Does Social Exclusion Come Before or After BPD?

First off, what is social exclusion? Broadly defined, social exclusion is the condition in which some group or sub-culture is not allowed to be apart of the mainstream due to the socio-economic standards, value systems, or interpersonal interactions of the majority population. Social exclusion can be described in many ways, including the struggle which smaller ethnic groups face as they assimilate into a larger society; the existence of a glass ceiling for women in the work place; or even as simply as the lone kid on the playground who doesn’t seem to fit in. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll consider social exclusion on a micro scale and how it might contribute to – or result from – Borderline Personality Disorder.

Chief among the causes of BPD is a constant fear of abandonment and rejection. In most cases, Boderlines experience some sort of rejection early on in life. This could take the form of being “different” than the rest of the crowd, being raised by an abusive parent, or feeling an overwhelming sense of dejection from what would otherwise be considered a “normal” course of social maturation.

In some cases, social exclusion is merely bad luck. For example, a guy approaches a girl for a date, only to learn that she is coming out of another relationship and needs time to herself. She’s not outwardly rejecting him, but instead making his romantic overtures null and void. Likewise, a child in middle school might be ostracized due to a socially embarrassing incident in which a bully pulls his pants down in the middle of a cafeteria. The victim was not necessarily a planned target, just at the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, he might be labeled with a degrading nickname for the rest of his grammar school years.

There are also more serious forms of social exclusion. A child who experiences the death of a parent at an early age could feel extremely abandoned, worthless, and unwanted. What would otherwise be a happy childhood is destroyed by a loss which most children can’t even fathom. Similarly, a child with a handicap (mental or physical) might experience a constant distance and rejection from his or her peers. Despite all good intentions and efforts, the handicapped child can never seem to fit in with others, and this results in an underlying feeling of sadness, angst, and general frustration with other people. When a child finally becomes fully aware of the negative stigma he or she has, all sense of self esteem and self worth are devastated.

This is where BPD comes in. By definition, Borderlines are not “normal” like everyone else. They are burdened with damaged emotional cores and a view of the world that is skewed towards the negative. They can’t related well to others, and take any form of social rejection personally and severely.

Slowly but surely, this gives rise to pent up anger and sadness, which they either take out on themselves or others. A BPD “rage” episode is often the result of feeling an oncoming rejection, such as being dumped in a relationship, or not allowed to hang out with the popular crowd at school. The Borderline Personality may not “crack” on a day to day basis, but instead feel a longstanding sense of worthlessness that is continually deepened any time another sort of rejection is experienced. Borderlines don’t get over rejection, they simply sweep it under their emotional rugs and save it for a random moment when they suddenly explode.

So does social exclusion come before or after BPD? The answer is found in the middle of the road: it happens during both points of the gradual climb towards full blown Borderline Personality. Without a doubt, BPDs feel excluded from the get go, and once they start acting out and displaying their true colors, they are further excluded. Society doesn’t want angry, emotional ballistic missiles set to go off at any given moment. Furthermore, society doesn’t want social outcasts or constant “losers” who are incapable of dealing with rejection. Such behaviors are just unacceptable to the normal spectrum of people around the BPD.

All of this begs the question: what can be done about someone with BPD who was or continues to be excluded? Unfortunately, the answer to that question lies in the person with BPD and the support system around them. The “rest” of the world passes sufferers of BPD by almost instantaneously. As a result, in order to mitigate a perpetual feeling of rejection and abandonment, BPDs must be taught healthy coping skills and counseled by skilled mental health professionals.

Personally, I’d love to tell everyone else to go f*ck themselves; and to be truthful I have in my blinding moments of rage. Sadly, these moments don’t help me become anymore “well adjusted” or socially accepted. Instead, I am the one who has to do the work and find a way back towards the center.

This is, in essence, a large part of the treatment cycle for those with Borderline Personality Disorder. If someone with BPD can learn to adapt despite strong feelings of social exclusion, they are much better off. Further, if someone with BPD can find ways to diffuse the sense of anger and loss they harbor, they will be much happier, productive individuals. They will learn to find value in themselves, and in so doing, will once again find value in the world around them.

2 Replies to “Does Social Exclusion Come Before or After BPD?”

  1. Thanks for this. Its very relevant as I’ve been going through this for over two years. I was a very popular, very social person, but when a blatant exclusion occurred, I flipped and my BPD came full force. Now I just want to destroy the excluder in a mean and anger-fuelled way. Where the frustration comes in for me is that I can’t just express it, but must maintain “societal propriety”; they treated me like sh*t, so why shouldn’t I treat them the same way? How do you control yourself to not go out and destroy when you are feeling so destroyed, yourself?

    1. It’s tough to offer advice without knowing what happened. However here are a few thoughts. Bear in mind that post was written years ago and needs to be updated for clarity. 🙂 Ask yourself the following:

      1. Did you lose popularity with the excluder or an entire set of people?
      2. If with a group, why does the excluder hold so much power? Does everyone really think the world of this person, given the way they treat others, specifically you? Surely other “followers” can’t feel comfortable knowing they could be next?
      3. If with an individual, why do they deserve more of your time? It’s only 1 person!

      I agree with you about “social propriety”. People can be mean and cruel in subtle ways: not inviting you to parties, not saving a seat at the lunch table, not including you in conversations, etc.

      Yet you can’t grab them by the arm and scream at them. And you cannot act desperately in front of them, e.g. burst into tears, threaten to hurt yourself, etc.

      That’s where BPDs have faulty wiring. The reaction we want to give is disproportionate to the situation. It’s because BPDs take exclusion, rejection and criticism much harder than everyone else.

      There are many reasons for that, but none justify an unreasonable reaction. Ultimately you might end up embarrassing yourself, further confirming the excluder’s incorrect judgment that you were no good. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Final thoughts:

      1. Were you the intended victim or just at wrong place, wrong time? Sometimes groups single someone out randomly. Other times it is intentional. Obviously intentional exclusion hurts. But analyze the situation to make sure you’re not taking it harder than necessary, particularly if it was random.
      2. Write down what happened. Then try to recall if anything similar happened when you were younger. Realize these things run their course and people move on. It hurts right now but don’t let it define your life.
      3. Try to remember if there were warning signs. Did you pick up anything before this happened? Were people gossiping, planning or tipping you off long before? There may have been subtle hints: a series of mean looks, comments, etc. The next time you experience something similar, put your guard up and be mindful of your thinking. I say this to keep YOUR BPD under control, that’s what matters most!
      4. Wait a few weeks and let it pass. Chances are the excluder will move on to someone else. Right now, they live to be an asshole (if a guy) or a bitch (if a girl). It sounds like you’re a younger person. Realize this is a much greater problem for them in the long run than it is for you, provided your BPD is managed.

        When ready talk to them one on one. Do it when you’re in control, almost Zen-like. Confidently and calmly tell them you didn’t care for what they did, that you thought you were friends. Meanwhile, make sure you’ve found other friends before you talk to the excluder again. They shouldn’t run your social life. Don’t give them any power. But don’t let them walk all over you. Make them feel bad speaking as a much more confident, well adjusted person. People from the old group might come back to you when they’re tired of this person’s selfish behavior.

      5. Good luck and get treatment for your BPD. It is the most important thing you can do for yourself.

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