Monday, August 23, 2010

Whose Eggshells?

I've written so many different descriptions of Girl in Need of a Tourniquet as I prepared the manuscript and worked on publicity for the book.  I just ran across one that might be useful in sparking conversation about the dynamics between borderlines and our partners or familial attachment figures:
My mission in this memoir is to convey the strangeness and intensity of borderline personality while at the same time retracing the flawless - if dysfunctional - logic of borderline cognition.  The borderline doesn't like walking on eggshells any more than her partner or family members do.  She would never have intentionally strewn them on the floor.  She often thinks you (her partner, her mother) put them there!  You may both be putting sharp broken things in the path of your relationship without meaning to, without knowing you're doing it.  
This description isn't meant to shift blame from the borderline to the partner, but rather to foreground the fact that the touchiness captured so well by the image of walking on eggshells is produced by an interpersonal dynamic, not from the borderline in a vacuum, and, most importantly, that this interpersonal dynamic can be reconfigured through the acquisition of improved skills in communication and emotion regulation.  This is a commonplace view in imago therapy and family systems therapy, but it rarely comes up in conversations about borderlines. 

Within two months of weekly therapy sessions with a couples counselor who uses imago therapy strategies, my partner and I saw dramatic improvement in our relationship, and we still use the concepts, language, and tactics we learned there on a daily basis. 

Plus we listen to a lot of Pema Chodron.  

Just sayin' . . .


  1. I'm really excited about the new perspective you're putting out there. I have always felt like saying "stop walking on eggshells" was a stab in the gut. Thank you.

  2. Interesting perspective. Isn't it true that Imago therapy can only be effective when both people are actively doing the work? If so, how did you get there Lisa? Can you share a bit about that with us here? And do you think that the eggshells, so to speak, are often shared and/or on both sides?

  3. ooh--i too find chodron and kabat-zinn helpful. i learned a great deal from K Van Gelder as well. Lisa, do you find yourself attracted to those who may exhibit/have narcissistic traits. as someone with bpd traits i find myself attracted to who my therapists and i believe to possess such narcissistic traits. intellectually, professionally, name it--i live to please and to bolster others' egos in ways that can involve little self respect. i am embarrassed to admit i have been a bit clueless and since i have been in academia and have dated women, i never really saw it as a "problem" of sorts. enough about me, but i have to work really hard to love *healthy* people and i have been lucky to have some amazing mentors but whoa, i have tangoed with some people (mostly women) where there was such a poor match. i am more on the neurotic end of the spectrum and it is good to want to please/give but when with those on the narcissistic end of the spectrum--i can never please enough and/or they can never be kind, accepting, validating enough. i am now leaving my 20s and it took me a long time to realize something that was a bit obvious to many of my friends who patiently went along with seeing me absolutely suffer/falter in certain contexts only to thrive and flourish in others. i do not blame the "narcissist" or the person with those traits, but i found it was white, women who had led a privileged life with a sense of entitlement that are not such a good match for me and i imagine i am not a good match for them. hope this makes sense and apologies for any lack of clarity or overt self-involvement. do you believe there is a mismatch in terms of those with bpd traits and others? i steer towards healthy and all is smooth, but even sexually i find myself veering towards a quick fix in serving/fulfilling others with no needs of my own. i am not too worried, my professional life i have had to learn to "protect myself" especially as i leave my 20s when it is no longer so cute, endearing or such.

  4. Am I drawn to narcissists? Umm. Yes! It's uncanny. And very consistent. Welcome to the conversation, anonymous - I'm happy to find yet another high functioning lesbian/queer academic borderline out there. There are so many of us. Wonder what to make of that ;-)

  5. Hey L.-- many belated congrats-- mine is in the mail...xxxxj

  6. I was just speaking to my therapist today about the whole eggshells thing and became quite angry about the fact that people who have relationships with people with BPD are dancing a dance. I became quite infuriated actually because I believe that I have walked on eggshells and danced the dance with these people just as much as they may claim to be doing with me. And don't we all do that to some extent in all relationships? But because we have been diagnosed with BPD others seem to get to forgo any role they may play by their dysfunctionalities. I agree with JJ about the phrase 'stop walking on eggshells' as being like a stab in the gut, very unhelpful to recovery for the person with BPD and ammunition to be used against you by those in a relationship with you that have their own issues that contribute to relationship problems (from personal experience, especially my parents). I like the insight that your perspective provides. It is not a shifting of blame but maybe acknowldeging that we all play a part in each other's lives as we interact. It seems to me that as I have admited I have a problem and it has been labelled as BPD that any issues within interpersonal dynamics are mine to own and slove. Urghhh...