[By the way, just because there’s a new post up, don’t forget to go back to this post and help me out with my request. I need your help. – T.]
I was getting bored with the old themes of the blog, and I didn’t want to just repeat myself or preach to the choir, so for 2011 a major theme is going to be toxic, personality-disordered people, particularly what are called Cluster B personality disorders:
Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)
- Antisocial personality disorder (of which sociopathy is a subset) (DSM-IV code 301.7): a pervasive disregard for the law and the rights of others.
- Borderline personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.83): extreme “black and white” thinking, instability in relationships, self-image, identity and behavior often leading to self-harm and impulsivity. Borderline personality disorder occurs in 3 times as many females as males.
- Histrionic personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.50): pervasive attention-seeking behavior including inappropriate sexual seductiveness and shallow or exaggerated emotions.
- Narcissistic personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.81): a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.
People say that we currently have a narcissism epidemic on the rise in America, and I think they’re partially right, but ultimately they’re thinking too small. I think what we actually have is a Cluster B epidemic. Which means that these traits are becoming more and more evident in everyday people, rather than conditions that afflict only a small amount of the population. This is especially true in the modern, developed world, with all its increased self-obsession. Narcissism currently is getting all the press, but it has a lot of overlap with the other disorders and I predict we’ll soon be hearing about them too in the media.
There are other disorders listed by Wikipedia, but I don’t want to focus on them excessively because in essence I think they tend to be side-effects of Cluster B disorders. They are compensatory actions that arise from how the person chooses to deal with their Cluster B disorder. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of them, so I’m including them here anyway.
Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)
- Avoidant personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.82): social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation and avoidance of social interaction.
- Dependent personality disorder (DSM-IV code 301.6): pervasive psychological dependence on other people.
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder) (DSM-IV code 301.4): characterized by rigid conformity to rules, moral codes and excessive orderliness.
Appendix B: Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study
Appendix B contains the following disorders. They are still widely considered amongst psychiatrists as being valid disorders, for example by Theodore Millon.
- Depressive personality disorder – is a pervasive pattern of depressive cognitions and behaviors beginning by early adulthood.
- Passive-aggressive personality disorder (negativististic personality disorder) – is a pattern of negative attitudes and passive resistance in interpersonal situations.
The following disorders are still considered to be valid disorders by Millon. They were in DSM-III-R but were deleted from DSM-IV. Both appeared in an appendix entitled “Proposed diagnostic categories needing further study”, and so did not have any concrete diagnostic criteria.
A big reason I’m switching to this theme is because I realize in pop psychology and mainstream science there is an excessive fixation on evolutionary psychology developing. Now I realize hearing this coming from me is extra ironic given how much I talk about evolution on this blog.
The problem is that while evolutionary psychology is an indispensable tool for understanding the world we live in, you must understand its limitations, or you’ll end up getting burned in the long run. There are two primary goals in evolution: to maximize survival and to reproduce. If members of a species survive and reproduce, than by evolutionary standards those members are successful. But when you think about it, that’s actually a very low bar to set.
You can survive and reproduce but still have horrible relationships. You can survive and reproduce and be miserable and unfulfilled and frustrated the whole time. You can survive and reproduce yet feel totally lonely. You can survive and reproduce and utterly hate your life and yourself down to the core.
Evolutionary success, i.e. survival and reproduction, are only the tip of the iceberg to fulfillment. You need a lot more in your toolbox beyond that, like healthy, non-toxic self-love, social interest (in the Adlerian sense, something I’ll discuss in a later post), empathy, psychoanalysis and other forms of psychology, philosophy, spirituality, street smarts, common sense and more. Evolutionary psychology just helps us draw the big picture. The rest helps us color inside the lines to our liking. Improving your life strictly through evolutionary psychology is a major start, but you ultimately need more for a fulfilled life.
Relationships, whether with family members, friends or lovers, involving people suffering from cluster B disorders are truly traumatizing, and like fighting in a combat zone or being hazed into an organization, it’s a trauma you can never truly grasp unless you’ve gone through it firsthand. Intellectually you may be able to grasp how damaging they are, but you never really understand how soul-crushing they can potentially be until you undergo it firsthand, which is why I think recognizing and avoiding the people who suffer from cluster B in less obvious ways is so important.
I once fell for a woman who had all four cluster B disorders, truly the most personality disordered yet initially normal-seeming person I’ve ever met, and it was the most valuable learning experience of my life. She had no respect for others’ boundaries, zero empathy (although she mastered parroting empathetic language from self-help books pretty well), seemed to go through life leaving everyone who crossed her path worse off than she found them, yet somehow convinced herself she was always a victim.
With distance and perspective I came to see her craziness very clearly, but I was totally taken in at first. However I went from finding the experience a waste of time to viewing it as incredibly valuable one I was glad I went through, because I got such a crash course in crazy and toxic all at once, for relatively cheap. Some dudes only realize what they’ve signed up for way too late, when they’re way too deeper in the mess to get out easily (like after marriage, kids or a false sexual harassment or rape charge).
The biggest problem isn’t the people who are blatant messes like Sammi from Jersey Shore but the psychos adept at wearing masks and aping the language of empathy and sanity.
Anyway, here are two good articles I found worth sharing that touch on much of this.
The first article is titled “Why You’re Not Married.” This one is an article by an North American woman that I think all progressive North American women need to read. The first two on the list are my favorites:
1. You’re a Bitch.
Here’s what I mean by bitch. I mean you’re angry. You probably don’t think you’re angry. You think you’re super smart, or if you’ve been to a lot of therapy, that you’re setting boundaries. But the truth is you’re pissed. At your mom. At the military-industrial complex. At Sarah Palin. And it’s scaring men off.
The deal is: most men just want to marry someone who is nice to them. I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy, which is like living with the single-cell protozoa version of a husband. Here’s what my son wants out of life: macaroni and cheese, a video game, and Kim Kardashian. Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn’t think so. You’ve seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man’s fear and insecurity in order to get married — but actually, it’s perfect, since working around a man’s fear and insecurity is big part of what you’ll be doing as a wife.
2. You’re Shallow.
When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man’s character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you’re not married, I already know it isn’t. Because if you were looking for a man of character, you would have found one by now. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit.
Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Or someone who knows what an Eames chair is. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl. And men of character do not want to marry teenaged girls. Because teenage girls are never happy. And they never feel like cooking, either.
The rest of the items from the list are:
3. You’re a Slut.
4. You’re a Liar.
5. You’re Selfish.
6. You’re Not Good Enough.
It’s already gone viral.
The other article is “Is Your Girlfriend or Wife A Professional Victim?” from a great site called Shrink 4 Men, run by a female therapist and totally geared toward helping men prevent and recover from relationships with personality-disordered women.
The list provided by the article:
1) She never acknowledges when she hurts others.
2) The victim must be victimized. If you’re not an abusive person, she’ll pull it out of you in order to play the victim script she has in her head.
3) She blames others and circumstances for her own shortcomings or failures.
4) She admires and respects people who actually treat her badly.
SHE IS REALLY AN EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE BULLY IN VICTIM’S CLOTHING.
It’s impossible to have a loving relationship of equals with a professional victim. She goes through life feeling slighted and angry, never taking responsibility for her actions or life. Good luck trying to talk to her about this. You’ll meet with extreme defensiveness and more blaming behaviors. Her only identity is that of victim: If she doesn’t believe she’s being victimized, then who is she? Someone who treats other people like crap and who is pissing her life away. It’s a matter of psychological self-preservation versus ego annihilation.
You can’t have a healthy and happy relationship with someone who holds you hostage and controls you through guilt, emotional blackmail, and blame. This type of person rarely changes and usually has characteristics of one of the dramatic cluster B personality disorders, including Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder or some variation.
If you’re involved with one of these women, I encourage you to reconsider the relationship. When I come across them in life, I try to avoid them altogether or, at the very least, minimize contact. It’s really the only way to deal with them.
I know plenty of people think these issues don’t matter to them because they haven’t (knowingly) encountered them yet, but remember what I said in the past about the need to learn an important thing before the moment of truth when you actually need to know it.
- I firmly believe gossip can be very educational, depending on how you use it. If you want to see a Cluster B personality at work, check out the recent drama with Hally Berry, as seen here and as seen here.
- The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean Twenge
- The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch
- Say Goodbye to Your PDI (Personality Disordered Individuals) by Stan Kapuchinski