Much of the research on PTSD has focused on the compulsive tendency of sufferers to “re-enact” inadequately resolved early traumatic experiences. The documented tendency of those with BPD to appear to seek out abusive intimate relationships and risky situations in adulthood, for example, illustrates this principle of “re-victimization.”
This phenomenon has been read in psychiatric circles in various ways:
1) as the unconscious wish to ‘replay’ an original traumatic relationship in order to bring about a better conclusion this time around,
2) as the power early trauma has over an individual’s self-image, leaving a person subjectively ‘helpless’ to change that accustomed role,
3) as the weakness of the cognitive executive functions of the brain under higher levels of stress perception, and, related to this,
4) as a purely neurological, inheritable dysfunction of those parts of the brain that regulate stress perception and actively “addict” the sufferer’s body to higher levels of stress-related, self-produced biochemicals.
Regardless of one’s take on their etiology, once they are set in place during an individual’s developmental years, the coping mechanisms that developed in order to combat the everpresent subjective sense of being under attack are extremely difficult (although not impossible) to “re-wire” — thus, also, the label Personality Disorder: these cognitive mechanisms become ingrained so early on as to form a constitutive portion of the individual’s personality or identity.
Hannah Davis a fellow BPD sufferer said “It’s not really that those with BPD want chaos and disorder, its just that we feel things as a threat, become triggered by something that is too familiar to our experiences, and we can’t help losing it or creating chaos. We don’t actively go to do it or decide to create it or even recognize that things aren’t chaotic. We see something that reminds us of a time of feeling unsafe and we lose it. It’s a defence mechanism often coming from abuse. It’s like how you’ll be more open to abusive relationships if you come from an abusive family because that’s normal to you. Chaos is normal to us and we grew up in it and dealt with people like that. We will unwillingly see the people around us like them and respond as if it’s a threat or we’re being abused again, even if that person isn’t like them at all.”
“My best friend is super kind and sweet and only wants to help me, but I would see her very similar to my ex due to how their ADHD affected them. I’d lash out and get angry as if I was still in the abusive relationship/friendship with him and sometimes I’d dissociate so badly that I would see her as my dead friend, my ex, my family and barely be aware that she was even there. I became delusional because of how bad it was. It doesn’t always get that bad, but for people with BPD, we feel safer in chaos and will often feel like anything non-chaotic is a lie/something waiting to happen.”
“For example, my friends are wonderful and nice. I have a loving and supportive girlfriend who cares about me. They swear they’ll never leave me and rationally, they wouldn’t. But all the time, I am still waiting for something to happen. It is like a time bomb. You sit there and you know one day something is going to happen and you’ll just be like “Yep, there it is. It’s over now. They’re gonna hate me and leave me. I knew this day would come.” It isn’t gonna happen, but it’s so normal and expected that I can’t help thinking “Oh yeah, this is it” just because someone cancelled a hangout or left me on read more often than replied to me.”
“It’s our defence mechanisms, it’s our trauma popping up. We don’t WANT it, but we can’t feel safe without it and will sometimes create it ourselves unwillingly because we don’t always realize what we are doing in the moment. After the episode, we will often realize it and feel terrible.”
“And as for the chaos created by impulsive behaviour, we often do this to feel anything. At least I do anyway. I constantly sit with feelings like a hollow shell, wrong in my own body, with a big gaping black void right in my chest that is consuming everything within me. I am a empty shell merely going through the motions, there is nothing to me. Whether it be speeding, letting go, driving recklessly, drinking, drugs, or sex. I need to have it to feel something, anything, to feel like I’m even alive.”
We do live crazy lives that is for sure, but I hope this has answered a lot of people’s questions as to why we do the things we do.