Friday, July 31, 2015


What do we make of a 26-year-old good-looking, hale and hearty guy whose presenting problem is relationship flops: Gently cut loose by three women; repeated on-line dating rejections and fading-outs?  The flesh-and-blood women found him “too affectionate,” clingy.  His perspective was: He put “everything I have” into the relationships.  From this, the categories that come to mind are Borderline Personality first, Dependent Personality second.  The adult boyish immaturity seen in many ADHD men doesn’t apply.  We ask and learn more.

He “understands,” accepts the explanation given by the woman he’d dated for six months, though later it seemed to him implausible.  That is, he had no abandonment crisis or fury.  Or maybe this is just how he can present himself in therapy.  For he’d also named “anger” at slight things: a woman's "saying something the wrong way.”

More signs came up in the conversation: It would be nice to just sit around and play fantasy board games all day, and ride four-wheelers.  He works in the family business but is given a make-work position.  He lives with his grandmother.  He needs the comfort ritual of midnight snacks, the old childhood goodies.

Is this Borderline?  Yes.  Without cutting and the masochistic lifestyle, without the zombie-disembowelment-sexual fetishes, without the hospitalizations.  His theme, his root, is youth, and infancy-gone-wrong – though I didn’t learn anything about his parents or his childhood.

There is also the requisite dissociation from all real feelings, and of course from the deepest furnace of mother-child failure (as Masterson describes with his picturesque WORU and RORU concepts).  This is evident in his smiling responses to everything immoderate that I hypothesized: identity absence; self-canceling nature; still the child; a cloud not a man to a woman.

What will help him?  This is the part that separates the men therapists from the boy, and the former will say: Not a whole damn lot.  When you are this much a needy child, too late, how do you grow up?  When your being has been a smile and Boy Scout air your whole life, can you discard them?

My goal, for the moment (and “his” “client-centered” goal means that I offer to take his blindfold off) is to show him the ocean beneath his flip-flops and at the same time describe what so many of us, with an adult in tow, do to live well in the world.

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* Christine Ann Lawson’s term, in Understanding the Borderline Mother.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.