November 2011 Newsletter

November 2011 Events

In the coming weeks we are hosting the following events - (click on the green wording for more detailed information on related website pages.)

Seminar on "Borderline Personality" Monday November 14
Body Mind 1 Day Retreat Sunday November 27
Narcissism and Borderline Personality Workshop December 3 & 4

Please feel free to contact us if you wish to enquire or book in for any of the above events.

Alice in Wonderland - A Borderline Personality Fairy Tale

Alice in WonderlandLast month I made reference to the film and book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, and how it was not just a popular modern fairy tale. It was a meditation on the plight of modern men and women in our society. I outlined the basis for how from the book and film we find the common image of the variations of the wounded and lost human as “Tin man” without his heart/brain”, the “Straw man” without substance and a spine, and the “Cowardly Lion” who has disowned his courage and anger. These characters are archetypes for the wounded parts of ourself that result from our negative childhood experiences.

Fairy tales then have a deep resonance with children as they describe in a child’s language and imagery the various personalities and people children have to deal with in the real world. Children need fairy tales to learn about basic concepts of good and evil, loss and love. Children also resonate to the themes of such fairy tales and find hope and inspiration, and identification with heroes from such stories.

Few people know that another popular children’s fairy tale is also a psychological story of deep resonance. As a child we all read the various children’s stories that had been written up until that time. Most of these tales presented well to a young audience and allowed a young mind to identify and enter that world of innocence.

The one exception to that rule was “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, by Lewis Carroll. This strange tale had a strange and disjointed or fragmented feel to it, and never actually arrived at a satisfying or logical conclusion. When read with its later counterpart, “Through the Looking Glass”, the story has no ending at all.

In reflection this children’s tale stands apart from other stories of its Mid Victorian era. The book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” seems a more surreal and fragmented journey that looks it could have been written by Timothy Leary in the 1960’s whilst on LSD, than from a meek cleric, author and mathematician from middle class Victorian England.

When one researches the life history of Lewis Carroll, who was the author of these stories then through the lens of a psychotherapist the penny drops and we find the deeper meaning and context for these writings.

We must go back in time to the Victorian era where a troubled but logical author wrote a key archetypal fairy tale that touches on the underlying weirdness, volatility, chaos and strangeness of the Borderline parent and the challenges facing the innocent child in coming to terms with this alien mental and emotional landscape. Welcome to Lewis Carroll and the story we know as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, and its related counterpart “Through the Looking Glass”.

Lewis Carroll was the pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who was an author, cleric, mathematician and  writer in Victorian England. He is recognised for ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865) and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (1872), as well as other mathematical and children's books.

Unlike Frank Baum who wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, Lewis Carroll was not a spiritual or psychological seeker of truths. He apparently had quite some trouble in his childhood that included neglect. Neglect is one theme in the childhood of a personality disorder known as the Borderline personality.

Carroll’s books appear to be a more unconscious revelation of his own escapism reality and childhood, and hence the quick descent from the normal childhood of the story character Alice into the surreal and distorted world of Wonderland in his tale.

Frank Baum was quite conscious to what he wrote in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as he conveyed the psychological parable of what a person undergoes in their search for healing, and the traps and dynamics that one may need to face and surmount. Lewis Carroll was writing children’s stories at face value but in doing so he revealed much of his own reality and ideas that are convincingly symbols of his own issues and experiences.

The term “Borderline Personality” is a largely misunderstood label that often gets used to categorise and generalise a person who exhibits a number of volatile and unstable behaviours. The psychiatric term “Borderline Personality” was only agreed and defined as late as the 1980’s in the American DSM-IV Psychiatric reference guide.

It is variously described by the American Psychiatric Association as “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity”. Upon reflection such a person is far better seen through the framework of trauma and being seen as a traumatised personality.

In my recent Narcissism/Borderline personality workshop I was able to break the broad DSM-IV categorisation down into 33 common manifesting symptoms and behaviours for participants to better understand this traumatised personality. In my new article Alice In Wonderland – A Borderline Personality Tale, I explore some of these symptoms and themes as they help illustrate the dilemmas of the Borderline personality.

Lewis Carroll had much of the background that can shape this personality. He was born into the strict moral values of Victorian England. Children were to be seen and not heard and there was no common understanding of how to raise children in a nurturing way. The abandonment by the mother of the baby to a nanny, or of the child to a Boarding school was an all too common idea and practice back then.

In his own family system this backdrop was made worse by the fact that Lewis Carroll was the eldest child of five overall, all born in the short space of only 6 years. Such family dynamics would have meant that the baby and then child would have been abandoned to some extent by a mother pre-occupied with pregnancies, birth and subsequent care of the succession of babies that followed Lewis Carroll into existence.

There is some evidence that Lewis Carroll had some form of eating disorder linked to anxiety throughout his life. Eating disorders are considered by some to be an attempt to take control over the one thing left in life that you can control, that being your body.

This idea stems from the fact that for such a person they may have felt out of control or possibly raised in the conditions where they had no control over life, or there was chaos about. That type of childhood certainly can be that for those children raised in a chaotic or a Narcissistic or Borderline parent family environment.

Lewis Carroll also used various constructs to stabilise his reality and keep him anchored to key constructs that allowed him to stop destabilising and descending into the chaos of trauma. Examples included Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) like behaviours around black and white constructs such as mathematics, reading/writing, time, photography, and mechanical devices. This is a common coping technique for traumatised people.

Carroll was reported by friends to have had an obsessively negative association with eating and his fear on its impact on his body shape and size (fear of a loss of control). This is a classic food neurosis that shows an attempt to find and maintain control when perhaps there was few other things in his life that he had control over as a child.

In his books Alice changed shape and size from eating and drinking which is an allegorical reference to his own fears and distortions around such actions around food and drink. There are consistent give-aways in the book that pervade its themes, events, dynamics, and character depictions, body structures and behaviours that leave on in no doubt as to the unconscious allusions of Lewis Carroll to his own life and childhood experiences.

Lewis Carroll commented that he spent his life trying to make the insane sane, and the illogical be logical. This is exactly the plight of a young child growing up with either a mentally/emotionally unwell parent(s), and in particular the Narcissistic or Borderline personality parent. Tim Burton captured this dark sense of the tale in his disturbing adult oriented portrayal of the book that was released only in 2010. One senses this is not really a children’s tale at all but one of finding sanity within insanity.

The Borderline personality is one where the affected person can have an emotional state that demonstrate shifts between neurosis and psychosis, and who is particularly triggered by perception of, or real occurrences of abandonment or rejection. They exist part of the time in the borderline state of normality but are often bordering on or can be easily triggered into an unstable or psychotic state.

In this general framework there can be a number of exhibited behaviours and hence it has been the case that this definition can be wrongly used to label “difficult” or emotionally volatile adults. The Borderline personality does not have a healthy sense of self. Their childhood backgrounds will be found to have been chaotic, unsafe, or abusive, possibly in the face of being raised by a troubled mother, or possibly father.

It is known that a generational trauma wounding can run generationally in families. The 20th century was one marked by much trauma including two world wars, a Great Depression, and much hidden childhood sexual abuse. It has been shown that a Borderline personality may have developed under the roof of a mentally unwell, and possibly Borderline personality or Narcissistic mother.

The Borderline personality is one that has its wounding strongly attributed to the early life relationship with their mother.  The established neuroscience work of Stephen Porges, and Sue Carter, which is collectively known as “The Polyvagal Theory” shows clearly how the disruption of the early life attachment process of a mother with its child can clearly traumatise the child to create a number of Bodymind health disorders, including the Borderline Personality.

Once you read the full article Alice In Wonderland – A Borderline Personality Tale, and then watch the recent Tim Burton version of the film again you will have a whole new perspective on both the film and on the books. This is the secret message of these classic Victorian children’s books.

Seminar on the Borderline Personality Workshop

This month the Bodymind seminar will look at the Borderline personality and how to reframe this complex personality through a trauma framework that brings great insight into what is going on for this person.

Once you understand the reality and dynamics of trauma it is easy to understand the various coping mechanisms that these persons typically use to try and anchor and stabilise themself in life. One learns why and how they use various ways to try and function in an adult world where they fear life, themself and fight to hold themself together day to day and keep it all from fragmenting and collapsing.  See you at the Dome Maylands at 6.30pm on Monday November 14 for this exploration of a misunderstood personality.

Re-run of Narcissistic Borderline Personality Workshop

At the recent Narcissistic/Borderline 2 day workshop it was expressed that I should again run this life-changing event for those who grew up with either a Narcissistic and/or Borderline personality parent, or who has endured one in relationship, at work or in some other significant dynamic in their life.

I ran the first event during the CHOGM long weekend and some people wanted to attend but had booked holidays down south as they wanted to flee the lockdown around Perth that weekend. I am happy to advise that I am again running this key event on the weekend of December 3 & 4 2011.

The people who attended this course rated it as one of the best they had ever attended in terms of the frameworks, concepts and then personal insights it gave them. The resulting schemas, tools and techniques have been found to be empowering in overcoming traumatisation and victimisation they have felt from the dynamics and abuse they encountered in their childhood and/or adult lives.

Places are limited at all of my workshops so everyone gets personal attention. Please make contact at the earliest opportunity if you wish to know more or book in as I will not be running this signature event again until 2012.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries or wish to make a booking for private therapy or a group event.

Enjoy your month!

Richard Boyd

Director, Energetics Institute

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