Moments of Clarity


Moments of Clarity - Spontaneous periods when a person with a Personality Disorder becomes more objective and tries to make amends.

A Hint of Growth

Moments of Clarity are spontaneous, temporary periods when a person with a Personality Disorder is able to see beyond their own world view and can, for a brief period, understand, acknowledge, articulate and begin to make amends for their dysfunctional behavior.

What it Looks Like

  • A partner or spouse apologizes for their behavior and agrees to attend couples therapy.
  • A husband acknowledges he knows an infidelity accusation he has held over a spouse for years wasn’t really true.
  • Someone returns a stolen item to its rightful owner.
  • A mother confesses to her children that past episodes of abuse were not their fault and were not OK.

How it feels

Moments of Clarity can be both extremely gratifying and somewhat frightening. On the one hand, a Non may be hearing for the first time in a long time the very healing words they have longed to hear: “I’m sorry”, “You are a good husband and father”, “You are a good daughter”, “I’m proud of you”, “You didn’t deserve that”, “It’s not your fault”, “You are important to me”.

On the other hand, this sudden, unexpected change of heart, even in the right direction, can be disconcerting for a Non. There is inevitably the question of whether the change is genuine and permanent, and also whether there are strings attached.

A Moment of Clarity is a very emotional time for both the Personality Disordered person and the Non. Some changes or promises turn out to be just Hoovers. Others may be honest, whole-hearted and sincere attempts at Recovery. It is likely at such a time of emotional transition that neither the Personality-Disordered individual nor the Non is completely sure whether there will be follow-through on the intentions of change.

Therefore, sudden moments of clarity, while a welcome respite from cycles of abuse, are probably not the best time to make big life-changing decisions or commitments such as moving in, getting married, getting pregnant or opening joint accounts. It is probably best to maintain a supportive, yet safe environment and to take a wait-and-see approach for six months to a year. Most Hoovers will not last that long.

The other important aspect is to be careful about getting your hopes up too high. Personality Disorders are true mental health conditions over which the sufferer does not have complete control. Many Moments of Clarity are honest and sincere attempts by an individual attempting to reach a better place. However, it is very difficult to recover from a Personality Disorder and many do not make it. If we as Nons pin all our hopes on their ability to climb the mountain range of recovery, we may be asking them to be somebody they can't be, and sow the seeds of future regret, disillusionment and resentment.

How to Cope

If you find yourself in a Moment of Clarity with a Personality Disordered loved-one, embrace it for what it is. If at all possible, accept those precious moments of validation and apology with gratitude and humility and without gloating. Then remember who you are. You are not defined by how a person who suffers from a Personality Disorder sees you or describes you. You are you. When you reach a place where you can say “if he/she recovers - that’s OK and if they don’t - that’s OK too”, you will be in the best position to offer support and validation, if appropriate, to your loved one.

What NOT To Do

  • Don’t jump to conclusions or try to predict future behavior based on current behavior.
  • Don’t make any big decisions or commitments.
  • Don’t make unrealistic demands for permanent change.

What TO Do

  • Try to maintain a complete picture of the whole relationship, acknowledging both the good and the bad elements.
  • Remember that a Personality Disorder is a medical condition.
  • Maintain your boundaries.
  • Enjoy the moment.
  • Keep doing the healthy things that are good for you.