Do you know someone whose moods swing wildly? Do they act unreasonably suspicious or antagonistic? Do they blame others for their own problems?
When a high-conflict person has one of five common personality disorders—borderline, narcissistic, paranoid, antisocial, or histrionic—they can lash out in risky extremes of emotion and aggression. And once an HCP decides to target you, they’re hard to shake.
But there are ways to protect yourself. Using empathy-driven conflict management techniques, Bill Eddy, a lawyer and therapist with extensive mediation experience, will teach you to:
- Spot warning signs of the five high-conflict personalities in others and in yourself.
- Manage relationships with HCPs at work and in your private life.
- Safely avoid or end dangerous and stressful interactions with HCPs.
Filled with expert advice and real-life anecdotes, 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life is an essential guide to helping you escape negative relationships, build healthy connections, and safeguard your reputation and personal life in the process. And if you have a high-conflict personality, this book will help you help yourself.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Love You, Hate You Type
Maybe you know someone who’s extremely charming, friendly, and reasonable—one minute. Then, the next, they’re screaming, and blaming, and attacking you: verbally, fi- nancially, publicly, physically, or all of these and more. The speed with which they turn from seeming to love you to hating you is breathtaking. What did I do? you may ask yourself. How canI get out of here? You may be dealing with a borderline HCP.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is almost as common as narcissistic personality disorder. A 2008 report of a National Institutes of Health study indicates that nearly 6 percent of the general population has BPD. That’s 5.9 percent with borderline1 compared to 6.2 percent with narcissistic personality disorder— around twenty million people in North America.
From my observations in psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics, and legal disputes, I estimate that more than half of those with borderline personality disorder are also HCPs with a Tar- get of Blame. This is because their relationships can become so intensely focused on one person early on, then very intensely focused on that person when the relationship blows up (which they often do after weeks or months, primarily because of this intense focus). This is true whether it’s a romantic relationship, family relationship, work relationship, or otherwise.
However, not all people with borderline personality disorder are HCPs. Some just blame the world for their problems, rather than any one individual. They wonder why “things” don’t seem to go their way and “people” always seem so undepend- able and never seem to stick around. Many attempt suicide or succeed at it, and some cut themselves to feel a sense of control over their emotions. But the borderline HCPs have specific Targets of Blame and may fixate on them for months or years, with emotional harassment, legal claims, or even repeated physical assaults.
The study just described found that 53 percent of those with borderline personality disorder are women, and 47 percent are men. So there is a slight gender difference, but not a significant one. This is a surprise to many mental health professionals fa- miliar with an earlier version of the DSM (DSM-4), who were originally taught that borderline was primarily a female disor- der. But that is no longer accepted as true, based on this much larger NIH study, which is now included in the DSM-5.
Part of the borderline high-conflict personality is preoccu- pied with revenge and vindication. They often end up in court suing their alleged abusers (really, their Targets of Blame) for “abandoning” them one way or another. While some are actual victims of specific abusive behavior, from which they truly need protection, others have taken a victim-in-life position that allows them (in their own minds) to punish their former lovers, employ- ers, and friends for minor or nonexistent behaviors.
According to the DSM-5, someone has borderline personality disorder if they have five or more of nine specific personality traits. The following three key characteristics make them very likely to create high-conflict situations or be HCPs.
1. Fear of abandonment; constantly clinging and seeking reas- surance.
2. Wide mood swings, with rapid shifts between friendliness and rage.
3. Splitting: Seeing people as all good or all bad.
Fear of abandonment is the most basic underlying trait of this disorder. That’s why borderline personalities cling. They hold on to their partners (they often threaten divorce but rarely mean it), their intimate professionals (such as repeatedly calling their doc- tors, therapists, ministers, lawyers), close friends (who they may have just met at work or elsewhere), and family members (they never quite let go of their dependency or their resentments) by constantly requesting contact and reassurance. This is why you may see only the friendly side of them for the first few weeks or months. But they never truly absorb a feeling of being soothed and keep pushing for more, so that they inevitably push away most of the people they were closest to. They may keep their HCP side hidden from you for a time in a close relationship, but usually not longer than nine to twelve months.
If they feel you have actually abandoned them—even if you haven’t or you just forgot something at the store—they go into a rage. This person may spread rumors about you (sometimes known as “distortion campaigns”), they may physically assault you (in the worst case killing you in a rage, but immediately re- gretting it), file lawsuits against you (often against their intimate professionals), call the police against you (such as when a partner wants to get divorced) and accuse you of horrible crimes (child sexual abuse, adult sexual abuse, terrorism, etc.), which are not at all true. (Of course these allegations are true in some cases, so an investigation may occur and it’s best if you cooperate so you don’t make it look like you did something wrong if you didn’t.)
Borderline HCPs will try to persuade others to turn against you, and they will. Other friends and associates may just avoid you because they don’t want to get involved after seeing how in- tense the high-conflict person can become.
Two Flavors of Borderline HCP's
Randi Kreger, author of The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder, emphasizes that some of those with border- line personality disorder are “high-functioning” while others are “low-functioning.” High-functioning borderlines may be suc- cessful and respected in their work or communities, while having great difficulty in their close relationships. Their mood swings may be kept under wraps for years to the average colleague, neighbor, or professional associate. But the person in a close re- lationship with a high-functioning borderline personality, such as a romantic partner, an immediate underling at work, or a business partner may see frequent rages over petty issues or alle- gations of nonexistent offenses.
Since so much of high-functioning borderline HCP behavior goes on behind closed doors, I’ll use fictional examples in this chapter. Consider Meryl Streep’s character in the 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada. As Miranda Priestly, a high-powered fash- ion magazine editor, she torments her junior personal assistant, Andy (Anne Hathaway). Miranda has constant mood swings, from very charming and mentor-like to extreme anger and crit- icism toward Andy. She gives Andy special assignments and opportunities but then makes frequent threats to fire her if she fails at minor tasks. Miranda would easily fit the rapid mood swings of this personality type.
Andy demonstrates common behavior for a Target of Blame, trying hard to please Miranda and getting caught up in her schemes. Miranda frequently “splits” her staff between good em- ployees and bad employees, handing out favors one minute and backstabbing the next. Ultimately, Andy quits her job and the whole fashion industry. She had planned to stay a year but couldn’t wait to get out. While this was a movie, this type of high-functioning borderline HCP behavior occurs in every oc- cupation to some extent.
On the other hand, low-functioning people with borderline personality disorder are generally more obviously dysfunctional because of their disorder, may have difficulty even keeping a job because of their mood swings and splitting, and may have more self-destructive behaviors.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Why You Need This Knowledge Now 1
Chapter 2 Warning Signs and the 90 Percent Rule 12
Chapter 3 Don't Become a Target of Blame 24
Chapter 4 The I'm Superior, You're Nothing Type 34
Chapter 5 The Love You, Hate You Type 53
Chapter 6 The Cruel, Con Artist Type 72
Chapter 7 The Highly Suspicious Type 95
Chapter 8 The Dramatic, Accusatory Type 115
Chapter 9 Dealing with Negative Advocates (Who May Also Attack You) 135
Chapter 10 Getting Help from Others (Who May Not Understand) 151
Chapter 11 The HCP Theory 165
Chapter 12 Self-Awareness 178