“Gas lighting” is just a symptom. It signals there may be a disorder which, once identified, may be treated.
If you read this far you might be wondering about a name or diagnosis that can dissolve the ‘problem’ – and that curiosity is healthy. It suggests that you are interested in taking control – even if it is frightening to even entertain a thought that maybe you or a dearly adored loved one is afflicted. There are tips to help, and resources to guide. Read on.
It began when your son married a woman who refused to permit him to call you. (If so, click here) or maybe your brother now insists he can’t talk to you or even mention your name to his new wife because she is jealous, private or painfully shy. In fact, that is the reason offered for why they broke their plans on New Year’s Eve or couldn’t make it – at the last minute, to the family gathering.
It began as little hints that became clear only in retrospect. (Click here for additional information). As you review the pattern, you realize that the first step was: isolation and alienation of family members who asked too many questions.
Point: Until family members learn how to effectively help the afflicted member, they typically tread very quietly and carefully around that person, don’t seek clarification, insist that nobody ‘rock the boat’ and basically behave as if they are prisoners in their own home.
In your case, you realize that, when invited to your home, they showed up late – more and more often until someone from that family was elected to ultimately call to cancel visits altogether. When asked about what happened, the elected representative offered what you now recognize to have been lies. (Click here for tools that may help).
For the next few years, that part of the family made only ‘social obligation’ appearances, then fabricated reasons why they couldn’t get together with the rest of the family at all. They may have even gone out of their way to fill time slots during upcoming holidays or anticipated birthday or graduation events. They might have even offered to work special holidays or overtime, just so their excuse would be valid. Click here if you were no longer considered ‘nuclear family’ because you refused to walk on eggshells.
Your situation may have progressed to their refusal to accept phone calls, or they may ignore emails. You may believe they hope you just stop trying. You love them unconditionally, and may begin to think you did something wrong. Unfortunately, without the proper perspective and tools, if you reach out to try to find out what you did, the effort might not be fruitful. You might even be faulted for reaching out too much.
Perhaps this was the pattern, or perhaps you are experiencing pieces of it now. Do you believe you might be in the middle of this nightmare? If so, help is available. You have already taken the first step: recognition and questioning . . . read on. (Click here for advice on how to help a person suffering with this disorder).
This unfortunate scenario is a result of: Borderline Personality Disorder. Almost every family I know has at least one person with an extreme personality issue either in this or a related category and, while we all experience occasional traits here and there, those afflicted with this particular disorder successfully surround themselves with enablers who sadly – even if well meaning, often become consumed by the toxicity. The men in the lives of women suffering with BPD are traumatized and abused (as was indicated by a previous link).
Again, while we all relate to aspects of the villain/ victim/ savior scenario a few scattered times throughout our lifetime, people who suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) function within this scenario as a daily routine. It defines them and they default to defining others by it. They see the world through this distorted lens 100% of the time.
To those afflicted with BPD, every person must be placed in the role of either villain or savior while the one with BPD remains ‘victim’ – with an occasional redefinition to the ‘savior’ role, when absolutely necessary; for example, in the case wherein an enabler becomes a ‘victim’ during times of illness, accident or job-related difficulties, the person with BPD can become the ‘savior’. While in this role, however, as ‘savior’ of the newly assigned ‘victim’ the person with BPD finds a way to reclaim the role of victim to those with whom communication is secretly maintained. The person with BPD often states how difficult it is to care for or about the one recovering from injury or illness. After all, the enabler was supposed to be the savior. Now what?
Clues that help you figure out if you or other family members or friends are enabling the behavior: enablers are the people who ‘excuse’ the one who has this disorder with labels such as ‘private’ and ‘shy’ – defending the ill person’s continued efforts to isolate, alienate, ignore & offend others.
Toxicity trumps all. If an enabler becomes injured or ill, that person has an interesting set of new circumstances to deal with. Click here to read more about that dynamic. It is not uncommon for the enabler to become emotionally exhausted. If this happens, the enabler might refer to outside sources as ‘the villain’ so that the enabler and the one suffering with BPD can ‘unite’ against the common enemy as joint victims/ saviors.
The good news is that BPD can be successfully addressed, treated and maybe even cured by a skilled mental health professional, but only if the ‘patient’ is willing, and has LOTS of family support and cooperation to set healthy boundaries. The supportive people learn how to not give in to unreasonable demands or tantrums by providing a gentle, consistent, reassuring and firm environment. Family members can indeed help facilitate healing if they are willing and able to learn to accurately and non-judgmentally reflect the patient back to him/her self.
The sad news is, unless there are family members who are seriously dedicated to helping to heal this disorder, it can become a quicksand of toxicity capable of driving other family members to the brink of nervous breakdown.
Q: How do you know when you need to seek help so you can heal?
A: When it takes over aspects of your life, interfering with family gatherings etc., you need to pay close attention.
As indicated above, we ALL have bits & pieces of many personality traits. The issue becomes apparent when isolation, alienation, teaming up, pitting against, splitting apart, turning others against, etc., are accompanied by that toxic villain/ victim/ savior (“us against them” or “me against you”) scenario, and when it is so deeply experienced that it breaks relationships apart.
Read more about how to help yourself and loved ones so that you can reclaim joy, comfort, peace and love:
Resource for help with BPD
How can I stop enabling this behavior?
Old Tapes That Need Review
Is Your Adult Child Borderline?
Here’s to your health, happiness, healing and balance of your mind, body and spirit.