Silent Treatment

Note that taking a time out is not the same thing as giving someone the Silent Treatment. Many times, exiting a conversation is a healthy and constructive thing to do as part of a conflict resolution strategy, to exit a circular conversation, to escape verbal abuse or just to compose yourself. The SIlent Treatment is different from a time-out in the following ways:

  Time-Out Silent Treatment
Effect
Constructive
Destructive
Duration
Time Bound
Indefinite
Non-Verbal's
Neutral or Reassuring
Contemptuous
Physical Posture
Disengaged
Engaged
Re-engagement
Mutually Agreed
Unilateral
Engagement of Third Parties
To seek self-support
To seek alliances in the argument.
Disposition
Seeks self-improvement
Seeks to improve others
Problem Focus
To find solutions
To apportion blame

Examples:

 

  • A housewife decides to disengage from her husband who has begun shouting and provoking arguments. She tells him she has decided to go out and visit a friend for a few hours and they can discuss it later.
  • A father is concerned about his wife's temper tantrum and the effect it is having on the kids - so he takes the kids out for ice cream and tells her they will be home later.
  • A young girl feels threatened by her mother's rages and decides to go over to a friends house to study.
  • A young man feels the urge to do something violent after an argument with his girlfriend but recognizes the danger and decides to go to the gym instead.

What It Feels Like:

Taking a time-out can be a bit scary, since you are choosing to disengage from the person who has the personality disorder - and that means relinquishing control over what they might do or say next. It is often this desire to maintain control that keeps us locked in arguments and conflicts for a long time.

There can be a sudden feeling of a vacuum when disengaging - all that emotional energy from the conflict is still pumping through your veins and suddenly you find yourself in a quieter place. It will usually take a while for it to dissipate.

What NOT To Do:

  • Don't use a time-out as punishment or as a way to try to manipulate the feelings or behavior of another adult.
  • Don't leave in a threatening way or in dramatic fashion by slamming doors or shouting insults as you exit.
  • Don't wait for permission or an invitation from the other person to exit the conversation. This is your decision and you have to make it happen.
  • Don't return until after you feel better and in control of your emotions.
  • Don't drive aggressively after exiting. The adrenaline surge may impair your judgment.
  • Don't turn to substance abuse as a way of self-medicating.
  • Don't think of time-out's as a way to solve long-term relationship problems. The underlying relationship problems will still exist even if everybody feels calmer after the time-out. A time-out is a way to bring security and safety to a short-term flashpoint.

What TO Do:

  • If possible, take your focus off of the other person and use the time to do something productive just for yourself.
  • As you leave, express your feelings using "I" statements such as "I feel uncomfortable and need to take a break right now".
  • Exit the room or the environment so you can think more clearly without all the pressure.
  • Get support from others who understand about personality disorders and can relate to what you are going through.
  • Remember that feelings are transient and that both you and the other person are likely to feel different in a few hours.

Go See a Therapist - (A good one!)

Therapy for Non-Personality-Disordered Individuals

Therapy - Once they have learned to protect themselves and emotionally detach from the personality -disordered individuals in their lives, many Non-Personality Disordered Individuals (Non-PD's) find that they benefit from spending time with a good therapist where they can be encouraged, learn more about themselves and learn ways to work on themselves.

It sometimes surprises people who visit our site when we begin to talk about the need to work on ourselves.

Why should I go to see a Therapist? There's nothing wrong with me.

One of the great fallacies of our modern culture is that if you go to see a therapist it means there is something wrong with you, you are a weak person, you should be ashamed.

The reality is that many people who really do have a mental illness refuse to see a therapist too - for the same reason.

There is a stigma attached to mental illness in our society that really does us a disservice.

When someone breaks their leg, we don't ridicule them for going to see a doctor, getting a cast and taking a pain killer. . Why do we ridicule people when they get help for hurt on the inside? It's irrational. It's prejudicial. Who is the crazy person - the person who need s help and gets it or the person who needs help and doesn't?

One of the most brilliant minds that ever existed, Albert Einstein, once said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." He was right..

But I'm not the one who is sick...

You don't need to be sick to work on yourself! The healthiest people in the world are often the ones who work the hardest on themselves - like Olympic Athletes. It's people who neglect themselves who are most at risk of getting sick. What's true for our bodies is also true for our spirits.

It's very common for people who have been in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder to have put all their own needs into a box and stuffed it away out of sight while they fight the fires of relationship conflict.

When our dreams are put on hold, it is common for resentment to build up towards the person whose needs are taking the priority. We don't mind doing that for a helpless baby or an injured friend - but if we're doing it repeatedly for someone who could just as easily do it for themselves our sense of injustice grows.

Over time, unchecked, that resentment has a way of creeping into everything we do. Like a poison spreading into our thoughts, our words, our body language, our tone of voice, our reactions. It's there and everybody can see it.

If - over a long time - our needs are not getting met, or our plans are repeatedly put aside while we are desperately trying to take care of someone else, it's hard to feel positive. We hold the abuser responsible for the abuse - but it's also common to begin to blame that person foreverything that goes wrong - including the bad choiceswe have made too.

What happens when we blame someone else for everything bad in our lives? Hopelessness. Helplessness, Powerlessness. When someone else holds all the power - even though we may have given some of it to them - we eventually see no benefit to work on ourselves - after all, there's no point in building a house when you can see someone else lining up a wrecking ball.

Do you ever feel that way? - like there's no point in working on yourself? That's despair - and it may be a sign that you've been neglecting your needs for too long, giving your power to someone else and abandoning your post as the captain of your own ship - the ship that is you.

Finding A Therapist - (A good one!)

Not everybody who calls themselves a therapist or has a certificate is going to help you. Think about your school teachers. All were qualified - not all were equal.

Firstly, a good therapist will be one who understands about personality disorders and what it is like to have a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder. If you find your therapist giving you the kind of advice that is popular in common culture but that only works when you are dealing with mentally healthy people who don't suffer from a personality disorder then you may not have the right therapist for you.

Secondly, a good therapist is like a good coach. A good coach will find ways to motivate you to be the best that you can be - they won't fill you with shame or lie to you about the things you need to work on. They will be honest, they will know how to help you make the right adjustments. When you fall - they will be the first to shout "I believe in You - you can do it!" And when you succeed, they will be cheering the loudest on the sidelines.

Thirdly, a good therapist will keep the focus on you and will help you to learn more about yourself. When you begin to talk about others a lot a good therapist will find a way to get back to your own issues and what you need to work on in your own life. After all -the only person you can improve in therapy is yourself - not anyone else. If you are not learning more about yourself and being coached to improve yourself then you might not be spending money in the right office.

Do something good for yourself! Find a good coach!

Here's a useful link on finding a good therapist http://lightshouse.org/lights-blog/how-to-find-the-right-therapist#axzz1xaokUqTN

Know the Rules of Relationships

Introduction

No matter if we're Chosen's or Unchosen's - after we have exited the chaos of living with a person who has a personality disorder, we all face the same challenges -

  • How will I survive on my own?
  • How do I make sure my next relationship isn't just a repeat of the last one?
  • How do I avoid bringing all my baggage into a new relationship?

Non-PD's - people who have experienced relationships with personality disordered individuals are often vulnerable to repeating the cycle of becoming abuse victims. There are numerous possible reasons for this. We may suffer from C-PTSD, we may never have had a healthy relationship modeled for us, we may have suchlow self esteem that we feel we do not deserve to be treated well.

In this page we explore what it's like to venture into the sometimes frightening world of relationships, and suggest a few ideas to consider to help evaluate if the new relationships we are getting into are healthy or dysfunctional.

Going it Alone/Taking Time Out

For a Non-Personality-Disordered individual who has spent years in a world where chaos is normal and there has been a dominant destructive or abusive personality in their life, the vacancy that is left once the relationship ends can be terrifying. Sometimes people feel a sense of panic and ask themselves questions like:

  • What if nobody wants me?
  • What if there's something wrong with me?
  • What if I'm getting too old and it's getting too late?
  • Why can't I find a normal relationship?
  • What if getting hurt and being abused are really just normal?

Being unsure about ourselves sometimes causes people to make mistakes when we hook up with someone else. We either do it too fast or we hook up with someone who isn't good for us.

Time to grieve

Grief is a normal, response to loss that normal, healthy people go through Grief usually does not all come out at once or in just one way.

The 5 Stages of Grief - The 5 Stages of Grief - Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance - were first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to describe a process which many people go through when dealing with a significant tragedy or loss.

When we first detach ourselves from a controlling or abusive personality, we begin to go through everything "for the first time" again. First birthday, first Christmas, first summer vacation, first Valentine's Day, first Thanksgiving. First Anniversary, etc. Each of these anniversaries has a way of digging up old memories and grief.

Subsequent anniversaries and triggering memories can bring back memories just as strong. It can be surprising sometimes to people who are grieving that many years later, they can be suddenly whisked back to the way they felt years ago and feel just as much pain and grief even though they have put distance between themselves and the loss. In general these grief triggers get father apart over time - but they can be just as strong when they come. This is because our memories contain information about feelings as well as facts. When we remember an emotional event, we remember how it felt as much as we remember what happened and when we recall that memory we actually feel those feelings again.

With each of these anniversaries, we get a chance to explore ourselves - what I am like, how I want to celebrate the holiday, where I want to spend my money etc.

Time to discover yourself

It takes time to stop relating to ourselves in terms of the other person with the personality disorder. It's common to hear people talk about a new love interest in terms of what they are not rather than what they are...

  • He's nothing like my ex husband
  • She's different from my mother
  • He would never act like that
  • She's much more loving than ...

Sometimes, when we come out from under the shadow of a dominant personality, we begin to grow. You never quite know how something that is growing is going to end up - it's a mystery. So it is an important gift to give to yourself to give yourself the space to grow and discover who you really are. You can do that a lot better on your own than you can in a relationship with someone else.

Time to be comfortable in your own skin

You have to be complete by yourself before you can be complete with someone else. If you find yourself wanting to be in a relationship that will "complete" you - that should be a red flag. When you go into a relationship it needs to be a mutual sharing of two people who give and receive. IF you go into a relationship expecting another person to rescue you or fix things for you then you are going in with a false expectation that will likely result in disillusionment.

Instead you want to go into a relationship where you are comfortable in your own skin - where you are not afraid to back away if things aren't great, where you are able to give as much as you receive and you expect to receive as much as you give.

There's an old saying that "misery loves company" If you are not content with who you are by yourself then you probably aren't ready for anyone else.

How Long is Long Enough?

The answer is different for everybody and there are no guarantees. However if you have been in a serious relationship or in a traumatic environment then at least one year gives you the chance to see an entire cycle of anniversaries, seasons and holidays. One year also gives you enough time to know what your "normal" is like - rather than what one of your "highs" or "lows" is like.

For others - living alone for good is the right choice. Many people find that the longer they get used to being alone the less of a need they feel for companionship.

Everyone is different. It is our hope that whatever you do, all your future relationships and friendships will be happy and satisfying and that your time alone will be just as happy and satisfying.

A "Back to the FOG" relationship...

Life has no guarantees and there are countless ways you can get yourself into a messy situation. There's really no guaranteed formula for success or failure - but there are some situations with the highest probability of getting you back into the FOG...

Whirlwind relationships - if you're thinking about moving in, getting married or engaged within weeks or even a few months of getting involved that's a red flag. Take time to learn about a person before making commitments that you can't easily get out of. And give them a chance to get to know you. If a person is putting you under pressure to make a commitment before you get a chance to know them that probably means there's something very wrong with them that they don't want you to discover.

One way relationships - the ones where you are doing all the giving and they are doing all the taking. If your potential partner can't support themselves financially, emotionally or otherwise you've got no business getting involved with them.

Secretive relationships - the ones where you're forbidden by the other person from telling others about them - or about the relationship. If you can't tell all your friends and family all about this person and the things you have done and the plans you have you should be careful about getting involved with them. Think "Romeo & Juliet" all the way.

Performance Relationships - if another person doesn't love you just the way you are they don't love YOU - they love some fantasy. If they are always asking you to prove your love by changing your values, your habits, your interests, your dreams, your friendships, your goals in life they are trying to make you into something you are not and you need to move on. They don't have to love everything about you like your snoring or your taste in music - but they have to love and accept you - the whole package, whether you change or not. That goes the other way too - if there's something you want to change about the other person try to convince yourself that they are not going to change.

Stormy relationships - this may seem obvious - but if they hit you, hurt you or berate you before you make a commitment they are likely to do it much more often afterwards.

Runaway relationships - relationships that require you to leave everything about your former life behind may seem attractive if you're feeling depressed about your own life - but they rarely work out in the end. Take time to build bonds from within your life to their life and if you can't do that you probably aren't very compatible. Also - beware of long distance relationships as they can put you under immense pressure to make big commitments with a person whom you hardly know.

Charity cases - don't get involved with anyone you feel sorry for, anyone whom you feel you can "help" or anyone you feel would be better off if they had you. Likewise don't get involved with anyone who "just needs a little love" or "just hasn't had a fair chance in life" If you find yourself doing this you have a messiah complex and you are not in a good place to be getting involved with anyone. You are more likely to hurt them more than help them. This is not the foundation of a healthy relationship so much as a dysfunctional one.

Dependency Relationships - avoid any relationship where the person you are getting involved with is dependent on you for money, support, a place to live, a job, a car, whatever. And don't get into a relationship where you are dependent on the other person for those things.

Blamers - look out for people who don't take responsibility for their own mistakes - or who are quick to blame or accuse others for everything that is wrong in their lives. The way they talk about or treat others is a good indicator of the he way they will talk about or treat you.

Relationships that put you back in the Non-PD Recycle Bin

An "Out of the FOG" Relationship...

Here are some things to consider if you want your next relationship to be one which helps keep you "Out of the FOG"...

Someone who is "good for you" - It's not wrong to think a little selfishly when entering back into the world of relationships. If you are still thinking 100% in terms of what you can give to the other person you have not reached a level of emotional maturity necessary to be getting involved with other people.

A Friend and a Lover - There's no denying that sexual attraction plays a very big part in selecting a partner and it is important - but t is equally important to choose a partner with whom you will be friends with when the thrill is over. What would you think of this person if they were badly injured in a car crash, had a long term illness, gained weight etc?

Kindness - does this person have a kind heart? Can they share, care and be good to you. Can you trust them to help you in a crisis. Will they forgive you when you screw up? Will they care as much about your heart as they do about heir own?

Emotional Stability - does this person have a stable track record? Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.

Financial Stability - is this person able to take care of themselves?

A person who you would recommend to your best friend - if this person is someone whom you would gladly set up with your best friend with no hesitation then they are more likely to be the kind pf person who you consider to be safe and good for you.

A person who will let you be you - Someone who doesn't demand that you change, lose weight, make more money, change your dress code, diet, job, religion, politics, habits, friendships, interests - who loves you for who you are -warts and all. Someone who understands that you aren't perfect and doesn't need you to be. Someone who encourages you to be the best "You" that you can be. Who cheers your accomplishments and sympathizes with your failures. Now THAT's what we're talking about!

A relationship that is consistent with the Non-PD Toolbox

Put Children First

Put Children First - Put Children First means making decisions based on "what is in the best interests of the children", regardless of the consequences for the parents and any other parties involved.

If you are reading this, it is likely you are at somewhere in the middle of a long and difficult journey. On that journey there will be many forks in the road that you can't necessarily see right now. If you have children, asking yourself at each and every fork in the road: "Which way is best for the children?" and choosing that direction will help you avoid some common mistakes.

Children are often the victims in dysfunctional family situations because they are in a position of almost complete powerlessness. They have inferior physical strength with which to defend themselves. They lack the experience and mental aptitude to understand fully what is happening. They generally have no alternate means of food, shelter and emotional comfort than from their parents. Unless they can display horrific visible scars, cuts and bruises on their bodies, they have no access to legal protection from either of their parents. They may be exposed to chronic ,sustained physical emotional or sexual abuse with no escape. Parents can divorce each other, but children cannot divorce their parents.

Research has shown that the vast majority of child abuse and neglect occurs at the hands of their own parents:

In light of this, it is imperative that if you are dealing with a person who suffers from a personality disorder, your children must come first and must be your highest priority. People who suffer from personality disorders often lack the will or the ability to comprehend how their behaviors affect those around them. If you struggle with this as a grown up, imagine how difficult it is for any children involved. Therefore, you must resolve to do everything in your power to do what is in their best interest - not what is in the best interests of the person with a personality disorder or even your own best interests.

Putting children first is not just an ethical and moral obligation. It is a useful strategy in minimizing conflict within a family situation. If you have been living for a long time with a person who suffers from a personality disorder, you have probably faced numerous "impossible choices" where you feel "damned if you do and damned if you don't". Faced with situations like that, putting the children's needs ahead of your own or anybody else's can help clarify your thinking and consider the options more objectively.

Putting children first is also sound legal strategy when dealing with family court situations. "The children's best interests" is what most judges in family court are looking for when they rule in cases involving child custody.

Understand My Stuff/Your Stuff

My Stuff/Your Stuff - My Stuff/Your Stuff is a thought technique of reminding yourself to separate what is really your responsibility, your concern and under your control and what is a personality-disordered individual's responsibility, concern and under their control.

When you become involved in a relationship with a person who suffers from a personality disorder, it's easy to become disorientated as you try to navigate through challenges such as mood swingsprojectionmirroringdependencyengulfment etc. It can feel a little bit like trying to find your way through a dark room with the furniture frequently being rearranged.

One of the things that tends to result is that the non-personality-disordered individual may subconsciously or unwittingly begin to take personal responsibility for problems and concerns over which they have little or no control or ability to influence. In doing so they may be denying the person who suffers from the personality disorder the opportunity to clean up their own messes, learn from their own mistakes and work towards a more healthy lifestyle, This is sometimes called enabling and can perpetuate a dysfunctional situation.

One of the things that can be a great exercise is to try to look at your life objectively - and ask yourself - what is my stuff and what is your stuff?

Think about all the good things in your life for a while - forget about anyone else for a minute. How much of it is really yours to control? How much of it depends on you to maintain, build and develop? What will happen if you neglect it?

Think about the things you are most proud of. What would have happened if you were not there?

Think about your body, your work, your talents, your dreams. What are they worth? The messes that you leave, the mistakes you make, your flaws and your concerns.

That's your stuff.

Now think about the things that matter the most to that other person in your life. Think about all the good things in their life for a while - forget about yourself for a minute. How much of it is really theirs to control? How much of it depends on them to maintain, build and develop? What will happen if they neglect it?

Think about the things that they are most proud of. What would have happened if they were not there?

Think about their body, their work, their talents, their dreams. What are they worth? The messes that they leave, the mistakes they make, their flaws and their concerns.

That's their stuff.

Try Journaling

Journaling is a technique of writing down whatever thoughts and feelings come to mind on a topic without taking a break, stopping to think or slowing down to correct spelling & punctuation.

A form of Journaling known as "Hot Penning" has been developed by the Beginning Experience organization - a group that offers help for people who are grieving a loss.

In Journaling, a person takes a blank notebook or sheets of paper and writes about a topic or answers questions about a topic. The key in Journaling is to write as much as you possibly can in a 30-45 minute window without taking your pen away from the page or stopping to reflect, think or analyze what you have written. Spelling, grammar, accuracy or appropriateness are all considered secondary. Just writing your thoughts down as fast as they come flooding in is the key.

Confidentiality is crucial in journaling. What you are writing is for your eyes only. You may later decide to share what you have written with others whom you trust, but there may be things you want to write about that you will never want to say to another living soul - and that's ok and important. Nobody reads your book.

Some amazing things can get written during journaling sessions. People discover things about themselves they never knew were in there.

Examples of Journaling Topics

Here are some example questions to get yourself started with Journaling:

  • How do I see myself - what are my main strengths and weaknesses?
  • How have I been treated best/worst by people who are closest to me?
  • What would I say if I were to write a final letter to a person who has hurt me?
  • What is my plan going forward?
  • What three adjectives would I choose to describe myself and why?
  • If I could change one thing, what would it be?

Get Support

Get Support - It’s important to find supportive people who understand personality disorders and who can give you the support you need.

Talk About It - Find A Friend (A trustworthy one!)

The adage that "a problem shared is a problem halved" can be very true.

First, a word of caution. We have to be careful about whom we choose as friends. Many of us who have been in abusive relationships are only too aware of the risks of trusting others, given what we have experienced. Trust is something that needs to be earned, not given carelessly.

That said,  it can be equally risky to charge off in the opposite direction and isolate ourselves completely from the world around us. Human beings are social creatures. We all need to feel the warmth of friendship. There's a reason why solitary confinement is such a harsh punishment. It makes people go insane. It's not wise to imprison ourselves or hurt ourselves in that way.

Just as there are people in the world who are apt to hurt us there are also good people who can bring life and joy and love into our lives. And if we haven't had the joy of a friendship with a kind person, we've got a lot to gain.

As the old saying goes:

"Make new friends and keep the old; 

One is silver and the other is gold"

Getting in touch with an old friend can be a wonderful gift to yourself - and to the old friend.

Making new friends - there's really no formula for that but a few things are true -

If you're sitting at home all day and not meeting anybody new you're not making new friends (except maybe online)

You're more likely to make friends with people you have something in common with. It's hard to make a friend in the grocery line or sitting in your car. So volunteer for a group activity, attend a club, take an art class, a dance lesson, go to a church group. Put yourself in places where you're comfortable to strike up a conversation with someone you're comfortable with. Avoid places that make you feel uncomfortable - so if the local roller disco is not your thing - give yourself permission to do something else - not nothing else.

Learn About Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and regulate one's own emotions and to demonstrate empathy and social skill in dealing with the emotions of others.

  AWARENESS REGULATION
SELF Self Awareness Self Management
OTHERS Social Awareness Relationship Management

Self Awareness is the ability to recognize your own feelings and thoughts, and be familiar and comfortable with your own thought patterns, strengths and weaknesses.

Self Management is the ability to regulate your own emotions, behaviors and impulses in constructive ways.

Social Awareness is the ability to recognize, or empathize with, the feelings and thoughts of others, and understand and be able to anticipate their motivations, concerns and patterns.

Relationship Management is the ability to work well with others, effectively manage conflict, communicate and lead.,

People with a high degree of emotional intelligence have an increased consciousness of their own emotions and are better equipped to regulate their emotions. They also have an increased empathy, or understanding of how others around them feel. This helps them to be more adept at managing relationships. They work well in teams and are often successful in social and business settings.

Conversely, people who have a low emotional intelligence are often less conscious of how their own feelings are affecting their behavior. They are more prone to impulsive action, and suffer from lack of success in reklationship, social and business settings.

In his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ author Daniel Goleman points out that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is independent from the more commonly known IQ and that EQ + IQ is often a better predictor of individual success than IQ alone.

Goleman points out that the origins of emotions in the human brain are in the limbic system, in the amygdala, whereas the prefrontal cortex, the upper area of the brain behind the forehead, is primarily responsible for IQ.

Because of the way the different functions of the brain have evolved, our primitive emotional responses tend to be quicker and more gratifying whereas our more logical and rational thoughts need more time to develop. This helps to explain why we sometimes act impulsively, then think better of it later.

Goleman argues that, unlike IQ, we can improve out EQ by paying attention to and increasing our awareness of our own emotional patterns and those of others. It is important to do this without judgment or condemning ourselves or others. Instead, it is by developing a more objective awareness of our strengths and weaknesses that we are better equipped to work with them.

Use The Clean Up Rule

Everybody Gets to Clean Up Their Own Messes.

The Clean Up Rule says that everybody gets to clean up their own messes. It is a principal that encourages us to take responsibility for dealing with our own messes and leave other people to clean up theirs.

There is a tendency in relationships with a personality disordered individual for the Non-PD to begin enabling the the neglectful or abusive behavior. This enabling often takes the form of the Non-PD going out of their way to compensate or try to cover up for the shortcomings of the personality disordered individual.

The incentives for doing this may be:

  • In an attempt to demonstrate to a challenging person that the Non-PD really does care for them.
  • Out of a sense of fear that abusive behavior may be triggered or escalated.
  • Out of a desire to restore a sense of normalcy to the home environment.
  • Out of embarrassment or shame at what others might think if they witness chaos.

The problems caused by this kind of cleaning up after a person who habitually creates a chaotic environment can be:

  • Loss of self esteem for the person who does the cleaning up after another.
  • Non verbal communication that the chaos created is acceptable to the victim and/or will not be challenged and therefore is "OK".
  • Creation of an environment where the chaos creator is encouraged to escalate their behavior.
  • Denial of the opportunity for the chaos creator to learn from their own mistakes.
  • Communication to other dependent bystanders - siblings and children - that there is no hope of things improving.

Therefore cleaning up someone else's messes is typically a short term gain for a long term loss. It is a healthier alternative to use the clean up rule wherever possible. Everybody Gets to Clean Up Their Own Messes.

Examples:

  • A teenager gets fined for vandalism and his parents refuse to cover the cost but require him to get a job and pay it off.
  • A woman has an affair and her husband refuses to blame himself for it.
  • A man destroys objects in the home and his wife leaves and refuses to return until the mess is cleaned up.
  • A parent begins swearing at her adult children over Christmas Dinner and one decides to leave and refuses to bear the responsibility for "ruining the event for everybody"

The 51% Rule

The 51% Rule says that we need to consider our own needs just a little more than those of others in order to be able to help them effectively.

When we look at all the challenges associated with living with a person who suffers from a personality disorder, things can often seem frustrating and overwhelming. Sometimes, the mountain seems so high, all we can do is look at it. This tends to immobilize us. We become weaker and more frustrated. We become no help to the loved ones we care about or, just as importantly, to ourselves. Nothing gets done and nothing gets any better.

When we feel or perceive things in that way it's hard to make the decisions we need to make or to trust in the decisions we have already made.

There is a way that has worked for me in reducing the size of the mountain. Instead of looking at the relationship as a black and white issue (that either they have to get completely healthy or I have to gain complete control over them) I have found that all I need to do is get just a little more than halfway to be on healthy ground.

If you think of it in terms of weights and measurements, if one pound is "total healthy living" and zero pounds is "in the gutter", then all I have to achieve is 8 ounces plus one to be on healthy ground (not the whole pound).

Or, in sporting terms, if the zero yard line is being "in the gutter" and the hundred yard line is "narcissistic", then all I have to do is be at least one foot across the 50 yard line to be on healthy ground.

For me, it just made the journey ahead seem not so long.

This isn't being selfish - it's just being sensible. I'm not saying "give yourself 100% and the other person gets nothing." That's not a healthy place.

And I'm not saying "give the other person 100% and leave yourself nothing." We Non's sometimes make the mistake of thinking we have to meet all the other person's needs before we can begin to think about ourselves. If you are in a relationship with someone who gives back, perhaps you don't have to worry about taking care of yourself, because the other person will also be watching out for you. But if the other person has a personality disorder, their focus can shift to just themselves for blocks of time and they aren't always going to be consistent. You can't just rely on them to look out for your needs.

In other words, all we have to do is care for ourselves first - at least one ounce more than anyone else. That will put us on firmer, and less frustrating ground. Then, when we know that we will be ok, we can maybe give those that want it a helping hand as well.

Contributed by Gary Walters

The 50% Rule

The 50% Rule says that we are responsible for 50% of the things that happen in any relationship we share with a person who suffers from a personality disorder.

That is not to say that we are responsible for anyone else's behavior, words or actions. We didn't cause the personality disorders in our loved ones, their behavior or their destructive tendencies. Those are caused by a combination of their own mental illness and their own poor choices.

But in all our relationships, we are responsible for 50% of what happens. We're responsible for our own choices, our own behaviors, our own words and our own actions.

And that is why it is a good idea to stop and think about our own behavior whenever our focus tends to be predominantly on the other person's behavior.

We are responsible for 100% of the choices that wemake, the things we say and the things we do.

The 3 C's Rule

"I didn't Cause it,

I can't Cure it,

 and...

I can't Control it."

At first, these ideas may seem limiting to a Non-Personality-Disordered individual in terms of reducing how much power they have to change the personality-disordered individual in their lives, these rules are far more liberating to a Non-PD who remembers them and discovers that they are no longer responsible for another person - but only really responsible for their own actions and behaviors.

The 3 C's Rule is sometimes referred to as the "Non Mantra"

I didn't cause it.

It's very common for victims of abuse to blame themselves for the abuse. they may begin to ask themselves "what did I do to make him/her so angry?" It's only natural to assume that everything has a cause and effect and therefore if someone is treating you badly perhaps you did something to deserve it.

However, people who suffer from personality disorders often exhibit dissociation - where their perception of what is real and what is not is skewed by their swings in mood.

Additionally, people who abuse others often look for justification for their behavior and a convenient excuse can usually be found in the imperfections of the hapless victim.

Here at Out of the FOG, we believe everyone is responsible for their own actions and must be held accountable for their own behavior. This includes people who suffer form personality disorders and those who don't. This means that nobody is responsible for causing the behavior of another.

I can't cure it.

It is quite common for Non-PD's to try to look for a cure or a treatment for their loved-ones to try to restore their behavior back to a healthy level. While this is a noble thought, it denies what scientific evidence teaches us, that no known cure exists for personality disorders at this time.

Thus searches for a cure typically lead to frustration on the part of the non-PD, who sets themselves up for disappointment, and for the personality disordered individual, who often feels irritated and invalidated by the approaches taken by their well-meaning but ill-advised loved-ones.

I can't control it.

While no outright cures exist, some treatment programs do exist to assist personality disordered individuals to reach a better quality of life for themselves and their loved-ones.

However, it is also common for people who suffer from personality disordered to avoid treatment or to refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem.

In these situations, it is common for family members and spouses and partners to try to cajole them into treatment programs and to try to make it easier for them to be successful in these programs.

However, successful treatment almost always requires the full commitment of the person who suffers from the personality disorder and efforts by others close to them to artificially produce these kind of results often create disillusionment for the Non-PD.