Tag trauma

Posttraumatic Growth (6/17-6/18)

“PTG is a cousin to resilience, but more of a thug: meaner, more brutal, more devastating – and more transformative. Rich Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, psychologists at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, coined the term in 1995, when they noticed they some people did not recover from their traumatic experiences in a typically resilient fashion. Rather than return to their set point, everything about them radically changed: their worldviews, their goals in life, their friendships. […]

“The one thing that overwhelmingly predicts it is the extent to which you say, ‘My core beliefs were shaken,'” Calhoun adds.

“What kind of core beliefs? “The degree to which the world is just,” Tedeschi says, “or that people are benevolent or that the future is something that you can control. Beliefs about, basically, how life works.”

Life Reimagined, The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife, Barbara Bradley Hagerty


In February of 2010 I wrote an article entitled Victim of Changes where I explored three contrasting perspectives of how one views positive and negative events as they relate to the broader context of their life.

Since then, I’ve recently discovered a trend; those who say that “everything happens for a reason” has experienced some significant pain or trauma.  While I am sure there are exceptions to this claim, I can’t think of a reason why someone would use this phrase if they had not gone through this type of experience.

From my perspective, it’s an interesting contradiction – by causing pain, God has, in some respect, prompted (forced?) these individuals to believe in him (or at least in some higher authority or plan).  This, I think, has always been a struggle for me.

I mention this particular phrase primarily because it resurfaced the other day in a lunch meeting with a past colleague.  Later on, that comment prompted me to think about what has happened and where I am in my life today.

But is this where I am “supposed” to be? “Supposed” assumes there is a predestined path for me (and for others).

For argument’s sake, if there was truly such a path, does emotion still play a role?  For example, if adversity strikes, does it benefit you (or anyone for that matter) to feel sad or angry about it?  If adversity was part of “the plan” it ultimately doesn’t matter what you feel about it – “it just is.”

Think about it. If you truly believe that there is a higher authority and that “everything happens for a reason” then at some level, negative emotion should not exist in your life.  If something bad should happen to you, “that’s life!” and you should quickly (and naturally) move on to the next chapter, next relationship, etc. void of any negative emotion or lingering concerns / doubt.

At some level it’s a utopian existence.  After all, in this frame of mind you’ll feel good all the time!  (“it’s part of the plan!”)  But of course, the emotional disconnect will be there; when unfortunate events occur, your lack of emotion may prompt the question “Do you even care?” to which you’ll naturally reply “Care about what?”

Using the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is a logical response to a nebulous, confusing and sometimes painful life path.  It’s another example of why the human dynamic is so complex; using logic to rationalize the unexplained, but subsequently claiming that “logic” has no place in one’s life – i.e. “life planning is meaningless”, “don’t analyze, just enjoy ..”, etc.

I can, of course, see the partial foolishness in this argument.  One is going to feel certain emotions regardless of their belief in a higher authority or “master plan.”  And, at some level, you almost have to believe that there is a predefined destiny for you.  Not believing this in some capacity can result in emotional and physical stagnation.

As of me, history will dissuade me from using this particular phrase, but my replacement belief is a combination of the following:

  1. Anything is possible.
  2. A belief in oneself is perhaps the most important religion of them all.

The Grand Illusion.

One of the fortunate and unfortunate aspects of experiencing trauma (loss) is that you ultimately seek guidance and a level of understanding on why it occurred and what you should ultimately learn from the experience.  In short, you are looking for answers.

This, of course, is not surprising.  How often do you hear of people whose life mission becomes centered around the trauma they faced?  A mother’s loss to a drunk driver can redirect her pain into something that can benefit the greater good – e.g. M.A.D.D.  The degree of the trauma can, I think, have a direct impact into the degree of the life change on the other end.

This is perhaps my last post on the topic of my past relationship to a woman who I believe has borderline personality disorder.  What I thought was true love turned out to be, I think, something else, and this is the hardest part to comprehend and ultimately accept.

Within this post, I’ll refer to several other sites that I have researched over the past two years to connect the pieces of this complex puzzle. Ultimately, this post symbolizes the need for closure that will never happen in a relationship of this type.  In addition, and perhaps of equal importance, it’s about helping others who have experienced something similar and seek some level of comprehension to make their lives better.

First, it’s important to understand what borderline personality disorder is.  At its core, it’s an intense fear of abandonment.  This fear is sometimes established at an early age and can be caused by an interruption in one’s normal psychological development.  The loss of a parent is a concrete “seed” that can result in this disorder taking shape.

Because close relationships, by their very nature, have some degree of risk, relationships with someone who has BPD are very intense and unstable.  To be more specific, because there is risk of abandonment, partners with BPD swing wildly from love to hate and back again.  People with BPD will frantically try to avoid real or imagined abandonment and they will do this by projecting unacceptable or threatening feelings to their partner.  This type of psychological defense mechanism is called “projection”.

Not surprisingly, projection can do much damage to the relationship over time.  The main reason for this is that the person on the other side of BPD will be unable to bear the burden of their issues as well as their partner’s, and the relationship ultimately collapses.

In looking back at the relationship, I equate my experience with a bell curve – with time on the X-axis and the question “Am I the true cause of these problems?” factor on the Y-axis.  In the early stages of the relationship, you will naturally look past the obvious problems / conflict.  However, as the relationship progresses,  you will begin questioning what is happening.  After a certain amount of time, you will start to think that maybe you are the problem – graphically you are at the top of the bell curve.  It was during this period where I started to focus on issues that I was bringing into the relationship and started to think about what I wanted from my life.  After about a year, I moved past the apex and back to where I originally started – “Why is this happening?”

Unfortunately, and ironically, it’s around this time where your original goal in providing a sense of security and comfort to your partner is turned completely upside downYou are now the source of your partner’s abandonment fears.  You become the problem.

At this point, it should be clear that a relationship of this type is very damaging to all involved – particularly to the “non-BPD” partner.  Your belief in yourself, your ability to make good decisions, and your belief in a true partnership are all significantly damaged and take a considerable time to return to some level of “normalcy”.

It is, however, important to convey the numerous positive outcomes this experience has brought into my life:

– Expanded self-awareness
– Increased assertiveness
– Enhanced communication and articulation
– Accelerated maturation in personal and professional lives
– Positive career direction
– Increased tolerance for independence
– Accelerated creative exploration via photography, industrial design, writing
– Launched new business

I started this blog in November of 2008 as a vehicle towards understanding something that, at the time, was incomprehensible. This post is a symbol of a journey that I didn’t expect to take.

And that is the tragedy of it all.

Appendix: Web Sites

While there are a multitude of web sites providing information about this disorder, there are a few that are extremely beneficial:

Appendix: Common Themes / Quotes
(from a few of the sites listed above)

“We are initially drawn into a borderline relationship by the charm and glamour of extreme idealization about who we are and whom or what it is we represent that is presented to us – we are split white. This circumstance feeds our ego and makes us feel safe, wanted and loved.”

“When it’s good, it’s really good. You think you have found the one you are going to be with forever.  But it doesn’t stay good for long. Something happens to change the tide. That is what is sad for all involved with this disorder. For the person with BPD, it can’t be easy to live like that. And for the person who loves them. You’re left with WTH is going on?”

“If you’re with someone or love someone with bpd and they are not getting help, then be very very careful with your decisions. Enjoy the good times but also know that tomorrow it may change. Be ready and have your boundaries”.

“The borderline’s insecurities and feeling of inadequacy are never sated, so they continue to project these insecurities onto their Non partner with accusations, explosions about certain occurrences, and the like. They will start fights about, well, you don’t know. In the end, you will end up feeling like you are always rebuilding the relationship and starting from ground zero with regards to trust, respect and all the foundational elements and building blocks of a solid relationship.”

“… I miss the person I thought [s]he was.”