Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Stalking Borderline

Seven basic types of stalkers and their personality disorder profiles.

The borderline does not always stalk. Many borderlines are simply too busy with new attachment objects to concern themselves with those they have discarded. And the borderline who is physically gifted will usually get her narcissistic needs met simply by suiting up and showing up in her little black dress. The less-physically gifted borderline, however, will objectify on imaginary future or actual past romance objects in what can, for the objects, be highly disturbing scenarios.

I am indebted here to Tami Port, MA, a specializing practitioner in Michigan, for her review of stalking at Suite 101, and for providing a platform on which I have expanded (in dark red) with my own secondary research and anecdotal experience over the past twenty years in the mental health field.

Stalking Harassment Behavior , , and

© 2007 by Tami Port

I. What You Need to Know about the Crime of Obsession

What Is Stalking?

Stalking is a crime of obsession, and is often associated with different types of psychopathology, including psychosis and severe personality disorders. Depending on the stalker, behavior may range from overtly aggressive threats and actions, to repeated phone calls, letters or approaches. Stalking harassment may go on for years, causing the victim to exist in a constant state of stress and fear. The violent aspects of stalking behavior often escalate over time, and in extreme cases, can end in murder (Douglas 1998).

Stalking Behavior

There are anti-stalking laws in place, both federal and state, designed to protect victims of stalkers. Under these laws, perpetrators can be charged with stalking for repeatedly:

1) Following or appearing within the sight of another.
2) Approaching or confronting another individual in a public or private place.
3) Appearing at the work place or residence of another.
4) Entering or remaining on an individual's property.
5) Contacting a person by telephone.
6) Sending postal mail or e-mail to another.

Stalking Danger

Too often victims do not fully appreciate the true danger of being stalked, and this can be a fatal mistake. If you feel uncomfortable with the repeated advances, gifts or communications of an “admirer,” trust your instincts, and always err or the side of caution. All stalking is a crime and all stalkers should be considered dangerous (Douglas 1998).

David Beatty, Executive Director of Justice Solutions, Inc. and former Director of Public Policy for the National Victim Center, observes that stalking, “is one of the rare opportunities where a potential murderer raises his hand and says ‘I’m gonna be killing somebody.’ Stalking provides an opportunity to intervene in what seems to be, in many cases, an inevitable escalation towards violence and murder.”

Evidence of Stalking

Every situation is different. There are different types of stalkers and no set guidelines, so each victim must use his or her own judgment as to what actions to take. But don’t go it alone. Seek support from your friends and family. Whether or not you plan to file formal charges, report the harassment to your local law enforcement agency. It is important to build your case against the stalker by providing the police with records of the stalker's behavior towards you (Kamphus, 2000), including any or all of the following:

1) Keep a diary or a log of the stalker's attempted interactions with you, noting the time, place, verbal or written communication, gifts, and sightings.
2) Save all voice mail and email messages left by the offender.
3) If you can do so safely, obtain a photo or videotape of the stalker.
4) Collect other identifying information, such as license plate number, model and make of car, and a description of the stalker’s appearance.

Protect Yourself from Stalkers

Unfortunately it is always the victim who is initially penalized in a case of stalking; and the penalty is persistent stress and fear, as well as the inconvenience of having to make significant changes to your daily routine for the purpose of increasing safety. The Stalking Resource Center suggests that the following precautions are important to take if you are being targeted:

1) Travel with friends and do not walk alone.
2) Change your telephone number to an unlisted number.
3) Vary the times and routes you take to work or to frequently visited places.
4) Notify your family and friends, and explain the situation to your employer so that they may protect you at work. Provide them with a photograph or description of your stalker.

Anti-Stalking Support

This article is a summary of merely a fraction of the information available on stalking. Become familiar with federal and state stalking laws, stalking statistics, and the many resources available to assist and protect stalking victims, such as the National Center for Victims of Crime (800) 394-2255 and the Stalking Resource Center.

Additional Stalking Resources

Kamphus, J. H. and P.M.G. Emmelcamp, P. M. G. Stalking — a contemporary challenge for forensic and clinical psychiatry. The British Journal of Psychiatry (2000) 176

Douglas, J, and Olshaker, M. Obsession. Published by Scribner (1998)

II. Types of Stalkers: Classification of Harassment Behavior & Anti-Stalking Resources

Stalking Behavior

Stalkers can be young or old, male or female, professional or unemployed. But most are men who are isolated, socially inept, and often mentally ill. The crime can be motivated by different types of psychopathology, including psychosis and severe personality disorders, and stalkers pursue their victims for a variety of reasons, but all tend to have a narcissistic sense of entitlement to the victim.

Australian stalking expert, Dr. Paul Mullen, found from his study of 145 stalkers, reported in the August 1999 American Journal of Psychiatry, that half the stalkers never had a long-term relationship, and a third were separated or divorced. To facilitate diagnosis and treatment, he classified stalkers into the following five categories.

Vis Mullen, see .

Types of Stalkers

1) The Rejected Suitor

Sometimes a partner rejected by their spouse or lover may vacillate between overtures of reconciliation and revenge. They have a narcissistic sense of entitlement and belief this is the only relationship they are going to have. More than 80% of rejected stalkers in Mullen’s study had personality disorders. Therapeutic treatment of the rejected stalker involves helping him or her come to terms with the end of the relationship.

Note: The DSM, ICD and earlier Millon taxonomies of personality disorder provide much deeper insights into characters of the seven types of stalkers. (See American Psychiactric Association, World Health Organization, Beck and Freeman, Ekleberry, and Millon 1999, in my additional Resources and References below.) Stalking may also be viewed as "anxious attachment" (see Bowlby, Berger and Thomson, Dacey and Travers, Fonagy, and Sroufe) or "object relations" (see Bion in Symington, Fairbairn, Kernberg, Klein, and Kohut in Seigel) gone haywire.

The Rejected Suitor is typically a borderline-organized (see Kernberg, Meissner and Preston) narcissist on one polarity and a dependent on the other, with sufficient passive-aggressive and obsessive-compulsive traits to fuel behavioral engagement. This particular combination of character disorder traits appears in most types of stalkers, but in diverse quality and quantity.

Stalkers (of all seven types) have one or more forms of attachment disorder (see Bowlby, Baumrind, Fonagy, Keck, Perry, Searles, Stern, and Winnicott) which distorts their perceptions, beliefs, values, thoughts, appraisals and logic about their interpersonal relationships with anyone who triggers memories and repressed emotions that go back to highly charged events in childhood (see Basco and Rush, Beck, Beck and Freeman, Kernberg in Millon et al, Laing, Perls, Wessler et al, and Young).

From the neo-Freudian or psychodynamic perspective, the stalker has severely disturbed “object relations” (see Bion in Symington, Fairbairn, Horney, Kernberg, Klee, Klein in Mitchell, Kohut in Seigel, Meissner, Winnicott and Winnicott in Dodi) and sees other people as archetypes or projections from the past, rather than as they actually are. If others with whom they are closely involved (actually or imaginarily) present characteristics even somewhat similar to those experienced with actual abusers, invalidators, overwhelmers, perpetrators, date rapers, sadists, sociopaths, psychopaths, molesters or incestors in early life, the personality-disordered person may react with any number of behaviors they view as self-protective, including stalking.

The borderline-organized person who desires attachment of some sort with the present object is likely to have a conflicted set of compulsions to attract-and-reject, seduce-and-abuse, bait-and-bite or otherwise come close to and then push away. For many borderlines, stalking provides a mechanism to act out this all-good-vs.-all-bad dichotomy once the relationship has gone from all-good to all-bad, which is what all relationships must ultimately do for the borderline (see my numerous articles on borderline personality on this blog).

For more on the developmental tracks common in the kinds of people who become stalkers, see Dacey and Travers, Erickson, Negrao et al, Perry, Sarason and Sarason, Sroufe, Stern, Tangney and van der Kolk in my References and Resources.

2) The Intimacy Seeker

The intimacy-seeking stalker intends to establish a relationship with his "true love" regardless of her wishes. More than half of the intimacy seekers Mullen evaluated were delusional, believing that their love was reciprocated, and nearly a third had a personality disorder and a delusion that their quest would be ultimately successful. Legal actions do not work well with intimacy seekers, who may justify their behavior with the belief they must pay a price for true love. The court may order treatment, which should focus on treating their delusions or other mental disorders.

With regard to personality disorders, the Intimacy Seeker is typically an infantile narcissist who believes he or she cannot survive without connection to the object of his or her stalking. The dependent polarity of the classic borderline personality – or "diffused identity" disorder (see,RNWE:2006-06,RNWE:en&q=borderline+personality+disorder , and American Psychiatric Association 1994) – is as germane here as hyper-conflicted, borderline organization (see Kernberg and Meissner), though the pure Intimacy Seeker is not a "classic" borderline.

The Intimacy Seeker is so desperate for intimate connection with others that he or she has stepped over the line from adequate to inadequate reality-testing. All stalking Intimacy Seekers are thus, at least borderline organized with severely compromised reality-testing. Some are schizotypal (see,RNWE:2006-06,RNWE:en&q=schizotypal+personality+disorder ), and some are outright psychotic.

3) The Incompetent Suitor

This type is typically a man who had been rebuffed after asking a woman for a date. He’s often socially inept, and when rejected, begins to stalk with the hope that his persistent behavior will change the woman’s mind. The incompetent suitors can be responsive to judicial sanctions but are also likely to relapse.

As opposed to the particularly strong-functioning egos of the high-self-esteeming Resentful, Predatory and Heroic Stalkers, the Intimacy-Seeking and Incompetent Stalkers have a weak-functioning ego and suffer from low self-esteem. The Incompetent Suitor is marginally less borderline-organized (i.e.: polarized between conflicting opposites of character pathologies) and more likely to be a true dependent, schizoid and/or obsessive-compulsive with milder narcissistic and passive-aggressive orientations and trait sets. The entitled (as opposed to compensatory) narcissistic and antisocial spectrum (antisocial, sociopathic, psychopathic, sadistic) personalities are less evident in Incompetent Suitors.

While males continue to predominate here, in the era of "women's liberation," the Incompetent Suitor is far more likely than decades before the 1970s to be a female.

4) The Resentful Stalker

These offenders express anger in response to a perception that they have been humiliated or treated unfairly by the object of their obsession. They thrive on having a sense of power and control over the victim, and are hard to treat because they often see themselves as the victim.

The Resentful Stalker appears to be one of the more borderline-organized and classic borderline (identity-diffused) types along with the Significance Seeker. This type is highly passive-aggressive and may even be paranoid (along with the other typical personality orientations and trait sets; see , and Beck and Freeman, Ekleberry, and Millon).

He or she believes ardently that others are out to harm him or her, probably because of early-life experiences with narcissistic, borderline, antisocial and/or sadistic parents and/or siblings. Projective identification of others as parent or older sibling figures is typical, and those who are stalked are usually seen as “evil” re-creations of the Resentful Stalker’s early life abusers.

The passive-aggressive personality in general, and the Resentful Stalker in particular, have deeply rooted beliefs, attitudes and values leading to appraisal schema (see Beck, Beck and Freeman, Benjamin, Wessler et al, and Young) rooted in Rotter’s “external locus of control,” Seligman’s “learned helplessness,” and Perls’ “refutation of responsibility.”

These orientations support their ego’s defensive view that they are “victims” in the sense of Karpman’s Drama Triangle (see my articles at , , , and ) and that they have a right to try to “persecute” those they see (however inaccurately) as their “victimizers” or “persecutors.”

5) The Predatory Stalker

The six predatory stalkers in Mullen’s study admitted to preparing to sexually attack a random victim. This type derives pleasure from gathering information about the target and fantasizing about the assault. They often have prior convictions as sexual deviants.

The Predatory Stalker is at least antisocial over his or her base of entitled narcissistic, diffused identity and obsessive-compulsive character orientations, but may well be sociopathic (i.e.: socialized in early life by parents, siblings and/or peers), psychopathic (i.e.: biogenetically predisposed), and/or sadistic (i.e.: one who enjoys inflicting physical or mental pain upon others).
In a more moderate, but still very harmful, state, the Predatory Stalker is Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct.” In a more extreme state, the Predatory Stalker is Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” or Robert Mitchum (in the earlier) or Robert DeNiro in (the recent version of) “Cape Fear.”

The worst-case scenario is, of course, the serial killer. Michael Stone has built a career on describing these people, but I also refer readers of this article to Millon, Simonsen, Birket-Smith and Davis; as well as Hare, and Meloy.

To the original taxonomy of five types above, I will (from my base of professional experience) add…

6) The Significance Seeker

This type of offender does not wish to make intimate contact with the object, and may in fact, be extremely fearful of the object. Nevertheless, the Significance Seeker is obsessed with having the object know that he or she is there. The object’s comfort or discomfort with the Significance Seeker is not the issue. The Significance Seeker is largely or solely concerned with being “on the object’s mind.”

The Significance Seeker is almost always a compensatory, as opposed to entitled, narcissist (see Beck and Freeman, Kernberg, Millon, and Vaknin) and closet (attention-seeking) histrionic whose ego was crushed by overwhelming, invalidating, abusive and often molesting / incesting parents, caregivers, siblings or other significant figures from early life. His or her normal narcissistic imperatives were so thwarted that he or she becomes obsessed with the admittedly oxymoronic notion of "covert attention-seeking."

That covert attention-seeking is only "oddly" histrionic and far more borderline-organized at bedrock should be evident to any student of Kernberg, Meissner or Millon: This person is desperate for attention and connection to others, but hugely terrified of attachment or intimate involvement. The growth of the Internet, email and the many social interaction sites like MySpace, have provided a huge forum for acting out by Intimacy-Seeking stakers.

7) The Heroic Stalker

The Rejected Suitor, Resentful and Significance-Seeking Stalker types sometimes have the capacity to engage others to stalk the objects of their romantic rejection or resentment for them. The Heroic Stalker often sees him- or herself as a “righteous rescuer of the unfortunate victims of others” and can be manipulated by the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker to either join them or even do the stalking for them so that the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker is less visible to the object of the stalking. The Heroic Stalker may know that he or she is stalking on behalf of a Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker, but usually does not understand the full implications of how he or she is being manipulated.

Most Heroic Stalkers are merely seeking the approval, affection, romantic attachment, sexual engagement or other closer connection of the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker... and are relatively “innocent.” This is generally the case however much they may agree with the perceptions, values, attitudes, beliefs, rationalizations and/or appraisals of the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker.

Some, however, are actually Intimacy Seekers and/or Predatory Stalkers themselves, and these types of Heroic Stalkers may only serve the interests of the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker for a time. The Intimacy-Seeking and/or Predatory Stalker is likely to reveal his or her true agenda at some point, and that often results in switching his or her stalking from the original object to the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker.

This may be the case if the secondary "stalking horse" or "agent" of the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker believes he or she can successfully seduce, manipulate or otherwise (covertly) control the new stalking object. In many cases, the Rejected Suitor, Resentful Stalker or Significance Seeker is the very object the Intimacy Seeker, seemingly innocent Heroic Stalker, or truly devious Predatory Stalker, had in mind all along.

If the secondary stalker is merely an Intimacy Seeker or Heroic Stalker, the switch may not be so damaging for the primary stalker who used them as an agent and who may even like the attention. If the primary stalker is an avoidant, hyper-distancing Significance Seeker, of course, this result is unlikely.

There's a more unfortunate scenario, however. The primary, Rejected Suitor and Resentful Stalker types make perfect targets for the secondary stalker who is a talented, experienced, well-hidden, effectively covert, Predatory Stalker. This is even more likely if the primary stalker is given in any fashion to Stockholm Syndrome or other forms of accepting and tolerating mental predation because he or she was habituated to such dynamics in early life by overwhelming parents.

If the secondary stalker is not really an innocent, Heroic Stalker, and is a true, ego-integrated sociopathic, psychopathic or sadistic... and Predatory Stalker, the prospects for the primary stalker who attempted to use him or her as an "agent" can get really ugly.

Paranoia and Projection at Baseline

I do not recall having known any Rejected Suitors, Incompetent, Resentful or Predatory Stalkers who were not paranoid, and who did not project their unconscious fear of rejection, incompetence, resentment or predation onto those they stalked. Thus for the reader who wishes to understand them, it is valuable to grasp the paranoid personality in some depth. Beck and Freeman, Ekleberry, Hare, Kernberg, Masterson, Millon (1998 and 1999), Meissner, Meloy, and Stone all offer investigations of paranoid personality, and one may find adequate explanation at .

The concepts of projection and projective identification are covered in detail by the "object relations" theorists including Bion, Fairbairn, Kernberg, Klein, Kohut, Millon (1998 and 1999), Searles and Sullivan. Likewise, these concepts may be investigated at,RNWE:2006-06,RNWE:en&q=projection+psychology and .

Otto Kernberg's descriptive work in this area, however, ranks with the best available, and I have decided to lift a paragraph from his remarkable chapter in Millon (1998) with obvious rewording to suit this topic:

"The task now is to examine the nature of the stalker's projections, the image of the object of their stalking as a sadistic persecutor, and eventually the projective processes through which the stalker attributes to the object that which he or she cannot tolerate in him- or herself. One stalker had violent temper tamtrums in connection with her suspicion that the object had been talking about her to third parties, and assumed that the object was attempting to obtain conidential information from her in order to use it against her later on. In this, as the stalker gradually became aware, she repeated the suspicious and enraged bhavior of her mother, who would attempt to control the stalker's communications with people outside the family and her private life in general. Eventually, the stalker became aware that she had been attributing to the object her own proclivity for surreptitiously spying on others in order to achieve control over them, manipulating other people to obtain information about the object's social life, eavesdropping on conversations, and participating in meetings under false pretenses in order to obtain privileged information."

Why Classify Stalkers?

These five categories are, by no means, agreed on by all experts on obsession and stalking. Those engaging in stalking behaviors can have a variety on backgrounds, motivations and mental illnesses. Still, attempts at some type of classification can be useful. A better understanding of different types of stalking behavior may help victims better protect themselves, assist law enforcement in profiling and capturing stalkers and also aid mental health and legal systems in assessing the risk of recidivism and likelihood of rehabilitation.

Stalking Danger

Too often victims do not fully appreciate the true danger of being stalked, and this can be a fatal mistake. If you feel uncomfortable with the repeated advances, gifts or communications of an “admirer,” trust your instincts, and err on the side of caution.

This article is a summary of merely a fraction of the information available on stalking. Become familiar with federal and state stalking laws, stalking statistics, and the many resources available to assist and protect stalking victims, such as the National Center for Victims of Crime (800) 394-2255 and the Stalking Resource Center.

Additional Stalking Resources

Douglas, J, and Olshaker, M. Obsession. Published by Scribner (1998)

III. Laws Against Stalking: Summary of US Anti-Stalking Legislation and Harassment Law

Stalking as a Crime

Stalking is a crime of obsession, often associated with different types of psychopathology, including psychosis and severe personality disorders. Depending on the type of stalker, behavior may range from overtly aggressive threats and actions, to repeated phone calls, letters or approaches. Harassment and stalking may go on for years, causing the victim of stalking to exist in a constant state of stress and fear. The violent aspects of stalking behavior often escalate over time, and in extreme cases can end in murder (Douglas 1998).

Stalking Behavior

There are anti-stalking laws in place, both federal and state, designed to protect those being stalked. Under these laws, perpetrators can be charged with stalking for repeatedly:

1) Following or appearing within the sight of another.
2) Approaching or confronting another individual in a public or private place.
3) Appearing at the work place or residence of another.
4) Entering or remaining on an individual's property.
5) Contacting a person by telephone.
6) Sending postal mail or e-mail to another.

California and the Origin of Harassment Law

Although stalking behavior has no doubt been present throughout history, stalking laws are a relatively recent invention. The first anti-stalking legislation was passed by California in 1990, in the aftermath of the stalking and murder of actress Rebecca Schaffer.

Section 646.9 of the California Penal Code, states that a person is guilty of stalking when they, "willfully and maliciously and repeatedly follow or harass another person and make credible threats with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or that of an immediate family member".

Federal Stalking Model

In 1992, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation requiring the Attorney General to conduct research on stalking and develop a "constitutional and enforceable" model anti-stalking code. The Project to Develop a Model Anti-Stalking Code for States resulted from this mandate, and was presented to the National Institute of Justice in October of 1993.

The code encouraged state governments to make stalking a felony offense and to establish penalties for stalking that reflect the seriousness of the crime. It also recommended that states provide criminal justice officials with the authority and legal tools to arrest, prosecute, and sentence stalkers.

Because the behavioral pattern of stalkers is often characterized by a series of increasingly serious acts, the model advised the use of a continuum of increasingly severe criminal charges, as well as the creation of a felony classification for stalking. By September of 1993, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had created some form of anti-stalking law.

Federal Stalking Laws

Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in the fall of 1994. A component of this crime bill, the Violence Against Women Act, included a provision that makes it a federal crime to cross a state line with the intention of injuring, harassing, or intimidating a spouse or intimate partner.

In 1996, Congress enacted a broader federal stalking law forbidding interstate stalking and stalking within federal jurisdiction. This law also expanded the Violence Against Women provisions to include all stalking victims, regardless of whether there was a previous relationship with the offender.

Stalking Crime

Too often victims do not fully appreciate the true danger of being stalked, and this can be a fatal mistake. If you feel uncomfortable with the repeated advances, gifts or communications of an “admirer,” trust your instincts, and err on the side of caution. Become familiar with federal and state stalking laws, stalking statistics, and the many resources available to assist and protect stalking victims, such as the Stalking Resource Center and the Office of Justice Programs. All stalking is a crime and all stalkers should be considered dangerous.

Can Practicing Stalker's become Recovering Stalkers?

The simple answer is, "It depends." Stalking is a specific trait set in the obsessive-compulsive personality disorder spectrum (see the APA DSM, the WHO ICD, Beck and Freeman, Ekleberry, and Millon; or try some of the articles at ). As such, it is little different in dynamic from any process addiction.

My experience with stalkers is that they must proceed through the process or recovery much as the alcoholic, gambler or sex addict does, which is about as described in my work on this blog on recovery from sex addiction (revised here to suit this topic):

"It appears from limited application of the components of the CDDCR therapeutic system described at , , and that so long as the recovering stalker has worked through his or her denial, pre-contemplation and contemplation stages (see Dodi, and Gorski) and arrived at acceptance or (even better) recovery commitment, stalking of any variety other than grossly predatory and antisocial can be treated successfully, albeit over considerable time.

"The use of Dodi’s and Gorski’s schema should make it clear that the truly entitled narcissistic, sociopathic, psychopathic and/or sadistic stalker who cannot experience “healthy” shame or guilt (see Bradshaw, Fossum, Negrao, Pizarro, and Tangney) is outside the realm of treatability (see Beck and Freeman, Hare, Kernberg, Meloy, Millon et al, Stone, and Vaknin), unless or until he or she reaches a highly desperate “depressive” state (see Kernberg, Kernberg in Millon et al, and Meissner).

"Applied in conjunction with... atypical antipsychotic medication (e.g.: Seroquel quetiapine, Zyprexa olanzepine, Abilify aripiprasol, Geodon ziprazidone, Risperdal risperidone), the CDDCR system appears to have success potential with "accepting" and/or "recovery-committed" stalkers. CDDCR contains proven elements of affect (including shame and guilt) management, neurobiological detoxification, and psychodynamic and cognitive restructuring that appear to be sufficient to produce a high degree of psychic comfort for the recovering stalker who is truly 'sick and tired' of stalking."

Additional Stalking Resources

Douglas, J, and Olshaker, M. Obsession. Published by Scribner (1998)

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