Seduction, F.O.G., Plausible Denial & Unconscious Sadism in Subtle NPD / BPD + Obvious Bipolar
It wasn't my first rodeo.
I've been in the borderline and/or bipolar bull ring off and on since 1972. In (greater) Hollywood, New York
City, Scottsdale, Palm Springs, other places where behavioral facades are well-constructed
and carefully tended by the physically and intellectually gifted. The games and
scripts ultimately turn out to be pretty much the same, but it can be
difficult -- and unsettling -- to stay on the bull as the dramas play out before one recollects to let go of the rope and just take the inevitable tumble.
We tell ourselves to get
off the screen (or the stage) and into our ("detached,"
"disengaged") seats in the audience. We say, "I will see it
coming and set boundaries with the empathy and compassion due to this poor (man
or) woman who is only doing what (he or) she does because of what was done to
(him or) her." But there is venom in the snake's bite, and we too often do
not recognize the new and different sound of the rattling before we feel the fangs (or believe the snake is there in front of us when it actually isn't?)
We've read about the "double-binding," "paradoxical injunction-slinging," "classic, hysteric vampire" in Bateson et al, Beck & Freeman, Beck, Bernstein, Clarkin
& Lenzenweger, Gabbard, Golomb, Grinker, Gunderson, Hare, Kernberg, Kreger,
Livesley, Mason & Kreger, Meissner, Millon, Payson, Searles, and Watzlawick et al. (It may
seem that I "piled on" even further in the references and resources
section at the end, but I wanted to make it clear that I am more than merely
"observantly experienced" with respect to borderlinism. And that there are times when the concepts of others may be overly influential, as well as when all the preparation in the world doesn't matter.)
watched Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Sharon Stone, Glenn Close
and Demi Moore do them on the big screen... and Madonna, Gaga and Miley on the small.
The sirens are neither hard to hear nor the seething rage difficult to see...
or feel. We are appropriately forewarned and moved to put on our fire suits -- albeit as discretely as possible -- but often not until we're a bit singed from the indulgence of dimly recalled, archaic hyper-stimulations reprised in a new bout of anxious attachment.
We say, "I will do as
the sainted Father Carl (Rogers) instructed and demonstrate (my act of)
empathy, compassion and unconditional positive regard for this 'understandably
injured, reactive and rageful' person." We say, "Oh. Another case of
lingering, complex post-traumatic stress disorder whose Eriksonian path took
opposing but parallel courses when (his or) her Trust split in either/or
dichotomy into polarized mis- and dis-, Autonomy became too over-reaching and
too restricted, Initiative became too much and too little, Competence became
obsessive and learned helpless, Identity became whatever worked -- and didn't
-- in the moments of opportunity, and Intimacy became a shattering
experience... or a means to an end." (Just so long we are not so pinned in the present by memories of somewhat familiar past experiences that we project those onto what is happening now.)
warned us all about their dichotomism and dialectical deficits," we tell
"One size fits
all" is a poor policy everywhere in a world of contextual complexity,
however, and it certainly doesn't work with revenge-obsessed reptiles with IQs
of 120 or more. Even so, having failed to leave our own "smarter than
average" egos at the door, we insist upon trying to pigeonhole those
reptiles and make them fit the labels we are trained to paste upon their
foreheads to protect us... from the affective rebound one will have when compassion is replaced with reactive shame, guilt, rage or whatever that's "unacceptable." It might not be a bad idea to get very present and
mindful in place of stuck in the labeling we picked up in the past.
Iain McGilchrist's notion
of seeing and feeling them in the right hemisphere, conceptualizing them and
forming hypotheses to be tested in the left, and then returning to the right to
"just watch" is always worth lengthy consideration in these deals.
Observe, notice, recognize, acknowledge, appreciate, accept, allow, and own
what is going on in the transferences and counter-transferences in both dance
partners. To "understand" in the manner described and discussed so
often by Jiddu Krishnamurti (and star pupils like Arthur Deikman and Joel Kramer). And "get it" at the level of
neurobiology described by Priem & Solomon.
And learn (the hard way,
because it usually will be) again that watching ourselves feel, think and act
in response to them is the route to revelation of the object relations in
play in here as well as over there (see Bion in Symington, Fairbairn,
Kernberg, Klein in Mitchell, Klee, Scharf & Scharff, and Sullivan in
. . .
Hugely intellectually and
physically gifted with an IQ of at least 150, barely "legal" and looking two or three years younger, she
inquired because of what looked like increasingly discomfiting -- but nevertheless denied and
unaccepted -- angst about isolation and alienation in a world full of naive,
indolent, unconscious, untrustworthy, "dangerously stupid" (my phrase,
not hers) saps.
(According to the DSM IV-R, Akiskal et al, Basco et al, Bauer
et al, Bearden et al, Benazzi, Hirschfeld et al, Johnson et al, Koob, Lumpien
et al, Maj et al, Mansell et al, Mauss et al, McEwen et al, Mendlewicz et al,
Molina, Quarantini et al, Reid et al, Savitz et al, Sie, Suppes et al, Takeshima et al, and Yamamoto et al) she presented sturdy symptoms of hyperactivity at the outset that could be taken to be hypomanic bipolar II, allostatic load and pre-noradrenergic dysfunction, and responded to discussion thereof by seeking
medicinal treatment (with a modern, atypical anti-psychotic). Before the medication could
take effect, however, what looked and sounded like control obsessions took control of her compulsions,
and she began to act out in what looked like (but may not have been) "textbook classic," sexually seductive fashion with a wholesale conversion from nervous but wholesome and innocent schoolgirl
to hyperseductive here / "I-couldn't-care-less" there, femme fatale.
Along with trip-wired
responses to probing about her romantic involvements, her non-verbal behavior
-- including eyelid and pupil expansion -- inferred that she may have relished the
flummoxed discomfort she could induce by overstimulating, playing "yo-yo" with, and abandoning males. It seemed at least arguable that she had been
repeatedly rewarded and reinforced thereby (see Aviezer et al, Basco et al
2012, Berne, Bernstein, Byrne, DePaulo, Donovan & Marlatt, Golomb, Marlatt
& Donovan, Skinner, Stone, and Watson). And that she had a good -- if possibly unconscious -- reason or two for so doing in her self-described, Bowen Family Systems family of origin (see Bateson, Baumrind, Jackson, Lykken in Millon 1998, Henry, Peck, and Zimbardo on the socialization and normalization via "confusing parenting" and rule-bound moral duplicity in the typical American family). Further probing resulted in
denials of sadistic intent, and the denials were couched in terms that could be
taken to be plausible (e.g.: "I was younger; it's just what young girls
do") (sometimes, but far from always).
Her dress toned down
slightly (but only slightly) in future encounters, and the sexual imagery
continued to be brassy despite protestations that she just enjoyed looking this
way, and that there was no intention to be seductive, manipulative or sadistic. At this point -- owing to the sudden change in "packaging" as well as my discomfited reactions thereto, I had
already sought counsel with three different, and diversely resourced but
equally astute observers of adolescent female manipulation behaviors.
One suggested that she was not transferring revenge, but was merely desperate to "hook" a Rescuer (because of repeated parental abandonment) and took the subtly, but nevertheless widely, modeled route taken by many (most?) women trained in this cult-ure to play the along with male's usually unconscious, but sometimes cynically dishonest, game of "White Knight" to get laid or "capture the queen." It's an hypothesis I could consider, but continue to question in light of other "background story" revelations suggesting the possibility of transferred revenge imperatives.
I also dug up some online
reminders of the "F.O.G." dynamics of emotional blackmail (fog,
obligation, guilt; see Forward). The first component was blatantly evident; the
second and third were considered immediately from the viewpoint of one steeped
in co-dependence theory (Cermak, P. Evans, Mellody, Rapson & English, Schaef, and Weinhold & Weinhold were most helpful, as usual). I still don't know whether the fog machine was intentionally plugged in and turned on or not (she has since denied so doing, and I have to be open to that as a possibility, especially considering her age).
Raised as the boys on my
psychosocial bus were by an adoptive mother who employed all three mechanisms
(including a powerful sexual fog) to control her mystified spouse and child so
as to deal with her own denied / un-contemplated (see Prochaska &
DiClemente on the five stages of addiction treatment) anxieties and coping
reactions, the boys were greatly unsettled by their new archetypal icon (see
Jung in Laszlo). I have had to be willing to operate in a state of "radically accepted" (see Linehan, Dimeff & Koerner, and Aguirre & Galen) uncertainty, ambiguity and unresolved conflict.
Because one can be
blinded to F.O.G. by others who use it a) cleverly, and b) in manners similar
to the original and/or earlier emotional blackmailers. So. I dug into the possible
Karpman Drama Triangle implications (see Garrett, and Karpman) and saw my
"boys'" efforts to get out of the Victim (guilt) corner at the
bottom and move up to Rescue (their maternally conditioned obligation), as
well as become Persecuting owing to the seduction-induced frustrations of not
being able to have the ostensibly menu-available, delicious, adolescent cake for dessert. (That she
resembled their adoptive mother as well as several other iconic "fog
machines" of the past might have made the dessert appear all the more compelling to them, of course.)
(In addition to Baumeister, Beck, Golomb, Grand, Hare, Meloy, Millon, Payson, Peck, Tangney et al, Stone, Vaknin, Van Vliet, and Zimbardo) one benefits hugely from a studied grasp of Lawrence Kohlberg's work on the six stages of moral
development and how the lower stages can be manipulated by the fast-processing,
narcissistic sociopath and/or passive-aggressive.)
Her seemingly seductive here vs. rejective there behavior continued to cause me to ask things like, "Has she seen 'Poker Face' and 'Wrecking Ball' too many times?" "Is this a stimulation- and risk-addicted, little death-wish princess?" and "Is this a Black Dahlia in training?" The "boys" wanted the worst way to Rescue her from her obsessions, but would have to take an awful lot of bait-and-bite to do so. How much, then, is enough... if the other is still relatively empowered, ego-defended, effectively compensated and hostile to self-awareness at the denial / pre-contemplation stage... or... just too young and inexperienced to understand the effects of her appearance and behavior upon certain others?
The interlocutor in such a
circumstance has to face the music. He has to observe to notice to recognize to acknowledge to appreciate
to accept to allow to own to understand and digest / metabolize / process (as
per Garrett, and Kernberg) the affects induced by an iconic young woman who may be a seductive,
F.O.G.-spraying, plausibly denying, castration-bent borderline... or he will
have his de-composed, dis-integrated, and potentially de-compensated mind
served to him on a platter. And if things get to the licensing board or some courtroom, the fact that his internal object relations nailed him will be irrelevant.
The unconscious conflict between romantic delusions in the hyper-cathected Child (per Berne) here... and righteous, reactive, moral rage in the alternately but equally noisy, rule-bound Parent there... will only get the interlocutor part of the way to what he or she needs to understand very clearly. That over-cathected (adult)
Children displace their dis-Trust- and frustrated-Autonomy-rooted, "infantile, narcissistic rage" toward authority figures is hardly news. That corrupted Initiative- and Competence-rooted coping
strategies for moving up Erikson's ladder to split functional and dysfunctional Identity and Intimacy may be in place might be news, however. I don't run into many MA/MS-level people who keep Erik in mind anymore. (Tsk, tsk. Risky.) But how many times have Ph.D. and MA/MS alike forgotten this challenging load of "high concepts" and fallen into
(Regardless of the
"patient" being a brainy and beautiful (or studly) adolescent, this goes
for over-identifying, under-processed and -- as a result -- only semi-conscious gay male therapists every bit as much as heterosexual males. As well as
for over-identifying, under-processed and -- as a result -- only
semi-conscious, heterosexual female therapists with co-dependent mothering and
K.D.T. Rescue issues.)
Let's face it; there is a
lot to keep in mind here. Should we review a daily checklist? Maybe.
The therapist who has fallen
into the common cultural trap of believing that he or she is immune to F.O.G., "Rapo," "Mud Pie" and other "games" (see Berne 1961 & 1964) just
because he or she has "seen that movie too" is headed for trouble. More
basic and mindful (see Bien & Bien, Brach, Brown & Marquis, Deikman, De
Mello, Forsyth & Eifert, Goenka in Hart, Goleman, Hafenbrack et al, Hayes
et al, Kabat-Zinn, Lang, Lazar et al, Lejeune, Levine, Marra, McKay et al,
Morris et al, Ogden, Ornstein, Orsillo & Roemer, Pederson, Raffone et al, Raja,
Reid et al, Segal, Siegel, Siegel, Somov, Thich, Van Dijk, and Williams et al)
approaches are mandated.
I may reach too far. But I may not reach far enough. But I have written here what I have because I
have seen the movie / been to the rodeo a bunch of times, and I am (as is hopefully suggested
in the references below) fairly well studied up on the topic. But I am still subject
to being tossed about by a borderline-organized bucking bronco who can
plausibly deny what (he or) she does because it happens in some
"compartmental vault" "over there" where it can be
rationalized in some "acceptable" (or ego-defending) manner... or just denied out of hand. For just
as long as I do not stop to observe to notice to recognize to acknowledge to
appreciate to accept to allow to own to understand and -- as a result --
metabolize the psychological and neurological effects of having my inner
children re-activated (see Craig, Damasio, Garrett, Ogden, and Whitfield), I'm asking for trouble.
But one had better be observing, noticing, recognizing, identifying, acknowledging, accepting and owning at all times in the borderline bull ring. Because in there, mindfulness is a must.
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