Two-Sides of the Same Mirror: Reflections on Healing a Relationship with a partner suffering from Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Two of the most difficult issues to work with are that of two personality extremes that are on the same continuum, those that have been referred to as borderlines and narcissists and those who are in relationship with them. Obviously I do not treat these people for those conditions but sometimes they are referred to me by their mental health care professionals. I have heard from a number of therapists, that they choose to not work with individuals who acknowledge themselves as having these disorders. They feel that the odds of recovery and healing from these conditions are too low. My point of interest isn’t in helping those who are unfortunately plagued with these issues but with the people that are in relationship with them.
Let’s explore the analogy of the mirror or looking glass. The narcissist is self-obsessed and fixated on their self-image. When a narcissist looks into the mirror, they observe a grandiose sense of themselves, seeing an exaggerated view of their positive attributes, while burying their many negative emotions. When they do this, they often seek out a romantic relationship with someone who exhibits characteristics of ideals they wish they had or once had. By projecting this ideal version of themselves onto another they can never fully accept the other’s (or their own) authentic self. A narcissist expects others to treat them as the God/Goddess and/or Queen/King and require unrelenting adoration. While pre-occupied with an all consuming sense of self-regard, the narcissist exhibits little if any concern for others feelings, concerns or desires.
In a relationship with someone with borderline personality, you will come to understand that they project their uncomfortable feelings onto you. They feel uncomfortable realizing their own negative and dark aspects. This defense mechanism puts some distance between the borderline personality and their own unresolved wounds. People in relationship with borderlines are always made to feel that they are the source of the borderline’s anger, rage, desperation, depression, angst, you name it. They want you to feel that he/she is your Universe to the point of enmeshment. “If only you would meet my unmet needs”, is a recurring theme.
The way these two show up is strikingly similar- lying, deceiving, having lack of concern for others, and manipulating are all par for the course, though they may vary in their degree of expression. Underlying all these negative behaviors is the need for control. They can be verbally and emotionally abusive. They don’t easily accept blame for what is wrong in the relationship. They can exhibit a great deal of self-containment of their dark sides at the beginning of a relationship or when the relationship has the potential of ending. Both true narcissistic and borderline personality disorders are difficult and serious conditions that are only treated thoroughly by experts who specialize in them. But, you can help yourself effectively with EFT if you find yourself in relationship with someone who has either of these conditions. This is the part where you turn the mirror on yourself. Many say that it is highly unlikely that these types will seek professional assistance, so it behooves you to seek help for yourself.
While there are both similarities and differences between the two, EFT’s use for someone in a relationship with a borderline or narcissist are almost identical. The first part of healing is the acknowledgement that you can’t control another person nor can you really and truly change for them. If you have attracted someone with these disorders it is likely that you were conditioned to accept their behavior. The most likely place where received this conditioning was from one or both of your parents. Your own unresolved pain and anguish from having experienced these behaviors as a child will need to be released through EFT to end the pattern that you now experience as an adult.
Here are some other ways to use EFT in this situation:
1. Make clear concise statements about your feelings and why you can’t do as they wish. Make a list of your fears surrounding your ability to do this and fears of their response to your statements. Notice and then tap on where you feel this contraction, anxiety, or fear in your body.
2. Confusion can result from months or years of being told that you are to blame. Tap on any guilt, shame, and/or embarrassment that you have done wrong and made mistakes.
3. Decide what you can’t live with anymore. Yes, we are talking about boundaries here and the only way these work is if you prepare an action plan and are prepared to back them up if need be. Use EFT to release fears about communicating your limits.
4. Tap on anything that stands in your way of believing that you deserve more than you are getting in the relationship. It’s likely that your self-esteem has suffered and using EFT to build yourself back up is important.
If you are someone who suspects that you may be suffering from either of these two disorders, please seek assistance and support from a qualified and licensed mental health care counselor or provider. If you are an EFT coach working with individuals who are suffering from relationship burnout from being in such a relationship that is affected by these conditions, please seek the tapping training through a qualified EFT instructor and EFT training that can assist you with working these critical issues.