About a year and a half ago I made friends with an individual who is a recovered BPD and I have sat down with her for hours and hours so that I could better understand BPD. She initially told me that people with BPD were not intentionally manipulative. I had a hard time believing it at first since so many of their actions are so destructive. The more I came to understand BPD and how it works, I have realized that I agree. I don’t think people with BPD realize how manipulative they seem. I’m convinced that they aren’t as malicious as they seem. I don’t think this is true in all situations, I have low tolerance for many of their behaviors in custody matters, for example. But to really get to the heart of your question. I think they are manipulative for a couple of main reasons.
- They are in a state of constant distress and desperation and they are acting out of distress and desperation. Their emotional distress is so high that they are in a state of semi dissociation and semi shock. I don’t think they are connected to the present. Everything they do is tied into past trauma and an intense state of fear. Think of a time in your life when you were in the most distress, that’s nearly their everyday experience. They don’t realize how bad it really is because it’s their ‘normal’; they are basically used to it.
- They lack true problem solving skills. People with BPD have never learned to properly cope, resolve conflict, problem solve, etc. When they were young, their needs got met through manipulative tactics. Bottom line, when they were young, if they didn’t manipulate, they didn’t get any of their needs met. So it seems to have become a bit of a survival response. Perhaps one of the biggest false assumptions about BPD is that they know how to effectively problem solve and get their needs met and still choose to be manipulative. If they knew another way, I believe they would use it. In turn, their actions appear malicious.
I also think it’s interesting to note that the more research that is done on BPD, the more there is an obvious correlation to childhood trauma. Part of the diagnosis for BPD is dissociative symptoms which can meet that there is a period of time when the BPD is checked out mentally. They can experiencing gaps in memory, missing time, loss of control, feeling like they observing themselves from outside of their body, etc. It’s during these times when they are going to be the most aggressive, violent, malicious and manipulative. Some will ask if they realize they are being manipulative and for the most part, I would say no.
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