Groups for Borderline Personality Disorder
by Patty Fleener M.S.W.
I want to address folks with the borderline personality disorder
(BPD) and their families. My message is to be very careful when you
enter an online or offline support group. That may be a bulletin
board, email support group, a meeting where people meet face to face,
There are many different reasons that people seek out these
"groups." Some go just to listen to other people so they
won't feel so alone. Some go as a place just to vent. Some come with a
real desire to grow and change their lives. Some are there just to
please someone in their life but don't want to be there. There are
many other reasons people seek these groups out.
I think the mistake we make many times is assuming that everyone is
there to promote positive changes for themselves and learn new and
different ways to live their lives. We assume they are desiring inner
growth and healing. However as many of us have found out, this is not
the case. Many times the people themselves are not even aware of why
they are there.
I get letters from people all the time complaining how their
"group" is making them miserable instead of helping them.
People are saying horrible things to them, getting angry at them, etc.
In the family groups I hear this all the time. "All they do is
complain about their partners. No one ever talks about themselves or
looks within themselves."
Whether you have the BPD or are a family member, you must remember
that when you go into that group, you and most everyone in there came
in with your unhealthy behavior. Only you haven't been into recovery
very long so you are not even aware of which behaviors of yours is
healthy and which is unhealthy.
I had to learn this myself when I joined my first BPD email support
group. I had no idea which of my behaviors was ill and which wasn't.
Honest! However I learned about myself from listening to other people
and relating to many of the things other people said. I couldn't even
"go off" on people in the group or we would be penalized.
That rule in and of itself helped to teach me how to communicate with
others without going off on them. I simply couldn't flame people!
Now if you are a family member and you come into your new group with
the old unhealthy behavior of avoiding thinking and talking about
yourself and only talk and complain about your partner, you are likely
to present yourself this way to the group initially. Correct? This is
the only way you know how to cope in your situation thus far. You are
doing the best you can with the tools you have and you are not aware
there is another and possibly better and healthier way to live.
Chances are very high that most people in the family group are going
to present themselves in the same way - the only way they know to
cope. However this behavior didn't work and doesn't work because if it
did you and they wouldn't be in the support group to begin with,
Some families talk as if their happiness solely depends upon their
partner's behavior. They believe that their happiness is outside of
themselves and in someone else's hands.
Anytime you feel that happiness, peace, harmony, etc. are somewhere
outside of you, you are on the wrong track and you will not find them
there. They simply are not there to be found.
Happiness has always been inside of you and you have always had the
opportunity to grab on to it but weren't aware of this and if you
were, you didn't know how to bring it out.
Just like a partner of an alcoholic may say "when Marsha stops
her drinking, then I will be happy and my married life will be
smooth." So you try to do everything you can to get Marsha to
stop drinking because this is the "key" to your happiness.
Chances are more if Marsha got sober you wouldn't know what to do with
yourself or how to act.
So if you are a family member and you are in a group where all
everyone does is complain about their partner, you are only allowing
yourself to feel a little bit better so that you can stay in this
unhealthy and unhappy situation. Plus you are not learning that your
present coping skills are not healthy.
If you were in an unhappy marriage without sex and got into an affair
with great sex, your marriage could possibly last longer maybe? But
are you really working out the issues?
I encourage you to seek out groups where there are enough people in
there that are far enough into recovery so that they can teach you
Families - get your focus off of your partners and on to yourselves.
What do you want out of life? What brought you into this relationship?
What attracted you to this partner? What needs to happen for you to
become emotionally healthy? Look within. You will of course have to
assess whether your partner is ready to make a commitment to getting
help, both medical and counseling because this will have an influence
on your choices in life.
Instead of saying "Sharon has horrible BPD. She does this and
this and this and blah, blah blah." Turn it around and say
"What is it about me that attracted someone like Sharon and is
attracted to someone like Sharon"?
Folks who have the BPD - are there many people in your
"group" that are into recovery? Are there folks giving you
hope for a brighter future or are you in a group of people who are all
brand new in recovery and everyone is depressed and not doing well?
Now of course you want to be honest with the group and share and be
there for each other. That what this is all about. But if your group
is solely people who haven't gone far into recovery you will begin to
believe the illusion that there IS no recovery and that you will only
have gloom and doom to look forward to.
Whether you are a family member or a consumer, look for someone well
into recovery and study them. Talk to them. Let them encourage you.
LEARN from them and stop the merry-go-round habit of repeating self
destructive behavior that gets you nowhere.
There is a "rule" that physicians go by and that is to
"do no harm" to their patients. When you are in your
"group," remember also that most everyone in there is
hurting. Many are near suicide - more than you realize. Do no harm.
Let me repeat myself. Do no harm.
That sounds easy to do but when we are hurting it is easy to hurt
someone when we really aren't meaning to. Remember how I felt when I
started the BPD group? I had to really fight flaming people.
Remember also, if you get your feelings hurt in a "group,"
you are one among many and chances are very high that the event had
nothing to do with you. Know from the start that many people in the
group are not well and sometimes when folks aren't well, they hurt
other people - sometimes horribly. Sometimes people even set out to
purposely use people for their own gain and you must keep your eyes
open for these people.
Here many of you have trust issues to begin with and I am telling you
to come to groups not trusting people, but in fact I am doing just
that. Get to know them well before you give them your trust. Also
remember that many people who are so-called "well" and
perhaps in charge of things may be the person you need to trust the
I have had so many letters from people getting hurt in these different
kinds of groups that I felt a newsletter discussion was important.
Personally however, I have done much healing in A.J.'s borderline
personality disorder email support group many years ago. She has
excellent rules set up to protect everyone and I have found her to be
an excellent leader. She is also known as "soul." Check out
my resource page.
For those of you reading this article who are on bad terms with anyone
in your group, write them a letter right now and tell them how much
you appreciate them. Tell them something you really like about them.
Life is short. It doesn't matter what someone said or who did what.
The event is over.
Other Today Websites
Mental Health Matters for information
and articles. Get
help to find
a therapist or list
your practice; and Psych
Forums for message boards on a variety of MH topics.
Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All