Most caretakers believe that if they could just find the right words, voice inflection, or explanation, they could get the borderline or narcissist to understand why their behavior is so distressing. The hope is that they would then be willing to change how they act. You know that if you were told that you’d done something that was upsetting, cruel or unkind, you’d immediately try to change.
You want them to understand how difficult and hurtful their behaviors are.
However, it’s a mistake to assume that the BP/NP will respond emotionally or empathetically the way you do, or really understand how you feel.
People with BP/NP have definite social and emotional deficits. Their low levels of empathy make it hard for them to understand how others feel. They believe that you think and feel exactly like they do. In addition, they project their own feelings and thoughts onto you. Their accusations about you are exactly what they are doing, thinking and feeling.
BP/NPs may be aware that you’re upset, but they simply think you’re having the wrong reaction.
Explaining, clarifying, pleading, or in any other way of trying to get the BP/NP to think and act the way you do is futile. You can’t change their brains to function the same way yours does, nor can they get you to truly understand what it feels like for them.
If you want the BP/NP in your life to act differently, you have to make it appealing for them to act differently. Negative reinforcement works the best. When the BP//NP is acting rudely, hostile, argumentative, controlling or demanding, take yourself out of the interaction. Hang up the phone, walk out of the room, leave the house, or disengage in whatever way you can. Don’t respond with hostility. Simply say that you don’t want to continue the interaction, and then remove yourself so that it’s impossible to continue.
When the BP/NP is acting positively and normally, give them your attention. Be prepared, however, to exit quickly when things turn negative. They will learn which behaviors will hold your attention, and which no longer work.
Don’t try to solve the BP/NP’s problems
When you hear the BP/NP complain, demand, or want things to go differently, do you think you’ve done something wrong and jump in to try to fix or solve their problems? Instead of believing that you caused the BP/NP to feel or act a particular way, keep in mind that what’s really happening is that the BP/NP feels emotionally unable to cope and wants you to solve the issue by doing exactly what they want.
Every time you work to make things better for the BP/NP, the more they want you to take care of things for them, the more they believe that you are the cause of what makes things go wrong, and the more they blame you.
It changes everything when you look at the BP/NP’s complaints as problems they need to solve, instead of something you’re responsible for. Suggest that they would get the best results by checking on those things themselves, then let go of thinking that you have to fix anything. If they get angry, whine, or complain, keep focused on taking care of yourself and your children. Acknowledge that you’re aware of their displeasure, and let them figure out what to do about it. Remove yourself and your children and get involved in something else.
Letting the BP/NP solve their own problems, allows you to disengage from thinking that you’re at fault and need to do something to make it better for the BP/NP. When you change your perspective, you can relax and let them solve their own problems. That will give you time and energy to figure out what you want, and how you want to solve the issues in your own life.