Acceptance – in a myriad of areas – is a non-negotiable, necessary step for recovery. Identifying, and accepting, the real nature of all things in your life, and giving up the denial of those realities. For example, everybody who will ever recover from Borderline Personality Disorder will at some point have to face the real nature of their parents, and the real nature of what they did. To say it plainly, if you have Borderline Personality Disorder, it is because your parents emotionally abused you, either directly or through neglect. Therefore, by definition, those parents are child abusers.
Anybody who wants to argue about genetics, bullying by siblings, ‘over-sensitivity’, the tilt of the earth’s axis, or any other dumb thing can go pick their nose. There’s only one authentic cause of Borderline Personality Disorder, and I have just told you what it is. In fact, if this is your first time joining me, I’ve repeatedly discussed, in great detail, the genuine cause – for everybody – and why it is so. I encourage you to search those articles out here, or to listen to my podcast: The Last Symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder. It is available on every major podcast platform. Links for it are available on this site. Back to the subject: In almost every case, the person’s mind will almost violently rebel against the idea that their parents were ‘child abusers’. This phenomenon is happening right now as people are reading this. It might be happening to you. Psychologically, it goes against what we desire to be reality. But it is important to recognize that our desire of reality is not reality. Yet, this can powerfully cloud our ability to see a thing as it really is. This is something called 'denial'. How subtle and powerful it is.
Folks who are caught up in denial subconsciously exclude, or minimize the importance of, the dirty details. They define the nature of their parents based on imaginary preference. For example, they focus on the parts that allow them to define their parents in a positive way, and downplay, or excuse, the parts that might work against this image. The aversion to speaking ‘poorly’ of those we love is powerful. You can observe people, who are confronted with the perfectly-appropriate term I used above, instinctively, grasping at any possible manner to describe their parents with terminology that does not cut their feelings quite as sharp; to swoop to the defense of these parents by excusing and explaining why it was acceptable that their parents didn't do better. I get correspondence that is pages long, and in the end, the message is just one really long attempt to deny reality at all cost; to explain why this absolutely cannot be true about this person, who they want so much to believe is incapable of being described with such terminology, as if this changes reality the slightest bit. .
One person told me recently that she just didn't think it was right, or constructive, to be so judgmental; that her mother wasn't as smart as some mothers, and that her mother had been dealing with a lot of her own issues when she was raising the daughter. This person is making a couple of convenient 'mistakes'. I put mistakes there in air-quotes, because they aren't mistakes at all. Rather, this is her subconscious defense mechanism, denial, kicking into gear. For one, child emotional abuse and emotional neglect by adult parents is inexcusable. 'Inexcusable' literally means that there does not exist an explanation anywhere in the whole wide world to excuse it. Not for anybody, not at any time. Secondly, this person is arguing that 'judgement' is involved with simply recognizing a thing for what it truly is. There is no' judgement' involved with this at all. But because this person's powerful subconscious feelings will not allow her to accept the seriousness of her mother's abuses, this person's subconscious mind creates these arguments to save her from ever having to do so.
This is denial, the very opposite of acceptance. And how unfortunate it is that we often confuse speaking factually of people we love as speaking poorly of them. It is an incredible thing to witness, over and over and over again. I remember feeling terribly defensive for my father; of feeling sick inside my bones at the mere thought of ‘betraying’ him by speaking factually. He had so many other good qualities that I feared others wouldn’t take into consideration, you see. This was denial. So powerful, and sickening, a force. If a thing is the color blue, to call it ‘blue’ is not a good thing or bad thing. There is no judgement to it at all. It is simply calling a thing what it really is, and not allowing our feelings to interfere with, or affect, our ability to see the reality of it. It is not allowing our feelings to excuse it, explain it, soften it, or redefine it in any way.
So it is with the relationships we must learn to see under a light of harsh truth. This is acceptance. Looking at a thing genuinely, and identifying it for what it truly is. It just is what it is. Yes, the escape from denial and the embrace of acceptance often is a brutally uncomfortable experience. Because it involves choosing to see terribly sad realities as they are, and giving up all resistance to the knowledge that they occurred. It involves choosing to give up the denial that our parents committed serious crimes against us as children, and that this was inexcusable.
Genuine recovery from an emotional disorder simply cannot happen - ever - as long as denial is in play, and acceptance is not. This may be the number one factor, over all of the many important factors, which separates those who will eventually recover from a lifelong emotional disorder authentically, from those who will not.
In my personal circumstances with my own father, it is not a betrayal when I speak of him without softening, or without avoiding, certain words. It never was a betrayal. Only one person was betrayed, and that was me – my young self – by a father who misused his responsibilities and authority, and in doing so abused me. That is the betrayal. It was never my responsibility or burden to figure out ways of describing him that would spare his reputation or feelings. No, it has always been his responsibility and burden to live as he would like to be described. This is true for me, it is true for you, and it is true for every child whose parents failed to parent properly.
Notice, we are not talking about normal imperfections and single mistakes of the type every parent will make. No, we are talking about inexcusable, consistent, ongoing emotional neglect and abuse. (Neglect is abuse.) We are talking about parents whose very natures toward children are harmful, because of distorted unhealthy attitudes and perspectives. As for the person suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, acceptance is the secret to letting go of much of the shame they have been dragging around since early childhood – which they most surely mistake for guilt.
You see, apart from the feelings of shame and worthlessness that are inherent to the disorder, many people with Borderline Personality Disorder will have very specific childhood memories of things they did, or felt, or saw happen, or allowed to happen, or was done to them – and they have been carrying these dark secrets inside of them, flogging themselves over it for, sometimes, decades.
One of the major roads to relief is learning, genuinely understanding, and accepting that children are – in almost every situation – innocent of their pasts. How so?
Children don’t possess the mental and emotional faculties required to safely and properly navigate the world, and life. Their development is literally, in every sense, not there. This means they are incapable – that is, they entirely lack the capacity – to make decisions and navigate life as we are able to do. It isn’t for nothing that children are legally considered dependents – for they are entirely dependent on their caregivers. This is why society doesn’t allow children to take out mortgages, drive cars, and make important decisions for themselves or for others. They aren’t capable of managing these things well. No, it’s not a matter of them just ‘not trying hard enough’, they are incapable, which means they couldn’t, even if they wanted to.
So when it comes right down to it, all children – those in emotionally-unhealthy families as well as those in emotionally-healthy families – do many of the same things that these folks with BPD have been beating themselves up over for decades. They are the sorts of things children do, while they are learning about the world and how it works. They sexually explore out of curiosity, they lie, they hide things, they burn animals with magnifying glasses, they steal, they make terrible mistakes, they destroy things, they burn down barns… you name it. Despite it all, these children are all entirely guiltless.
I hesitate to compare children to dogs, but in this case I will, simply because the comparison is so useful: If you take your dog for a walk around your neighborhood and he ends up biting a neighbor, who is responsible for that? Will it be your dog who gets sued? Will it be your dog who has to pay the court costs? Clearly, it is not your dog who is responsible. It is you; you are the one who is responsible. You are the responsible party. The court rightly places all responsibility for whatever your dog does or doesn't do on your shoulders, not on your dog's shoulders. Why? Because you, as an adult human-being, have the capacity to be responsible for that animal. Whether or not you ever live up to your responsibility is totally irrelevant to the principle of whether that responsibility is yours.
Similarly, because children are dependents, and the responsible party in their lives are their parents or immediate caregivers, it is the parents who inherently carry the full responsibility for everything children do or don't do, and also for everything that does or does not happen to them. This is true for all of the years of your childhood; that is, for all of the years before you become an adult free agent yourself. Imagine all of the burdens and weight of past, unhealthy shame, that you can, with a perfectly clear conscious, unload, once you come to accept this truth; this inherent, universal reality. Your parents are rightly the ones who should always have been carrying the weight of those burdens, never you.
For those poor children who have been sexually abused by adults, and have carried the shame of these events inside of them like a thousand-pound anchor, they must come to accept that they were children who did not possess the power, knowledge, experience – the very capacity – to stop, avoid, change, or prevent that abuse no matter what. They are entirely, and completely guiltless. It’s not as if they could have prevented it if only they had tried harder. No, they were children. They were mentally and emotionally incapable of fully recognizing at that stage what was happening, of fully understanding it, and of preventing it. Children are entirely innocent in almost everything you can imagine, as it relates to universal notions of guilt or innocence. It is the caregivers who inherently carry the responsibility for whatever mistakes children make, any damage they cause, as well as for any harm that comes to the children themselves. Adults do not lack the capacity to properly manage life. True, some may lack the ability. But this has nothing to do with what adults are able to do. It is about what they are capable of. (See this article for more information about 'Ability' versus 'Capability'.) Children are completely dependent on their adult caregivers for every aspect of life, and these parents have voluntarily accepted this gravely-serious responsibility.
Folks suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder must learn to recognize that who they are now is not who they were back then. What they are capable of now is not what they were capable of back then. Since we have always been ‘ourselves’, we tend to forget that our childhood ‘selves’ were not the same people we are now; nor were those children ever under the same requirements or expectations that we are under now. Time to stop judging yourself, and holding yourself to the same expectations, back then, as you do currently. It is not right. Think about any young child you ever interact with – maybe your own young children, who themselves are growing and developing. If you would not hold that child to unreasonable expectations and adult-level thinking and responsibility, why do you continue to do it to your past self? It is a real injustice to measure that poor kid based on the knowledge and capabilities you have now. You’ve got decades of learning and experience over that little girl that she never had access to – nor the faculties to process it – for that matter. It is just not reasonable.
Acceptance is coming to see this, to fully understand the reality of it, and of finally letting any weight of past guilt and shame go, once and for all. You’re going to feel such relief, so much lighter, once you do.