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Borderlines: How it Feels to be a COB, SOB or POB

Borderlines: How it Feels to be a COB, SOB or POB

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For those who have never heard the term, it is difficult to describe Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in a few sentences—but we will make an attempt in this article. COBs (Children of Borderlines), SOBs (Spouses/Siblings of Borderlines) and POBs (Parents of Borderlines) have a very hard time living with BPDs, and we will try to give some pointers for those who are in this very difficult situation.

Suffice it to say that Borderlines are aggressive, envious, self-confident, narcissistic, demanding, temperamental and seductive. In order to be constantly at the center of everyone's attention, they take on a variety of roles, such as helpless victim, raging tyrant or saintly psychic. They are also pathological liars. Borderline children, even at the age of six or seven, will threaten to call the police with made-up stories of abuse in order to terrify their parents. Borderlines never see faults in themselves; their victims, who feel alone and despised, are always to blame.

Borderlines turn their homes into hot-beds of intrigue by turning family members against each other, excommunicating and exiling those who don't submit to their demands and training their "loyalists" to spy on or harm the target of their intense hatred. Suspicious and untrusting, they explode with accusations of betrayal and abandonment over the most innocent act, like hanging a towel in the wrong place or splashing a few drops of water on the floor after washing the hands. The degree of drama which they stir up keeps others in a state of constant anxiety, since it is impossible to know what will trigger the next violent blow-up.

In between these explosions, Borderlines can seem perfectly normal, gracious and loving. Victims feel confused, wondering how Borderlines can be so warm and devoted to those who worship them as paragons of perfection, while treating them with vicious scorn. Those who even hint at some wrongdoing on their part, including therapists or rabbis, are met with lies, denial or threats to destroy them professionally.

One Borderline bought a new set of expensive furniture, while her seventeen year old daughter went to school with holes in her shoes; for her there was no money. A neighbor, a single mother of four, lives in abject poverty and suffers from severe fibromyalgia, while her millionaire mother goes on expensive cruises and gives large donations to charities that honor her with fancy dinners. One subjugated and brow-beaten husband is ordered to do the laundry, the dishes and to take her parents shopping and to the doctor, while his parents who live only a block away are barred from entering their home and cannot even see their own grandchildren.

Borderlines hold a kind oft hypnotic sway over others. Family members are often unusually devoted, thinking about them 24/7. The consequences of not pleasing them can be enormous as they may prevent you from seeing your own children or grandchildren, may make sure that no employer will ever hire you, may bar you from attending family events or demonize you to such an extent that you begin to believe that you truly are evil or insane. Because Borderlines can be so generous and loving, family members are happy for the good times and pride themselves on bearing the bad ones by numbing themselves emotionally. But this numbness comes at a price; they become addicted to the adrenaline rush that accompanies a violent episode. It is similar to the scary "thrill" of being in a speeding race car or a roller coaster. Having lived with unpredictability and instability, victims do not know what it means to be tranquil, loved or stable. Being with nice, normal people seems boring. Tranquility feels somehow abnormal or phony.

Recovery from a toxic relationship requires learning three main skill:

1) Do not take responsibility for their moods: You might need to go to Al-Anon meetings in order to learn how to stop feeling guilty for their moods, addictions or explosions. To regain control over you, they will accuse you of abandonment and betrayal, tell you how lonely and depressed they are or threaten to harm you if you do not take care of them. Be compassionate but do not allow yourself to become enslaved.

2) Limit contact: Try to live far away. Limit phone calls and visits. Put down the phone when they are nasty. Give up trying to please, as this is not possible. Do not try to get through to them; they will insist that they have never been wrong. Keep things at a "Nosh" level—nice and shallow. Try to keep distant. Be vague with your answers and tell them how amazingly wonderful they are. Do not expect trust or predictability. This is a house of cards which will fall over at the slightest wind.

3) Make your own decisions: Avoid sharing all personal information, as they will find fault with every decision you make. Be proud of every act of independence and health. Think well of yourself! And learn to be happy with yourself and your life to whatever extent possible.


Dr. Miriam Adahan is a psychologist, therapist, prolific author and founder of EMETT (“Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah”)—a network of self-help groups dedicated to personal growth. Click here to visit her website.
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Discussion (49)
February 28, 2013
Thank you all for your comments
I greatly appreciate the comments of those who cared enough to write. Mental illlness is a huge problem in our community, a reality which many would prefer to deny. It is categorically impossible to help a person who does not want help. But for those who want to become self-disciplined and self-aware, health is always possible. I went through a long journey myself to discover the true meaning of health.
Miriam Adahan
Jerusalem
February 25, 2013
to those who know about borderlines, and those who don't
I have a friend who confides often to me that she deeply wishes that Jewish communities would expose this horrific disorder of a mental illness. Too many naive, decent innocent people have been tortured by these emotional thieves, and yet close-knit Jewish communities have people who are borderlines, taking advantage of and emotionally torturing those who they can dig their mental claws into. It is time to tell people what borderlines are, and what is narcissistic personality disorder. People have suffered too long with this issue, it has many manifestations within our communities. It is long past time to educate people as to why certain things are happening to them and they do not know why it happens. Mental health comes in many forms. Obviously, this is one of the more insidious kinds of mental conditions. I agree with Dr. Amy Austin, and thank her for bring this out in the open, with her entire article
Anonymous
Brooklyn
May 3, 2012
CAN ONE HELP A BORDERLINE
I'm so sorry for your pain! Support groups are definitely needed. True Borderlines are chronically angry, immature and extremely un-selfaware. They resist growth and blame others. So dragging them to therapy or trying to get through is useless. However, if the person has a mild case, then CBT is helpful.
Miiram Adahan
Jerusalem
May 2, 2012
Looking for help
I am married to a man who is seemingly extremely BPD. We both see a therapist. He is aware of his condition, has also been diagnosed as Bi-polar, manic depressive, ADHD since he was a child, he is now 44. He is very open to learning all he can, however, I am trying to find some kind of support group as I live in a small community and there is no groups here. I feel that I really could use a connection with others that experience the same things I do and have good advice. Please respond if possible!!
Michelle Watson
Dodge City, KS
September 7, 2011
no need
no need for me to read them all. I just bless and thank anyone who tries to help educate the public to help understand Borderlines.
They come in varieties. Each has his/her own way of covering up what they are. Some are very tricky and you cannot tell easily, they are charming and wonderful. However, when you connect with them, such as marrying into their family, they become territorial and then they spend time setting up ways to humiliate you or dissapoint you.
May we be educated and help others be educated on this. Many people are not aware of it and are suffering, we have to help!
Anonymous
Bklyn, New York
November 27, 2009
Borderlines: I won't give up even if you say to...
I deeply resent this article. I am a very, very mild borderline. I have been married for 10 years, and happily. I have a son and I have a daughter who has come to live with my sister. I would have you note about my daughter that out of conscience I gave her up. Compare this please with her step mother who bit her and slapped her. Now, she lives with my sister.
. As well, I attend Abraham Lowe's Recovery every Thursday and will until I am in my grave. This is MY program for my distrder. Secondly, I will tell you that recently, I fell under the manipulation of a severe, almost sociopathic borderline who opened my eyes to the horrors of the borderline personality. I attend therapy every two weeks and I take lithium for mood swings.

The core personality still loves mom and dad. Oh, and yes, I still relate to family. I am less empty these days, and also....I sit up nights and formulate new slogans such as "respect don't project." I sit and think of ways to fix problems that I do have
Catherine E.S. Horn
Jackson, MS/USA
July 1, 2009
Re: Yes, there is help
I suffer from bpd and have been doing a type of therapy called `dialectical behavioral therapy' - or `dbt'. It is pretty new, but there are dbt therapists almost everywhere now. It is the ONLY therapy that has worked for me. It's actually more skills-based, and a bit based on Eastern Philosophies and Wisdom. It's not traditional therapy at all. It's very pro-active, and has changed my life and those around me. Do some research on it; it takes a while to start making changes, but when they start happening they are remarkable.
Anonymous
seattle, wa
May 26, 2009
cure?!
I am so excited to hear all this stuff that puts into words all the confusing events and stories. Is there any hope of saving a marriage where one of the spouses is BPD? Can BPD be "fixed"?

Thanks!
Jahnavi
college park, md
May 4, 2009
spousal BPD
In reading this article, it has answered many questions about my spouse. How does one deal with a spouse who has controlled the family for 25 years? Because of this disorder it has caused the innocent spouse to make very bad financial and social decisions out of fear. The innocent spouse cannot have friends over or talk on the phone while the BPD spouse is at home. The smallest word, act, or incident can spark and outrage that can last for weeks. Yet at the same time, the BPD spouse is loving and caring of those outside of the family home. What can be done here to improve anything?
Ruth
USA
April 13, 2009
Cunning and baffling...
Bobbi,
Since I am an addiction specialist, I used the terms from the Big Book. The addict is addicted to substances and other cross addictions. The BPD is addicted to chaos and for family members living in the muck, it then becomes a family disease causing much dis-ease and pain. All parts of the whole of the family system need recovery. The connection is like what Freud talks about, the id which I link to the addict self. It's the, "I want it and I want it now" syndrome. The superego or our sense of morality is telling us, "No, you can't have that now." (or never) The ego is our reality that links the two and helps us live in this world. Kind of like the Yetzer Hara and the Yetzer tov. Both the G-dly soul and the animal soul are doing their jobs and we are given free will to make hopefully healthy decisions. Freud did have Jewish grandparents after all! (:
Just put one foot in front of the other, go to meetings, 90 in 90, work steps, and get a sponsor. Many positives going your way.
Dr. Amy Austin
La Quinta, CA/USA
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Miriam AdahanDr. Miriam Adahan is a psychologist, therapist, prolific author and founder of EMETT ("Emotional Maturity Established Through Torah") ­- a network of self-help groups dedicated to personal growth. She lives in Jerusalem, and has recently written on the struggles of life in the terror-beset land. Click here to visit her website.
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