I, like many colleagues find this an extremely difficult but fascinating area. I am not happy with the word’disorder’ as the very meaning of the word means ‘a disturbance or a derangement’- this has a demeaning implication and harps back to 50s style mental health labels.
Working as a therapist with many people over several years, I notice how, in relationships, when drawn into another’s world, an attraction above and beyond our conscious awareness, may be present. A desire to mend the ‘bird with the broken wing’ ; their need in turn, to find ‘ a rock’.
The universal laws of attraction? Or simply our own personality traits, tending to guide us towards others issues. So a situation where one is the ‘doer’, the ‘rescuer’, the ‘problem-solver’ might evolve. A mutual meeting of needs, a dynamic may begin to form- each with a subconscious part to play.
In a loving,equal ,healthy relationship this ebbs and flows and difficulties can be resolved. Compromise is made by each in order to remain in a generally harmonious and supportive place. Time passes and each gets to know the others ways, including negative traits, but these are ok as the firm foundation has been set and obstacles are far more likely to be overcome because of this.
Where one of the partners does not have a stable personality and is unable to develop trust for instance, the smallest of triggers can create mayhem. An emotional hurricane is created by over-reaction to the other. Feeling out of control is frightening and a need to take back control is natural when feeling insecure, but I notice how this taking back of control often has to be absolute. e.g. ‘If you leave the house now, ( even after I have told you to leave) , it proves beyond all doubt that you don’t love me , in fact you never did’ ( because I am unloveable, hateful, rotten to the core, ugly, fat -and any other negative I can conjure up). Trust rears its head, ‘ You will cheat on me at every opportunity'( even though there is no evidence you have or will do this). Cue the arrival of the dreaded jealousy, ‘ I must also protect myself by suffocating you and knowing your every movement and by isolating you from all others so you are just with me. If you aren’t prepared to do this then you must leave!'( This will prove how right I am that you never loved me). ‘ BUT if you leave I might hurt myself, or worse.’ This inner double-bind is created and the partner is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Emotional blackmail has entered the relationship. Patterns begin to form.
There is little or no logical rational thinking , the motivation comes straight from the emotional core. Anxiety, low mood, anger, pain, frustration and more may then all be transferred onto the partner; why wouldn’t someone with this lifelong burden want to share or ‘dump’ the load? Projection is a habitual tool and the other person often becomes the ‘whipping boy’ or scapegoat.
Calmer moments are sublime, but even these become tinged with doubt and the stable other, starts too, to feel unstable and seeks to reduce any triggers ( book ‘Stop Walking on Eggshells’ , Mason.P& Kreger.R, 2010).
I have noticed too, how sometimes the taking on of the other’s desirable traits and characteristics begins, whilst the stable other themselves starts to crumble. Projection and denial abound. One seeks therapy in desperation, often in love and attached to their damaged other, but the other can’t know, it has to be a secret or there will be another emotional Tsunami- or worse.
Violence is often appears; usually to the Self. ‘I get so frustrated with him I smash plates, throw plants- always my own and then regret the loss and the mess’ or worse ‘ I punch myself, hit myself off the wall- it’s a relief for a while’. But this can also escalate , ‘ She gets in my space , won’t stop talking and I push her away’, ‘I hit him because he tries to control me- I won’t be controlled. It’s not my fault- (it never is). ‘ No one understands me, least of all him!’. These are all statements I have heard over the years and people tend to seek help later rather than sooner.
What can you do? Speaking to your GP is always a first port of call. Visiting http://www.mind.org.uk or http://www.helpguide.org
Can provide a wealth of information about signs symptoms and where help can be sourced.