Personality Disorders have been shown in some studies to be rooted in neurological differences in the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other. This isn’t suggesting that people with Personality Disorders shouldn’t be held accountable for their own behaviours – (and yes! They absolutely should). But it would also be a mistake to regard people who suffer from PDs simply as mentally healthy people who are being selfish.
This one is tricky. Everyone is selfish. Everyone! Even those people that are seemingly altruistic derive a sense of well-being from helping others which brings about a feeling that they are doing good. If the pandemic taught us anything it has to be that! People don’t generally do things that make them feel bad just because someone else needs something. That said, it’s not bad to be selfish, it’s just a byproduct of being human. So yes, someone with BPD can be selfish, but this isn’t our basic nature.
Someone with BPD though can be very needy. Extremely needy. We often need validation that our feelings are real, that someone loves us and won’t leave us and therefore a lot of attention to ‘prove’ this. We covet this and don’t want to lose it. This isn’t something we set out to do though. We don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Gee, I think I want to monopolize someone else’s mental state, attention, and resources. Selfish powers activate!” Maybe some do, but there are plenty of ‘normal’ people that do this (maybe not the ‘selfish powers activate’ part). It’s not just a product of Borderline Personality Disorder. For the most part, I think it’s a fear response. Fear that we will be left, that we aren’t worthy of being loved, that people are lying and trying to use us… an endless list of other things. We need reassurance and it takes a lot of energy to show us that. Unfortunately, it’s a part of our nature to need this, feel smothered by it, push it away, fear the loss of it, frantically try to retrieve it, and repeat the cycle endlessly, for as long as someone will let us. So it does appear that we are acting mostly on our own behalf. This doesn’t negate the fact that we do care about the people in our lives, this doesn’t change the fact that we love the people in our lives and want to take care of those around us. That we do have so much to give. We just need to be shown this in return to a degree that many don’t require.
I do want to stress accountability. We are responsible for our own actions. Just because we feel incredibly out of control does not mean it’s ok to Act Out. I know it’s very, very difficult to reign this in sometimes, but we do need to try. Otherwise, it just ends up hurting the people around us and acts to push them away.