Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.

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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC

The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 675 Route 72 E Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Telephone us at(609)709-2043 and (609) 709-0009.Take Mill Creek Road South, just off Route 72, on the road to Beach Haven West.After about 400 feet, turn right into the office complex of Greater Coastal Realty. Then turn right and go past the Lyceum Gyn. Continue on to the Prudential Zack Building. We. are the last office at the end. We accept Medicare and most other major insurance.Weekend and evening office hours are avalable.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Is the Multiverse Really Dangerous?

"Help! I'm a student in Dr. Gibbons' Introductory Psychology class!"
When I first opened my psychology practice in Manahawkin, New Jersey, one of my first hypnosis clients asked me, "You aren't going to turn me into al chicken, are you?"

"No," I replied, somewhat taken aback. 'That's for stage hypnotists. If I did it, it wouldn't be professional." But I did once. . . .

Several years ago, when I was discussing the topic of hypnosis in an Introductory Psychology class, I asked a student who had volunteered in a previous demonstration if she would be willing to help me illustrate how easy it was to turn a hypnotized person into a chicken. She readily agreed, and at the conclusion of an induction, I told her that I would count backwards from ten to one, and that at the count of one she would have been turned into a chicken.

"You will always be able to hear and to respond to my voice," I continued, "and I will return you to your normal state in a few minutes, before I bring you out of hypnosis. But until I do, you will experience the world exactly as if you had been turned into a chicken. You will remember everything I have said, and it will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Okay?"

She nodded in agreement, and I counted slowly backwards from ten to one, providing suggestions along the way that she could feel herself changing into a chicken; and at the count of one, I announced that she had become a chicken. "Would you like to open your eyes and walk around a bit?" I asked. She did so, walking slowly as I took hold of her elbow. "Why are you walking like that?" I asked.

"I'm a chicken," she answered in a high, cackly voice, much to the amusement of the class.

I guided her back to her desk, counted from one to ten to restore usual perceptions, and then concluded the hypnotic demonstration. I then asked her if she had really felt like she was a chicken, and she slowly and thoughtfully nodded in agreement. 

But if she really believed that she was a chicken, why did she not scurry away in fear as soon as I approached her desk? Why did she allow me to slowly walk her around the room, limping slightly, instead of struggling to get away, as a real chicken would surely do? Why did she answer my question about why she was limping by answering, "I'm a chicken!?" And why were the suggestions so easy to undo, as if she understood English as well as she ever did?

We could talk about a "hidden observer" that always knows what's going on and maintains control, no how matter deeply a person is hypnotized, as Hilgard did. We could talk about "trance logic," which is similar to the logic which is found in dreams, as Martin Orne did. But why should we infer the presence of any fancy mental processes when they are not needed?

What she had actually believed and responded toIMHO, was the narrative of what had taken place! She knew that she was a student in my class, and she knew that she had consented for me to hypnotize her. She still had the kind of "Alice-in-Wonderland" imagination which we all have as children, but most of us lose as we become adults. Therefore, she was also able to act, think, and feel as if she were a chicken for the purpose of a class demonstration.  

The demonstration described here was undertaken in the spirit of fun, and everyone understood that. However, as  long as the suggested narratives are real to the person who undergoes them, their transformational effects on the personality can be powerful indeed! With our adult ability to conceptualize, we can build an almost unlimited number of resource states, in an unlimited number of parallel universes in which anything that can happen really does happen,. In the words of the mystical poet, William Blake, experiential hypnosis enables us, 


To see a world in a grain of sand,
Or a Heaven in a wild flower.
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

Infinity? No problem. Eternity? Check. "Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour?" Hang on, here we go. , , ,

See also:

What is Hypnosis and How does it Work?


Print Reference

Sarbin, T. R., & De Rivera, J. (1998),  Believed-in imaginings: The Narrative Construction of Reality (Memory, Trauma, Dissociation, and Hypnosis) . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.




Trump and Hitler: The Psychology Behind the Myth

In view of the recent indictments of  an organized Russian group working to influence U.S. elections in favor of Donald Trump, and the disclosures of his recent affairs with Playboy and porn stars, many of my psychology clients have been asking whether or not Trump's success might be due to his using  hyperempiria, or NLP, especially because his major sources of support seem to be Fundamentalist Christians. Whenever you use "alternative facts" in place of the real ones, as his former spokesperson Kellyann Conway admitted, it is an attempt to harness the power of suggestion. But if no induction is used and if the situation is not defined as hypnosis, why are suggestions which may strike many people as bizarre still sometimes effective?

A recent article in Psychology Today stated that half of all Americans couldn't come up with a sudden demand for $450 in a crisis. Although Trump may be unwittingly using some techniques which are commonly referred to in lay hypnosis circles as NLP or neuro-linguistic programming, almost everyone now agrees that there are a lot of angry voters out there. on both the right and the left, who supported Trump because they feel that the system has failed them (see below).



My wife grew up in New Jersey, and I have lived here for 25 years. We have read the first-hand newspaper accounts of how Trump has bankrupted several casinos and walked away with millions, paid his workers sub-standard wages, and stiffed his contractors by paying them much less than they were actually owed. Beneath his outward bluster lies a narcissistic personality disorder with antisocial traits, but don't just take my word for it. Here's a link to a story in The Independent which bears the headline, "Donald Trump has Dangerous Mental Illness, say Psychiatry Experts at Yale Conference." (His recent psychiatric examination was not a test for personality disorders.)

It is generally agreed that people often tend to make up their minds based on emotions rather than  facts, and hear what they want to hear in order to confirm these emotionally-based opinions. Trump's base has shrunken only slightly, but there are a lot of people who stayed home during the last national election because they didn't like either candidate and are now as energized as a space probe. This time, it will become increasingly difficult for special interest groups to persuade these energized voters either not to vote at all, or to vote against their own best interests. 

Is President Trump using hypnosis, hyperempiria, or NLP, then? No, but he has his NRA backers, his Russian data miners, and his dog-whistle racism. Hitler, on the other hand, limited his "alternative facts" to only two: the alleged superiority or the German race and the allegation that all the difficulties the Germans had suffered were due to a "world Jewish conspiracy." If Hitler were living in twenty-first century America, these beliefs would probably be categorized by mental health professionals under the diagnostic categories of narcissistic personality disorder, delusional disorder grandiose type and delusional disorder persecutory type. 

Hitler also taught that a big lie would be believed easier than a little one if it were repeated often enough, so by and large he restricted his big lies to only these two, with other lies invoked in support of them.

The most important reason that Trump does not pose as much of a danger as Hitler did is obvious. Hitler was a much better speaker! He even made use of lighting, symbols, and audience involvement to drive home his points. Here, with English subtitles, is one of his classic speeches. Judge for yourself.




Note that after Hitler boasts to his cheering supporters that he has eliminated all sources of political opposition, Deputy Fuehrer Rudolf  Hess strode to the platform at the conclusion of his speech, and ecstatically proclaimed that the Party was Hitler, and Hitler and Germany were one, thereby making Hitler's power absolute.

Trump has gone a long way towards capturing the Republican Party, but he is unable to eliminate other political parties as Hitler did.  With the recent horrifying visual images of weeping children being ripped from their mothers' arms and being abused and drugged in order to control them, what has now become the Party of Trump is probably headed for a series of defeats at the polls as his support gradually erodes. 

But why are Trump's followers so loyal that they have made the Republican Party the Party of Trump? There is a powerful force called cognitive dissonance which makes us reluctant to admit that we have been wrong, especially when made a previous commitment to it. This is what doomed Hitler's followers to eventual destruction because they could not admit that their leader was a pathological narcissist and this is what is currently in the process of destroying the Republican Party in the United States. Here is how cognitive dissonance works in a romantic relationship with a narcissist. The parallels with a political relationship with a narcissist, whether we are talking about Trump or Hitler, will be readily apparent.
















  
  

What is Hyperempiria?

Evolution did not come to a screeching halt with the first bipeds who could accurately be labeled homo sapiens. We have been developing the powers of the mind in new and exciting ways ever since. However, the more highly evolved among us frequently need the services of a hypnotist to function as an enabler, coach, or personal trainer to show us how to use these emerging abilities with confidence, because they are so different from the current patterns of thought which we are used to in everyday life

Confucius said, “Tell me and I may not remember. Show me and I may forget. Involve me and I will understand.” This type of stress can best be counteracted by the type of hypnotic involvement which allows us to experience first-hand a reality in which all the negative things that ever happened have been paved over with joy, and bring the lessons of these experiences back with us.

There are many altered experiences of consciousness which are induced by procedures designed to increase tension, alertness, and physical activity rather than by expressed or implied suggestions of diminished awareness which are commonly grouped under the term hypnosis. Banyai and Hilgard (1976) specifically mention the 'spontaneous' trance states occurring during certain religious gatherings among the Holy Rollers, Snake Charmers, and other revivalist groups (Sargant, 1957, Williams, 1958). Comparable results are found during tribal ceremonies (Field, 1960; Murphy, 1964), in the famous trance-dances in Bali (Sargant, 1957), the fire-walkers trance (Thomas, 1934), and the ecstatic trance of the "howling or "whirling" dervishes (Williams, 1958). In the more advanced cultures highly suggestible mental states have been produced by grilling or brainwashing (Sargant, 1957), and a hyper kinetic trance appears to be associated with the emotional contagion encountered in a group or mob setting (LaBarre, 1962).


Banyai and Hilgard went on to describe a now-classic experiment in which 50 subjects rode a bicycle ergometer under load, keeping their eyes open while exercising and receiving suggestions of alertness. This was randomly alternated with a standard hypnotic induction procedure using eye fixation and relaxation, and the results were measured by eight tests of responses to suggestion. Both conditions, on average, produced about the same increase in responsiveness to suggestion, and the highly susceptible subjects reported that in both cases altered states were achieved. The authors concluded,"The results obtained in the experiment suggest that by our completely active-alert hypnotic induction procedure it is possible to induce a state in which all the important characteristics of hypnosis occur, except the resemblance to sleep .. . .Although the subjective alterations differed between the two kinds of induction, the highly susceptible reported that in both cases altered states were achieved" (p, 221).

When the Hare Krishna movement was at its height in the United States, we invited the group to present at our graduate psychology colloquium at West Georgia College. Their presentation included a group chant, which began calmly enough; but after a few moments, the room seemed to explode with emotion as their chant reached a crescendo which continued for several minutes. It was obvious that the participants had entered an experiential trance which, according to their own statements, was both the focus and the energizing force which empowered their movement.


Most of us are also familiar with the details of the Mesmeric "crises," and how they resulted in either temporary or permanent "cures" of many ailments which today we would refer to as psychosomatic or hysterical in nature.

I conducted some research which links being exponentially gifted with the ability to experience the Fundamentalist experience of "salvation", which many people describe as a life-changing event (Gibbons, 1988; Gibbons & DeJarnette, 1972). Hyperempiria,or suggestion-enhanced experience, has also been found to be helpful in facilitating meditation and prayer, and for such diverse experiences as the alleviation of depression and the enhancement of personal intimacy through experiences of mystical intensity (Gibbons & Woods, 2016).


References


Banyai, E. I., & Hilgard, E. R. (1976). A comparison of active-alert hypnotic induction with traditional relaxation induction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85,pp. 218-224
.
Field, M.Search for security: An ethnopsychialric study of rural Ghana.Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press, 1960.


Gibbons, D. E. (1988) Were you saved or were you hypnotized?The Humanist, pp. 17-19.

Gibbons, D. E. & De Jarnette, J. (1972). Hypnotic susceptibility and religious experience.Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 11(2), pp. 152-156.

Gibbons, D. E., & Woods, K. T. (2016). Virtual reality hypnosis: Explorations in the Multiverse. Amazon Books.

LaBarre, W. They shall take up serpents. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1 9 6 2.


Murphy, J. Psychotherapeutic aspects of shamanism on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. in A. Kiev (Ed.),Magic, Faith, and Healing.New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1964.


Sargent, W.Battle for the Mind.Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957.
Thomas, E. The fire walk. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research,1934.42,292-309.

Williams, G. W. Hypnosis in perspective. In L. M. LeCron (Ed.), Experimental Hypnosis. New York: Macmillan, 1958.

The Function of Hypnosis in Human Evolution



      Where do We Go from Here?
If I were to walk up to a person who responds extremely well to suggestion, ask him to close his eyes, and matter-of-factly state that by the time I got to the count of five he could open them and see me wearing a Santa Claus suit and hat, he would surely think that I was crazy. And if such a suggestion should actually happen to "work," he would surely think that he was crazy! But if I first asked him to close his eyes and suggested with sufficient plausibility that he was "going into hypnosis," and then I told him that by the time I got to the count of five he could open his eyes and see me dressed like Santa Claus, such a suggestion could be accepted much more easily because it would have become more credible -- but why?


Some people never know that they are color-blind -- that they lack an important ability possessed by the rest of us. Now let's consider the opposite. What if there should dwell among us a group of individuals who have an ability that is lacking in most of the population? Wouldn't they also be inclined to deny it, in order to fit in with the rest of the society?  Bur the question remains, where do these abilities come from, and what is their ultimate purpose? 

There is little doubt that our evolutionary development has been uneven.. We have highly developed frontal lobes which enable us to formulate lofty ideals and distant goals, but all too often our emotional centers prevent us from achieving them. More than once in the last century, we have come close to annihilating each other; and many societal institutions are devoted in whole or in part to regulating our behavior so that we do not do so individually. 


With the use of multimodal hypnosis to involve one's entire person the content of a suggested event,, it becomes possible for this imaginatively gifted group pf individuals, more highly evolved than the rest, to pre-experience the rewards of distant goals now, in the present when they are most important for motivation, making it much easier to live up to the goals and ideals which evolution has enabled us to construct, but which we have frequently found it difficult to achieve, due to what is often referred to as a lack of "will power.". 

Many cosmologists now believe in the existence of alternate universes, and since our brain constructs our own reality, it is not necessary to restrict ourselves to possible outcomes in this universe. Using alternate and parallel universes as merely one more form of hypothetical constructs or believed-in imaginings, you can selectively sample from the best moments of every parallel lifetime you can possibly imagine, speed-walking on the path of enlightenment,  and you can directly explore the joys and wonders of the Multiverse itself, ti pave the way for all humankind to one day follow..


 References
Gibbons, D. E., & Woods, K. T. (2016) Virtual reality hypnosis: Exploring alternate andarallel universes. Amazon Books, (Both print and Kindle editions are available.) 
Sarbin, T. R. (1998). Believed-in Imaginings. New York: Barnes & Noble
 




Exploring Parallel Universes and Changing Lives

To borrow a line from Charles Dickens, “One thing must be clearly understood, or no good can come from this story I am about to tell.” Our brain creates our own reality  out of what William James called the “buzzing, blooming confusion” of raw sensory input which bombards us from every direction.  Since no two people have exactly the same set of experiences, what we believe to be  “reality’ is  actually an individually constructed parallel universe which only partially intersects with those constructed by others.


A skilled hypnotist can use the brain’s ability to construct a parallel universe to change a life narrative from one of worry, doubt, self distrust, fear, and despair to one of triumph, regardless of the life circumstances in which people currently happen to find themselves..


Recently, Kelley Woods and I have been using the BEST ME Technique of multi modal hypnosis as a systematic, comprehensive method for involving one's entire being in a suggested experience without the need for any mechanically constructed systems of virtual reality (Gibbons & Woods, 2016).  Clients have been saying things like, "I can't thank you enough!" and, "I'm at a point in my life now where I think that I can accomplish anything,;” Here are their stories Judge for yourself:


Gibbons, D. E., & Woods, K. T. (2016) Virtual reality hypnosis: Exploring alternate and parallel universes. Amazon Books, 2016. (Both print and Kindle editions are available.)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

How to Train Yourself NOT to Be Anxious

With 99% of the same genes as our closest monkey cousins, the chimpanzees, it's no wonder that under the pressures of modern life, the tendency to become anxious can sometimes spiral out of control! This brief posting is not intended to serve as a substitute for counseling or therapy. If anxiety has begun to affect your personal or work relationships, you should definitely seek the services of a duly licensed mental health professional. However,for many everyday situations, the following information may be helpful in correcting the habits that can sometimes get us into trouble.

It is generally agreed that cognitive-behavioral psychology is the fastest-growing oreintation within the profession. There is also a rapidly-accumulating body of evidence that it actually works! Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, may be summarized as the study of the relationship between thinking, feeling, and behavior.  Just as physical therapists can provide you with exercises to improve physical functioning, cognitive-behavioral therapists provide exercises to develop more effective psychological adjustments.


The information below was garnered from several different sources, and provides you with a variety of useful forms and worksheets so that you can use whatever combination of these CBT tools you find most helpful for training yourself not to be anxious The information referred to in any of the links below can be downloaded from your computer by clicking on the link and using the print command on your computer. 


Cognitive-behavioral therapists frequently use a document called a thought record in order to examine just what goes on when we keep making those angry responses that keep getting us into trouble. Here is what one looks like, courtesy of www.getselfhelp.co.uk. They also provide a summary of the STOPP technique, which they describe as "CBT in a nutshell," and which can be summed up in one sentence: "Try not to act merely in the moment. Pull back from the situation. Take a wider view; compose yourself." Following is a hypothetical example of how the anxiety thought record form might be used to see a situation from a different perspective, using the example of being suddenly cut off in traffic by another car, with the column headings in italics and one set of possible responses in standard type. You can practice using these forms for a number of other hypothetical situations, or situations that have actually made you angry in the past, in order to be prepared for a variety of possible situations in the future. 

Situation: A car suddenly swerves in front of you and slows down, causing you to slam on your brakes in order to avoid hitting it.


Feelings, Emotions,:  An increase in heartbeat and blood pressure, clenched jaw, faster brething.


Emotions/Moods (rate 0-100%):  Anxiety


Physical Sensations & Reactions: Swearing, gripping the steering wheel


Unhelpful Thoughts/Images:  Urge to speed up and pass the car in front of you, honk at the driver, make an angry gesture, and cut back in front of him.


What I Did/What I Could Do/What's the Best Response? (Re-Rate Emotion 0-100%)  Realize that the emotion will pass in a few moments, but if you act on it the situation could escalate and possibly lead to serious complications.



The ABC Worksheet from www.smartrecovery.org, which is downloadable as an Adobe pdf file, can become your daily companion for taking control of your life in matters large and small! You can use it to make motivational and behavioral adjustments not only for controlling anxiety, but also for everything from paying your bills on time, to stopping smoking, or deciding on which career path to follow. 

It first asks you about the causes of something you would like to change in your life, and then asks about the emotional consequences which were the result, your beliefs about what happened, what beliefs could be substituted for the ones which brought about the unpleasant results, and how those changed beliefs make you feel. You can write on the form itself, clearing and changing it as often as you like. Then, when you are finished, you can either print it out or save it as a text file, using a different form for each problem you would like to work on. To re-examine it or re-do each form that you have completed, just call up that particular file and continue to modify it as you progress. It could prove to be extremely helpful if you are willing put enough thought into it to give it a try!


Finally, the folks at www.smartrecovery.org have a tool chest of resources which is a treasure-trove for people who want to alter hard-to-change behaviors of every type.They have prepared a selection of tips and tricks for managing anxiety in such a manner that in many instances you can not merely control it, you can get rid of it!  Here is a partial list of some of the other materials which they have to offer. The information may be downloaded free of charge by using the print command on your computer, although donations are encouraged. Here is a partial list of some of the materials which they have to offer:

Of course, training yourself not to be anxious is going to take time and patience. However, once you get the hang of it, if you continue to do these mental workouts as regularly as you would exercise physically in a gymnasium, you will  be able to think, feel, and act in a calm and confident manner in almost any situation. On the other hand, if you do not use the CBT Thought Record to identify your triggers and the other choices that you have, you might very well continue to feel anxiety when you know you it could continue to get you into trouble, but never do much about it. 

Just as reading a book on surgery will not make you into a surgeon, and reading an exercise manual will not build muscles, merely reading a Blog posting on how to train yourself to avoid anxuety will not be enough to enable you to get rid of it. People who practice meditation, for example, do not hope to attain enlightenment merely by reading about it!  Regular practice using the thought record for a variety of situations is the key to success. 


Confucius said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." But once you have taken that step, you have to keep going. The two rules for success in any self-improvement program are: 1) Begin, and 2) Don't stop!  If you frequently experience problems with anger, you should have plenty of motivation to follow both of these rules. No matter how long the journey, cognitive-behavioral psychology, especially when undertaken with professional guidance, can be of great assistance in successfully reaching your destination!

See also: 
How to Keep Your Boss from Driving You Crazy
Toxic People who can Wreck Your Life


 

Toxic People Who can Wreck Your Life


The following descripions of personality disorders have been compiled by some of the best minds in the field of mental health, drawing upon years of clinical observation and literally hundreds of research studies to find patterns which “clump together” in present-day culture. Personality-disorderd people can indeed wreck your life when they are bosses, friends, or family members, they cause you to doubt yourself and to believe their toxic opinions about you. Of course,actual diagnosis and treatment should only be undertaken by a mental health professional but There is an old saying, "If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck -- it's a duck!"

Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The ancient Greeks used to tell the story of Narcissus -- a lad who was so good-looking that he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and spent so much time gazing at it that he eventually fell into the pool and drowned. People who are given a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder are often perceived as being selfish or conceited. They may often spend a great deal of time telling you how great they are, or boasting of their achievements or accomplishments.

Some people think of a person with a narcissistic personality disorder as having a superiority complex to cover up for an inferiority complex. When you get to know such people well, it soon becomes apparent that the reason they spend so much time “tooting their own horn” is that deep down inside, they really feel afraid, inadequate, and unlovable.

Narcissists do not always act selfishly in the short term. They are often highly motivated to pursue long-term goals in order to prove their worth both to themselves and others. For this reason, narcissists often tend to gravitate to positions of leadership in business, government, education -- and yes, even churches.

Narcissists often cause a great deal of suffering, particularly when they happen to be employers, family members,  or romantic partners. Yet there are ways of dealing with them. (Since no two personalities are exactly identical, however, you cannot stereotype them and treat them all exactly the same way.)

Histrionic Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder may often be compared to an adult version of the “spoiled child” who will do anything to remain the center of attention. If histrionics are able to “show off” and remain the center of attention by doing a good job, they often accomplish a great deal. But if they feel that they are being ignored, or that the attention which they crave so deeply is denied them, they may become angry and disruptive in order to get it back again -- even if it’s unfavorable attention this time! ("I don't care what you say about me," one publicity-hungry histrionic is reported to have said to a reporter for a scandal magazine. "Just be sure you spell my name right.!")

Antisocial Personality Disorder.

People with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder did not incorporate our society’s standards of right and wrong into their personalities as well as the rest of us have. They begin getting into trouble with the authorities by the time they are adolescents, and don’t grow out of it. As you might suppose, this pattern is much more common in men than in women.

Since personality disorders are so difficult to change, many such people keep going back and forth to jail from their teen years until middle age, when they seem to mellow out of their own accord. They make up the bulk of most prison populations, and often have a history of substance abuse or substance dependency. However, people with antisocial personality traits (I like to call them stealth anti socials) may be encountered almost anywhere, even at the highest levels of many organizations; and they may not be found out until their behavior gets them into trouble. (The discovery and apprehension of stealth anti socials in high-profile positions is the basis of many of the news stories we read about every day.)

Borderline Personality Disorder.

To understand the person who qualifies for a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, think back to some of the stormiest days of your own adolescence, or the adolescence of someone you know well. With an incompletely developed sense of self, the borderlines have no firm idea of who they are and where they are going. Their lives are often erratic, with frequent job changes and alterations in long term goals, and intense and unstable friendships and romantic involvements.

Because of their poorly developed sense of self, borderlines often have difficulty with so-called “boundary issues,” or the ability to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate in a given situation. Some borderlines, in fact, may find it difficult to even talk to a person of the opposite sex for very long without acting as if they are falling in love with them. As would be expected, the romantic lives of borderlines tend to be especially intense and tumultuous. The manipulative abilities of people with borderline personality disorder often enable them to deceive those who do not understand the inner storms which produce such behavior, which frequently causes their sudden bouts of passion to be mistaken for genuine love.

Borderlines often engage in “splitting,” with either extremely positive or extremely negative feelings towards others, sometimes suddenly reversing from extreme friendliness to extreme rejection and vice-versa. This changeability frequently leads them to engage in behavior that is highly manipulative. This splitting may also be the reason why the interpersonal relationships of borderlines are often centered around real of imagined fears of abandonment. (One book on borderline personality disorder is entitled, I Hate You - Don’t Leave Me!) These tendencies to engage in splitting may also explain why borderlines also seem to have a strong ability to divide those around them into separate camps of friends and enemies.  

Borderlines usually have very low self-esteem, and suicidal gestures, genuine attempts,
and successful suicides are not uncommon. Since many borderlines have a history of cutting themselves, or other forms of self-injurious behavior, it has been speculated that this represents an extreme attempt to combat the overwhelming numbness of an otherwise empty life.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.


People who have been diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be popularly known as a “nit-picker” or “neat freak.” They may become so involved with orderliness, perfectionism, and control that efficiency suffers as a result. This culture tends to place a high value on preoccupation with detail in certain jobs. With proper training, people who have milder forms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may become excellent law clerks, college registrars, bank auditors, or personal physicians -- in which case, it may not be a personality disorder any more, unless it interferes with their functioning off the job!

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is closely related to another disorder with a similar name, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD for short, which is similar in nature but more limited in scope. Obsessive-compulsive disorder refers to a pattern of continually recurring thoughts (obsessions), or behaviors which one is compelled to continually repeat, such as checking a door several times in a row to be sure that it is lockedO

Avoidant Personality Disorder.

People who carry a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder have had such unpleasant social interactions in the past that with the possible exception of one or two close relatives or special friends, they have come to fear all human contact. Avoidants are frequently not merely shy about most social situations, they are genuinely phobic about them. Their avoidance is often centered around a core belief that if people really got to know them, it would immediately become obvious how incompetent and worthless they really are, and the immediate result would be scorn, rejection, and loss of employment. People with an avoidant personality disorder often tend to gravitate to solitary occupations -- researchers, librarians, or forest rangers, for example; and they may be attracted by certain monastic orders. (Of course, not everyone in these types of occupations could be diagnosed with an avoidant personality disorder!)

Dependent Personality Disorder.

A central theme in the life of people who have been diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder is a need to be looked after and taken care of, often accompanied by excessive fears of real or imagined abandonment. Ironically, some people who qualify for a diagnosis of DPD may behave in exactly opposite fashion. Those with milder forms of this disorder may attempt to satisfy their underlying dependency needs by becoming so efficient and thorough that they make themselves indispensable. Others, whose disorder is more severe, become highly dependent on instructions from above, and are reluctant to show any initiative in carrying out their responsibilities for fear that they will have made the wrong decision.

Paranoid Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnoses with paranoid personality disorder tend to see the activities of other people as ill-intentioned -- even when the opposite is true. Compliments may be seen as attempts to gain undue influence through flattery, and offers of help may be seen as evidence that the person to whom the help is offered is viewed as incompetent. The resulting suspiciousness and hostility may tend to bring about the negative attitudes and behaviors which the person with a paranoid personality disorder believes were always there. (The saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!”)

Schizoid Personality Disorder.

The person who has been diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder is an extreme loner or a “cold fish” who just isn’t interested in being around people. Such people are often found in the most solitary jobs which others might tend to shy away from. Because of their extreme lack of social skills, they should not be expected to change simply by inviting them to parties or by introducing them to a wide circle of people.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

People who have been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder typically have bizarre notions of cause and effect, and may practice unusual rituals of their own devising, either to make things happen or to prevent them from happening, similar to those who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Their everyday speech patterns and favorite topics of conversation are usually regarded by those around them as being somewhat bizarre, although not totally “crazy” in the popular sense of the term. They may also take a keen interest in cults and in the paranormal. Although certainly not everyone who is interested in such topics has a schizotypal personality disorder, the true schizotypal still tends to stand out because of bizarre thought patterns.

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.

Although the American Psychiatric Association no longer officially lists this as a separate personality disorder, people with passive aggressive tendencies try to disrupt things by sabotaging the success of their employers, their family, or their friends without appearing do so deliberately, because they feel that their own needs for recognition, status, or achievement are not being met, or that other people are more successful than they are. Passive aggressive people may risk an occasional confrontation if it helps them to get their frustrations out, but they can usually gauge their actions carefully enough to avoid losing their jobs or their families.

If they are not frankly and firmly confronted about their behavior, their passive-aggressive patterns may become worse over time as they continue to follow their own “hidden agendas” and they feel that their actions are being accepted or condoned. They may single out for special treatment vulnerable individuals or groups who will not or cannot “fight back,” and their behavior may degenerate into outright bullying. Then, when the inevitable day of reckoning does arrive, the consequences may be much more serious -- both for the victims and for the organization -- than if the problem had been immediately and forcefully dealt with.

Limitations of a Personality Disorder Diagnosis.

In order to qualify for any of the foregoing diagnoses of personality disorder, the disorder must be seen to cause people significant distress in their social, intellectual, or occupational functioning, regardless of whether or not they are aware of this fact. Temperamental but highly successful movie stars, for example, whose demanding and self-centered behavior would interfere with their adjustment in another setting, would probably not qualify for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder as long as they can "get away with it." Similarly, people who live alone in a remote location miles from the nearest neighbor would not qualify for a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder as long as they are able to function well their current situation, regardless of how intensely they may dislike having social contact with their fellow human beings.

It's easy to see how more than one personality disorder, or the traits of several, can work together in the same individual. Most of us are familiar with, or have heard stories about, the narcissistic borderline who sleeps her way into an executive position and then proceeds to systematically eliminate all those who are familiar with how she got to where she is, while tyrannizing over the ones who have been hired as their replacements. We are also not surprised to learn about a narcissistic antisocial convict (sometimes referred to as a psychopath), who immediately commits another crime upon his release from prison, which entitles him to several more years of "three hots and a cot," plus free medical and dental care. Many of us have also witnessed instances of a passive-aggressive histrionic, who regularly disrupts public meetings with their oft-repeated tales of woe, to the extent that it becomes next to impossible to get any business done. 

People with personality disorders are not likely to seek professional assistance, because they are frequently inclined to blame their troubles on everyone but themselves. When they do seek help, it is usually because they are forced to do so (often in conjunction with an assault or a suicide attempt, or because a family member insists on it). They tend to remain as long as they are "hurting," or as long as they are forced to stay. When they are no longer hurting and are in a position to stop, they discontinue treatment.

Instead of seeing the personality-disordered individual directly,a therapist is much more likely to see a family member, romantic partner, or employee who presents with anxiety or depression as a result of their interaction with someone who has a personality disorder (whom they may refer to as a "toxic person" or an "energy vampire").

A final word of caution: as stated previously, an actual diagnosis of a personality disorder should only be made by an appropriately trained mental health professional. One of the easiest and most powerful ways to insult people is to let them know that you suspect them of having a personality disorder! While avoiding making such a diagnosis yourself unless you are properly trained to do so, and not communicating your suspicions to the individuals concerned, knowing how to recognize the major symptoms of a personality disorder will place you in a much better position to deal with such people on a daily basis, and to seek professional assistance in order to better cope with them if you need to do so. 

Print Sources

Cavaiola, A. C., & Lavender, N. J. (2000). Toxic co-workers: How to deal with dysfunctional people on the job. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual, DSM-V. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.