Lisa writes, It helps put into words some of my own thoughts on listening to my feelings.
And Maricar writes, I want to learn everything in your favorite list of questions, especially the one with both personality disorder and past relationship have effect on the present and why one stays in a harmful relationship.
Thank you! I do have more to say, and I’d like to hear more from you, too!
Over Christmas my family went skiing, and a few days after our return my right arm began to hurt. A few more days passed and I was immobilized with pain, my arm throbbing and my hand and fingers numb.
Luckily, an excellent chiropractor and muscle therapist, Dr. Joe Muscolino, lives in my town. Dr. Joe figured out that the problem was a pinched nerve in my shoulder. Although I felt pain and numbness in my arm and hand, treating those areas directly would have done no good at all.
Relationships problems are so often just like this! Couples tussle endlessly over their “issues,” but never seem to resolve them. That’s an excellent sign that they’re missing the real problem.
There’s no consensus on what causes mental illnesses, but here’s my understanding of one way personality disorders might happen:
Personality develops through childhood and adolescence, and is pretty well formed by the end of high school.
It makes sense for Nature to have designed this system. Kids use their growing-up years to learn about themselves (their inborn characteristics) and their environment (the people and circumstances they live amongst), and they wind up creating personalities which “work” given the mix of those factors.
Instead, they spend their mental energies hating the subject, being defensive, avoiding the work, making up excuses, etc.
The very same thing happens with adults. When a person feels failed or embarrassed or hurt, his mental energies automatically flow towards escaping or relieving those bad feelings.
Relationship change requires facing the problem squarely, with lots of energy, clarity, bravery and generosity. But if your pride is in tatters, you won’t be able to do this. You’ll be too consumed with protecting your own injured Self.
I read Don Quixote as a tale of personality disorder. Cervantes’ delightful-yet-deluded hero knows he is a knight in shining armor (he’s really a peasant); his old workhorse is his fine charger, his friend Sancho Panza is his valet, and Dulcinea the farm girl is his beautiful princess. The most famous scene in the story has Don Quixote doing battle with windmills which, to him, are dragons.
Personality disorders are forms of mental illness. Yet, they can be utterly charming. The Self-Sacrificing Knight…The Little Lost Princess…The Fairy with Magic Powers…The All-Knowing Wizard…people with personality disorders often experience themselves as stylized, fantastic characters. The creative, escapist, storybook world of personality disorder can be alluring. Many of us have been drawn into relationships with enchanting, personality-disordered partners.
My son Matt sent me this link to a comedy skit called “Dating Solutions.” A woman builds a lie detector and brings it on a blind date. I won’t say anymore; watch it for yourself below!
Besides being absolutely hilarious, “Dating Solutions” is a pretty fair portrayal of several of the features of the human mind, especially its capacity for deception as well as self-deception.
You’re a professional matchmaker? Wow! Sex and the City, only for real!
But my job was actually amazingly mundane and conservative. No racy stories, no kinky requests. My clients were all busy, highly educated singles seeking long-term, conventional relationships. They sought the standard White-Picket-Fence Dream. Marriage was the goal for most of my clients, but the more open-mined would also consider long-term monogamous, living-together arrangements.
Recently I wrote about some of the ways in which people might use their relationships as dumping grounds for other deeper problems.
The human psyche struggles with locus of control; it has trouble figuring out which events take place inside the Self and which ones are occurring in the external world.
Interactions between people are especially confusing since the line between inside and outside is particularly blurred. Our love partners are separate people, yes…but they also “overlap” with us emotionally so that they are essentially a part of our internal lives.
So, one of the reasons we often blame our partners or our relationships for our own personal problems is because we truly can’t tell where that line is, between our own lives and our shared existence with them. The pain and confusion and frustration may genuinely feel like it is coming from our relationship, when in fact it is our own life issues spilling over and tainting our love.
Concerned friends and family members may shake their heads over the poor choices we make, wonder out loud why we don’t leave, remind us that we can do better.
We ourselves may wonder why we can’t be satisfied with a calmer or more “normal” relationship. Do we harbor some unconscious masochistic streak? Are we addicted to drama? Do we have low self-esteem which causes us to choose pain or settle for less than what we deserve?
Often, relationship problems are unconscious attempts at solutions to even greater issues.