Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Unrecognized emotional unhealth is merely the natural result of living with misconceptions - subtle misperceptions - about the true nature of feelings, self, and life.
This determines the way people who are emotionally unhealthy view themselves and fundamental aspects about themselves. More than this, it determines the way they perceive everything, and everybody around them, by extension.
If you would like to explore this more, I discussed it in-depth in this episode of my weekly podcast, The Last Symptom.
In the case of people with Borderline Personality Disorder, the natural result of living with the erroneous foundation perspectives that they do is that they refuse, at all cost, to share genuine emotional openness and honesty – emotional intimacy – with others. That’s nobody, regardless of who they are.
Think hard about what I just described, then be honest and ask yourself this question: How would you know if your siblings are dealing with the effects of emotional unhealth or not?
To begin with, people who have grown up never having experienced good emotional health themselves do not have an accurate concept of what good emotional health authentically is, or what it even looks like. Therefore, they do not have the ability to identify it in others. They wouldn't know what they're looking for. A seemingly-tranquil existence, an active social life, laughter - things like these are in no way evidence of good emotional health.
Whether your siblings specifically have Borderline Personality Disorder or not, if as adults they have never identified and analyzed the fundamental perspectives that they were taught in childhood, and that they carried right on into adulthood, and if they've never worked to correct those perspectives, the bottom line is that they are emotionally unhealthy. This is whether you have the experience or the understanding to identify this reality or not. A child doesn’t grow up in a subtly-distorted, unhealthy family environment and miraculously emerge as an emotionally-healthy adult.
No, your siblings are carrying on the same unhealthy attitudes and patterns of thinking that you are, whether this is obvious and blatantly visible to outsiders or not.
I remember what it was like to have everybody, my siblings included, thinking I was the most well-put-together guy in the world. In fact, I even believed this myself! As the oldest sibling, I’m the one my brother and sister have always admired and looked up to. This lasted until I reached my mid-30s and couldn’t keep up the illusion of perfect stability anymore.
But people are individuals, and their lives follow different roads. Some people aren’t forced to truly reckon with the consequences of their subtle, unhealthy perspectives until much later in life – 50s, 60s, whatever. I know this because I get a lot of correspondence from these individuals.
Some are never forced to truly reckon with their distorted thinking at all. They take it with them all the way to the grave. This isn’t unusual or uncommon when we're describing people who get into a codependent relationship, where the spouse, by the needs and nature of his or her own emotional unhealth, actually creates and fosters an enabling bubble environment for these two unhealthy psychologies to thrive. Their individual disorders fit together like puzzle pieces and feed off each other.
'You complete me' takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? Yes, they may 'complete' each other, but they live their whole lives in a bubble of emotional unhealth, distorted thinking, inner frustration and discontent.
Think about this for a moment: People all around you, every day, are quietly struggling with the effects of all sorts of emotional disorders. (Remember, emotional disorder is merely the natural result of living with subtle misconceptions about the nature of feelings, self, and life.) Yet, you might never know this by looking at the people around you, because their lives seem to be fine.
This is certainly true for many of the celebrities people envy. A large number of them are not happy. How do I know? Because the unusually high rate of drug abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, sex addiction, short-term marriages, children who are embarrassments, suicides, messy divorces, arrests, and public breakdowns tell me so. These are all telltale symptoms of emotional disorder. Yet, because they have fame, wealth, and seem to be on perpetual vacations – external ingredients that many people mistakenly assume is a substitute for inner contentment – they are able to laugh and smile for the cameras and to complete the illusion of contentment.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but let me emphasize the point again so that it really hits home: At age 35, I was admired and looked up to by a lot of people; young and old alike. Both by strangers and by my own siblings. I had a picture-perfect life; a beautiful, extremely-intelligent wife, a home in a nice, family neighborhood in Philadelphia. I was professionally admired. We were well-to-do financially. I was the very definition of 'put together' on the outside.
The very nature of things like unrecognized Borderline Personality Disorder is that the sufferer ferociously refuses to share genuine emotional honesty (intimacy) with anybody, no matter who they are. He opts instead to present a polished identity to the world that he believes will be admired and embraced.
Indeed, this illusion generally is admired and embraced, which makes recovery more difficult later. Why? Because for recovery, one has to come to truly understand that although this illusion might be accepted and admired by others, it’s not real, and the causes fueling the need for it are unhealthy. These causes are never going to allow you to enjoy authentic contentment as long as they exist. Voluntarily giving up what you know works (superficially), for the abstract idea of something better, which you have no experience with, and which might end in rejection, is an enormous leap of faith.
Basically, the person with an emotional disorder has to reach a point where good emotional health, even if it comes with the cost of not being as favored by others, is worth the price. The desire for inner peace and contentment must outweigh the superficial pleasure of external validation.
As long as your siblings were raised by the same two emotional teachers as you, they are dealing with their own emotionally-unhealthy perceptions. Yes, even if they appear to contradict this. There is no other possibility. They got the same emotional education you did. Perhaps they are managing to blend in with society better, but this is not the same as authentic inner contentment and emotional health.
My advice for you, as somebody who would like to rid yourself of anything like Borderline Personality Disorder, is that once you accept the reality that your siblings are not models of good emotional health, is to then let it go. Your siblings’ unhealthy attitudes and emotional conflicts are their burdens to bear, and their issues to identify and resolve. And if they never do, well, they never do.
A major component of recovery is coming to see, and appreciate clearly, how each person is individually responsible for only his, or her, own life. That’s all we have any power over, or right to involve ourselves with (the exception being those of us with dependent children).
Not only is this the reality of the situation, but it is a liberating truth to embrace. It brings instant relief to acknowledge we are not responsible for anything our loved ones do or don’t do in their lives – no matter how much we care for them – and it allows us to achieve a fierce focus on the one thing we do have a right to focus on and power to influence. That is, identifying and addressing our own issues.