Courts Beware of the Borderline Personality:
Implications for Mediation
Joan Lachkar, Ph.D is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in private practice in Sherman Oaks, California, an affiliate member for the New Center for Psychoanalysis, and is the author of The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple: Psychoanalytic Perspective on Marital Treatment, The Many Faces of Abuse: Treating the Emotional Abuse of High-Functioning Women, The V-Spot, How to Talk to a Narcissist, and How to Talk to a Borderline, The Disappearing Male, New Approach to Marital Therapy, and her new book, Common Complaints that bring Couples. Dr. Lachkar is also a psychohistorian, has published numerous publications on marital and political conflict in the Journal of Psychohistory, Frontpage, Family Security Matters, including her paper, "The Psychopathology of Terrorism" at the Rand Corporation.
Joan Jutta Lachkar, Ph.D.
Courts Beware of the Borderline Personality: Implications for Mediation
This paper was presented at the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) AFCC's Winter Conference on December 13, 1985 in San Diego, California. It was originally published in Conciliation Court Review June 1986, pp 31-43. Also AFCC 53rd Annual Conference | Modern Families: New Challenges, New Solutions | June 1-4, 2016 | Sheraton Seattle Hotel | Seattle, WA. Although I am not a divorce lawyer I have with consulted with many experts in the field of family law.
Courts Beware of the Borderline Personality:
Implications for Mediation
Suddenly my head begins to spin. I feel dizzy and confused. My head keeps going round and round. In front of me sits a married couple; they go on and on in circles, going nowhere. A feeling of despair overwhelms me as I think to myself. This couple needs to be in therapy. I then realize l am the therapist!
Happy families are all alike every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way … Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Nothing is as highly emotionally charged as couples going through divorce and custody battles. When couples divorce little do they know of the horrors that await them. Emotions start flying, lies, false accusations of child abuse/molestation forgery, purposeful building of huge legal fees, unwarranted restraining orders, out of control behavior in front of children. Often the children are made into “little mediators,” MINI adults who grow up much too early and much too soon feeling responsible for their parent’s divorce. In recent years an increasing number of mediators, lawyers, and court officials have consulted extensively with clinicians and other mental health professionals especially in dealing with “impossible couples.” In many of my other publications I refer to these highly charged emotionally experiences as “V-spots,” how each partner stir up in unresolved archaic injuries in the other (Lachkar,2008a, 2008b, 2009, (2011, 2013).
Better to feel the pain a destructive attachment than to face the abyss and
emptiness of no attachment
Judges, lawyers, counselors and court officials, mediators and other court are continually perplexed why people continue to battle without ever reaching conflict resolution. Even when conflict resolution is reached or offered it is repudiated. Unleashed aggression, vengeance and self-sabotage disrupt any potential for resolution. Revenge, retaliation, getting even, blame/shame become a more pervasive force than life itself. “It is because of you I lost my job!” This kind of resistance is important because many of these couples are emotionally too glued. Even after divorce they maintain a bond, albeit a destructive and parasitic one. They cannot separate because they cannot feel a sense of aliveness unless they are fused in a destructive dysfunctional relationship. “It has been over twenty years and my husband to this day refuses to pay for our daughter’s college education because he still feels I betrayed and abandoned him!”
In an article I wrote some years ago, “Courts Beware of the Borderline” (1986), for the Conciliation Court Review, I recognized many people in family law were familiar with such disorders as narcissism, obsessive-compulsive, passive-aggressive but unfamiliar with borderline personality disorder (BPD). In recent years, BPD has been getting more attention especially in the area of divorce and custody litigation. It is like a virus that attaches oneself, spreads and doesn’t let go. When evidenced through the mental health process, an evaluation should be required. The evaluation should be with a mental health professional not only familiar with treating primitive mental defenses, but with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), of course there should always room for a second opinion. I entitled this article “Courts Beware of the Borderline” because many of my colleagues are continually mystified how a person with (BPD will fight to the bitter end even to sacrifice self and others (spouse, children, family, money, reputation) until they reach their final destination-revenge. They are manipulative, cruel, sadistic and will do anything to maintain some semblance of connection (also known as parasitic bonding). They are boundless, treat their own children as objects (use them as pawns pieces of property) and the spouse as a scapegoat to control, dominate, project into and maintain power.
One patient spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to prove that he was entitled to share custody of their daughter. The borderline wife was fighting for 100%. Playing the victim card she manipulated the court to believe that her husband molested and abused their daughter. The daughter brainwashed by the mother convinced her to lie on her behalf. He finally won and the court granted him 50 % custody.
Where Do Psychology and Mediation Meet?
More and more mediators stuck in the quagmire of these beleaguered types of relationships are becoming more aware of the importance in understanding various personality types. For example, someone with a narcissistic personality will be more concerned with possessions, feel entitled to have it all (the custody, the money, the house, the furniture, the pets) as compared to the borderline who could care less about possessions but more about revenge and spending the rest of their life retaliating, getting back or getting even with the spouse or “mommy” who perceived to have abandoned or betrayed them.
Abstracting ideas from my previous work Lachkar, (1983, 1984, 1985, 2004, 2007, 2008a, 2012 2013, 2014), the attempt is to bring awareness to the challenges beyond our clinical practice to the court room. Beginning with my first book, The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple (Lachkar, 2004) I describe what happens when a narcissistic and a borderline join together in a marital bond. This led to the realization that there is more than one type of narcissist and one type of borderline. Subsequently this led to the realization that there is not just one kind of narcissist or borderline but many different (Lachkar. 2009). Understanding the varying dynamics with battling court room couples are of vital importance
Although this article is intended to focus on the borderline, it is not exclusive. Narcissistic/ borderlines traits and characteristic are not clear and concise entities for they do tend to vacillate back and forth. Their variances and qualitative distinctions tend to seep over into other disorders. One cannot understand a borderline without understanding a narcissist. For example the borderline responds more to confrontation or a “hard object,” whereas the narcissist more to empathy and understanding. My next article should be “Courts Beware of the Narcissist the “Entitled One!” or “Courts Beware of the Histrionic the Drama Queen of the Courthouse!” These distinctions are of significance, for example, what happens in mediation because we have a variety of dyadic configurations of couples that go beyond narcissist/borderline couples. For example what happens when an obsessive compulsive hooks up with a histrionic or a passive aggressive with a caretaker type? The way an obsessive compulsive procrastinates demanding perfection and orderliness is a far cry from the histrionic who is impulsive, demanding and overly emotional. Her emotionality creates more of a “mess” which drives her partner to obsess even more and drag things out to exhaustion of everyone. I recall one mediator reporting that he had to leave the mediation session because he felt so frustrated with the punctilious details he was subjected to. Another mediator could not contain the rage the passive aggressive was projecting and was at his wits end. “Sorry I’m late I Sgot lost again trying to find my way to the courthouse! By the way I didn’t bring my checkbook!”
All may be may be very taxing on not only those who love and live with them but therapists who treat them. One of the most significant and destructive that stands out is the malignant borderline. At the very core the malignant borderline is dominated by malicious intent, one driven to fight to destroy and sabotage anything practical including good advice or reasonable offers. They are manipulative and cruel, and impervious to self-inflicted or other inflicted pain and will pursue at any cost.
When he depletes me to unbearable nothingness only then will he expect me give up and say, “Okay you win take everything and I’ll get out of your life!”
To put this in suitable perspective, I would first like to start by describing a narcissistic/borderline relationship to be followed by describing the narcissist and then the borderline and the basic dynamics and within the structure their personalities. I would now like to describe a narcissistic/borderline relationship, and outline some basics qualities and dynamics within the structure of narcissistic and borderline personalities.
The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple
The narcissistic/borderline relationship is what happens when these two beleaguered oppositional types join together in a marital bond. God knows how they find one another like a fox to a rabbit. Together they do what I refer to as “the dance,” how one person projects a negative feeling into the other and how the other then identifies or over-identifies with that which is being projected. In analytic terms known as projective identification. These are behaviors and interactions go on and on, round and round, are circular, never-ending and painful and destructive. The revelation is that each partner needs the other to play out his or her own personal relational drama. Engaging in these beleaguered relationships are two developmentally arrested people who bring archaic experiences embedded in old sentiments into their current relationships. “
You’ll see they’ll be a “daddy judge” to see what a bitch you are!
Since writing this book, I have come to the awareness how common these types of couples are. Not only clinicians, but lawyers, mediators, counselors and court personnel are becoming more baffled about this type of couple and often ask “Why are they doing this? Don’t they want peace or happiness?” Are they crazy? Masochistic? Sadistic? The answer on the surface may appear that way but lurking in the shadow are deeper issues. Either consciously or unconsciously each one needs the other as they stir up many highly unresolved conflicts as they enact their psychological dance. Unfortunately the court stage often becomes the platform for these enactments. In court custody battles the narcissist takes on center stage performing their exaggerated omnipotent and grandiose entitlement fantasies, while behind the curtain lures the borderline ready to fight and get even or "teach the other a lesson." .
The first thing I look for is the most dominant feature in each partner. The narcissist is the one dominated by fear of the loss of specialness and entitlement, whereas the borderline is the one dominated mainly abandonment anxiety and betrayal. While the narcissist seeks to be the special child of God, the borderline is busy just trying to prove they exist as a thig in itself.
Better to inflict pain that to endure the emptiness of the abyss. Then at least I know I exist!”
The narcissist is the entitlement lover, the special child of God (also known as “His Majesty the Narcissist),” You know when you are around one because they are only about themselves. They believe the world owes them something, and when narcissistically or not properly mirrored, will withdraw or isolate themselves. The narcissist cannot tolerate criticism and even when they are wrong have to be right. They value such things as success, fame, physical beauty, wealth, material possessions, and power. It is self-love to the exclusion of the needs of others. One can imagine how this arouses feelings of unworthiness, abandonment, unworthiness in the borderline one who already has a thwarted sense of self. They lack empathy and lack consideration for needs of others. They are dominated by a grandiose and exaggerated and inflated sense of self and entitlement, an excessive sense of specialness, self-righteousness and feel they are superior to others. They cannot tolerate their own dependency needs and unwittingly project their needy selves into someone like a borderline partner. “You’re the needy one not me!” The narcissist is continually on the search to seek out others as narcissistic supplies or self-objects those who affirm and collude with their grandiose fantasies. One of the most common features is tit for tat for fight for competition whereas the spouse becomes the oedipal rival. In court battles they are the ones who want all the visitation rights, all custody or child support/alimony payments and believe that their being is enough for the child. They take advantage wherever they can.
A couple agreed to take turns paying the mediator. When it was the narcissists turn at end of the medication session, he would run out leaving his spouse stuck with the “tab.
“Why should I pay when I didn’t get what I want?
The borderline has a defective sense of self suffer from early trauma in the maternal attachment bond usually a product of abandonment parents who were absent, alcoholic, abusive, or physically/ emotionally unavailable. They perpetuate the cycle by staying in abusive, addictive or destructive relationships enacting the role victim (bonding by through pain either self-inflicted or other inflicted). Because the borderline has never separated from the mother they fuse with her. As much as he needs her, he must destroy her. “Now I have a chance to let her know what it feels like to be a victim a scapegoat. “What better place than in a family of court?”
It is because of you I went bankrupt and now I will make your life miserable and show you how that feels.”
As children they often take the place of “little adults” or “mediators” to intervene with their marital disputes. According to Marsha Linehan (1993), they are tantamount to third-degree burn center patient in agony at the slightest provocation. Their internal conflicts center primarily on shame, abandonment, betrayal, deprivation, boundary confusion and lack of identity.
He always remains calm, at ease and well spoken, while I am a nervous wreck no wonder people always rethink I am the one who is the abuser.
Borderlines have an exquisite false self and can dupe the most seasoned therapist, let alone court officials they meet with the façade of being the poor victims, the betrayed and abandoned ones. In an attempt to defend against shame they are determined to win and prove their self-righteousness at any cause. They many appear normal, genuinely concerned about the welfare of the family, are intelligent and often charming. Lurking behind this façade they scheme to coerce the other into the “bad parent.” In psychoanalytic terms this is known as splitting and projective identification (see glossary). The one that stands out the most is the malignant BPD (see Table 1 &2 where I describe different kinds of narcissists and borderlines).
They are dominated primarily by abandonment fears, issues around betrayal and deception, have extreme reactions to events and behaviors of others. They are impulsive, reckless and have suicidal tendencies, self-harming and exhibit extreme self-sacrificing behavior. They engage in shame/blame/attacking defenses and cannot take responsibility for their own shortcomings. The borderline exhibits poor reality testing, poor impulse control and lacks self-regulatory mechanism as their feelings are often disproportionate to the reality of their environment. Any hint of abandonment or betrayal can trigger an intense outburst of rage and revenge to “get back/get even, or teach the other a lesson. They are victims, the scapegoats, and when betrayed will spend the rest of their lives getting back, getting even at the expense of self until they reach their final destination-revenge!, In court custody cases these are the ones that will sacrifice themselves, their children, their families, their finances and or do whatever to get even with the ones they perceived to have betrayed or abandoned them. It is not unusual to keep their spouses as a courtroom hostage. They not only inflict pain on others but harm themselves.
When I burn myself with a cigarette, then I know I’m alive. I exist! Anything is better than abandonment! Drugs, alcohol, even this terrible abusive/addictive relationship! I’ll do anything just don’t leave me!
As mentioned earlier, I have extended my work to describe a variety of narcissists and borderline, but the most challenging and most viral id the malignant narcissist and the malignant borderline (See Tables 1 & 2 and also Glossary).
The Malignant Narcissist
The malignant narcissist tends to be cruel, malicious and sadistic. These narcissists are in constant need needs to reinforce their beliefs traditions and ideology onto others and cannot tolerate anyone to disagree or question them. They are condescending o others and use incendiary remarks to flame rage in others. Some psychologists think of malignant narcissism as those at the most severe end of the spectrum of narcissism. They have uncontrollable rage and become indignant whenever someone has the nerve to disagree with them. They typically lack compassion, empathy, have no regard for others other than themselves and coerce others to reinforce their beliefs or talents (real or make believe). They project their many of their unwanted “needy “selves onto their love objects idealizing them only to later have them destroyed when they are no longer useful. They are selfish, manipulative and only exist for their own self-serving purposes, present an aura of entitlement and will walk all over those who try and get in their way They are the abusers, the molesters, the robbers, the scam artists and totally engrossed in how they can gain for their own self-serving purposes. In court custody cases will lie, They lack empathy, compassion, have no remorse for ones they hurt or lives they destroy.
One man insisted his wife have an abortion. She refused vehemently. When the baby was born and refused to have anything to do with it. “Don’t you see how this baby has destroyed and ruined my career
The malignant narcissist will identify with such powerful figures as politicians, rock/film stars, gangs, and terrorist groups those who enact their grandiose fantasies.
One of the most common characteristics of the malignant narcissistic is their competitive nature and self-driving aspirations that become the rationale for acting out there most heinous sadistic and destructive fantasies. The term malignant narcissism is often associated with antisocial, those who have no conscience are selfish, manipulate others for their own self-serving interests, nor have empathy or compassion for their victims. They are the abusers, the molesters, the robbers, the scam artists and totally engrossed in themselves.
My cause is better than your cause!
Bernard Madoff is a good example a typical businessman who scammed thousands of innocent investors in a pyramid scheme to fulfill his own grandiose and entitlement fantasies making everyone believe he was their “benevolent uncle.” When he got caught he showed no remorse except for the fact that he got caught and had to go to jail
In court custody cases they make unrealistic demands, take advantage to take what unrightfully theirs. They will lie, cheat, cajole, trap their spouse into the most uncompromising positions.
Isn’t it true Mr. X. that you set your wife up knowing you would be serving her with divorce papers? You convinced her to agree to use her separate property house she inherited from her grandmother and give you a loan for your business then after promising to sign a document that it was separate property?
Isn’t True Mr. X. that you never lived up to your word to sign the document even after she did you a favor pleaded and begged with you?
How does the malignant narcissist gets away with this? Ironically hire lawyers and mediators who collude with their grandiose and arrogant schemes.
At the global level many Identify with a malignant narcissistic political leader like the vicious North Korean leader Kim Jong II who starved his people while living in mansions, or Slobodan Milosevic the Serbian war criminal someone who uses their omnipotent sadistic fantasies to act out their worst aggression. “We killed thousands of Albanians for a good cause..
Whether at the domestic or global level, sadism and paranoid features are the most common dynamics and which drives becomes the rationale for destructive acts of cruelty and aggression
The Malignant Borderline
The malignant borderline differs from the malignant narcissist who has a “conscience” and answers to a higher power. Even though the higher power may be a destructive “higher power,” it is still idealized and to be revered such as Allah, Mohammad, Kim Jong II, etc. The malignant narcissist often identifies with a leader or an idealized object.
The malignant borderline shares many qualities of the malignant narcissist. Both tend to be malicious, cruel, sadistic, are ruthless lack empathy and find victim to prey whom they can inflict pain and punishment. The difference is the malignant narcissist will inflict pain in order to fulfill his sense of power and superiority whereas the malignant borderline will inflict pain for power, control, domination and vengeance. “Now you are the hopeless victim and I have the almighty omnipotent all powerful one.” The malignant borderline is like the narcissist on steroids. Unlike the narcissist, the malignant borderline could care less about fame, success, beauty, but getting even. They are the ones who do not feel entitled though on the surface may appears so, but more about vengeance at the spouse/partner felt to have shamed them. Often they form parasitic bonds with others when the promise of that bond is threatened they will respond with endless and relentless shame/ blame and attacking defenses.
Better to stay in court and cause pain than feel the emptiness of nothingness!
At the global level both will find certain leaders or figures they identify with. For the narcissist it might be so with powerful figures (leaders, rock/movie stars, gangs terrorist leaders as an outlet for their sadistic aggression). Someone like Milosevic the Serbian war criminal someone who uses their omnipotent sadistic fantasies to act out their worst aggression. “We killed thousands of Albanians for a good cause. Sadism and paranoid features are the most common syndrome in the malignant narcissist and the force that drives them into fulfilling their own self-serving, political aspirations and becomes the rationale for destructive acts of aggression. Leaders like Kim Jong 11 who would starve his people while he lived in mansions. Sadism and paranoid features are the most common dynamics in the malignant narcissist, which drives them into fulfilling their own self-serving aspirations and becomes the rationale for destructive acts of cruelty and aggression.
Even though he is a monster somehow he gets everyone to pity and feel sorrow for him. Since she didn’t protect me I now have my daddy judge
They can be very perplexing for court officials for they can be easily duped despite the malicious and manipulative parts of the personality that are brutal there is another side that can be charming, charismatic and, alluring. This can be very perplexing not only for court officials but can easily dupe the most seasoned therapist. This is also known as splitting. Like the abuser the malignant borderline who can be cruel and sadistic and also be loving and kind. Within the mix we also have the victimized borderline who also has malignant intent but in the opposite direction, They use their aggression in the reverse direction and coerce others to have pity and sorrow for them. Many court officials are not aware of these primitive defense mechanisms fundamentally how they evolve around shame/ blame, envy, jealousy, control, domination and many unresolved oedipal rivalry issues. Both of these disorders have their own unique way of enacting a malicious intent, will sacrifice self, family, finances to revenge, retaliate or get even with the spouse they perceive to have betrayed them. It is not unusual to keep their spouses held as victim hostage in court custody battles for years on end without ever reaching or even seeking conflict resolution.
The court mommy/daddy will see the damage you’ve done and they will punish and give you what you deserve!!
The Malignant Narcissist and the Malignant Borderline
Be prepared whatever you Say or Do Will be Twisted, Distorted and Turned Against You!
In sum they both share is malignant intent. Both are the embodiment of malicious intents . Both have a perverse sense of entitlement and feel a special sense of entitlement to prey on victims and get from others they feel rightfully is theirs. They will take your, time, money will sex, emotions without any empathy. Instead will relentlessly keep one waiting or on hold as long as they get away with it.
“Honey, I promise I will marry you as soon as I divorce my wife. Just be a bit more patient!
Many court officials do not have the opportunity to learn about these disorders and how to recognize their primitive defense mechanisms -- real fundamental conflictual issues around shame/ blame, envy, jealousy, control, domination and many unresolved oedipal rivalry issues. They both show malicious intent in that at the very core they are the ones who will sacrifice self, family, finances to revenge, retaliate or get even with the spouse they perceive to have betrayed them. It is not unusual to keep their spouses held as victim hostage in court custody battles for years on end without ever reaching or even seeking means for a peace resolution.
“She’s on her best behavior now to show that she is a good mother but I know it’s fake!
Pointers and Suggestions for Clients and Family Law Officials