On Manipulation with the Borderline Personality

Based a Story Written by Marsha M. Linehan Ph.D.

(Linehan is a professor of psychology and an adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington)

Suppose for a moment, that a catastrophic earthquake nearly leveled a major city. The police, fireman and emergency crews are severely taxed. No one is able to help you. Trapped in the rubble within a small opening your child you love most in the world cries for help. The opening is too small for you to crawl through; if only she could move a couple of feet. You find a stick hoping that she is able to grasp it, but to no avail. Time is of the essence. Crews are asking people to clear the area. At any moment an aftershock is likely happen. The child is crying. She can’t move because every bone in her body is broken! Do you suppose that she is manipulating you or just being difficult? Are you thinking that she will get out when she is ready? What would you do? Cheerlead, yell, plead, sweet-talk, suggest, threaten, distract and direct!

The following is written by Marsha M. Linehan from her book titled, "Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder..Pg. 17.

"My own experience in working with suicidal borderline patients has been that the frequent interpretation of their suicidal behavior as "manipulative" is a major source of their feeling of invalidation and of being misunderstood. From their own point of view, suicidal behavior is a reflection of serious and at times frantic suicide ideation and ambivalence over whether to continue life or not.........These individuals’ numerous suicidal behaviors and suicide threats, extreme reactions to criticism and rejection, and frequent inability to articulate which of a numbers of factors are directly influencing their own behavior do at times make other people feel manipulated. However. inferring behavioral intent from one or more of the effects of the behavior-in this case, making others feel manipulated - is simply an error in logic."