Personality Disorders, Mental Illness and PAS/PA (Part One)

I understood from a young age, when I was around 17 years old, that I had issues. Coming from the family dysfunction I was born into and raised in, then running away from a violent and insane home when I was 15, then temporarily becoming homeless, it didn’t take much self-awareness on my part to realize I was mentally and emotionally challenged on multiple levels.

This self-awareness has prompted a lifelong journey of deep self reflection and spiritual study to strive and become a better man—a more stable, loving, patient, well adjusted and self-controlled individual than the young man I knew I was struggling against—myself.

This journey has not been easy. In fact, the road to self-discovery and enlightenment (an almost impossibly difficult word to accurately define and explain) has proven to be a long, often unsatisfying and frustrating one. Looking back, I ask myself, “Roy, have you made any real and genuine progress?” And the jury is still out on whether or not I can accurately and honestly answer this.

One problem I’ve had is that which is common among flawed humans: my pride. Not the good kind of pride, like painting a beautiful picture on canvas and stepping back and feeling proud about such an artistic accomplishment.

Rather, the pride I’m talking about, the bad pride, is the inner characteristic which tells someone they are better than others, superior, more intelligent, gifted or knowledgeable, a focus on self and what they want and need and believing the world revolves around them and their needs. Self-focused as opposed to other-focused.

Wikipedia has a decent post on pride under the heading of “the seven deadly sins.” In a nutshell, the bad pride I’m referring to is the opposite of humility.

As a young man (15 through 30), I struggled with pride because this is the age when the manly sap is flowing and the whole world is the youth’s oyster. “It’s all about me!” could well be the motto for this age group.

The Seven Deadly Sins with Pride topping the list.

Though I no longer follow the faith I was raised in and dedicated most of my life to until recently, I am thankful for what that faith instilled in me: a need for humility and a right recognition of my standing before God and my fellow humans, learning to be a decent and moral man. Though I never measured up to this lofty standard, I honestly—even valiantly—tried. Without question, this failure to achieve such a standard, I believe, contributed to adopting a more humble attitude in my life.

I’ve come to some tough realizations in life. One of them is we are all probably psychologically damaged in any number of forms, some more than others. Look no further than the Royal Family in England to see that being born with a golden spoon in your mouth and surrounded by hundreds of years of rich history and all the privilege money can buy does not completely buffer you from insane thinking and behaviors. It helps, of course, but there are no guarantees.

Why am I writing all of this, and how does this apply to Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and its sister pathology, Parental Alienation (PA)? Because PAS and PA is born, thrives, multiples and grows in these pathologies, like mushrooms in the dark.

As I’ve often mentioned in this Divorce and PAS section of my blog, I have been studying these pathologies for almost 20 years now. And the reason for such intensive study on these topics is because my children are estranged from me due to the debilitating effects of PAS/PA.

There is no question I have laid the vast majority of this estrangement at the feet of my ex wife. I believe she is the catalyst for this estrangement, the guilty party, the one mostly responsible for this disaster which has occurred in my family.

But admitting this fact does not, in any fashion, imply that I have not contributed at least something to the problems in my family. To put it another way, my ex wife is not all to blame—there is blame that also lies at my feet.

Proud individuals, like myself, can have a difficult time with self-awareness. We have a proclivity to recognize and point out the personal flaws and weaknesses of others but often lack the ability to recognize our own. Our pride is a set of blinders placed around our eyes that cause us to focus on others without having the sense to broaden that vision and include our own flaws and issues.

People can be like horses with blinders on.

As I grew older, I started noticing disturbing patterns in my life. One of these patterns was often being in conflict with other people. Where it raised its ugly head in the most dramatic and painful of expressions was in my romantic relationships with women I was involved with—the majority of these ended up in disaster and broken hearts—on both ends.

I placed the majority of the blame for those failed relationships on the particular woman I was currently dating. But like a slow sunrise that imperceptibly begins brightening up the landscape, I started thinking, “Maybe there is something wrong with me that is causing all of these relationship failures.”

Once I considered this to be a possibility, the floodgates of understanding began slowing opening, creaking like an old door opening on rusty hinges. And this journey of self-awareness led me to the disturbing possibility I may have some form of mental illness which perhaps included a personality disorder.

As you can imagine, this is not something you brag about to the general public or put on your resume. But on this long journey of self-discovery and striving to understand the wisdom behind Socrate’s famous two words, “Know thyself,” admitting my problems helped me to find answers to the “why” questions.

For example, why am I like this? Why am I so often in conflict with others? One of the most perplexing questions is, “Why does it seem I’m magnetized to dysfunctional women?”

Which leads me to the topic of this post: Personality Disorders (PD) and mental illness and how they apply to PAS/PA. An anchor to this is an article titled, “The New Elephant in the Room: Why All Professionals Need to Learn About Personality Disorders.”

This is one eye-opening article, written by attorney and social worker Bill Eddy. He has opened my eyes to the problems in dealing with people who have personality disorders which make them difficult to deal with. He writes: “Personality disorders are defined in the current psychiatric diagnostic system as characterized by pervasive, inflexible, and stable patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving, and interacting with others that cause significant distress or impaired functioning in interpersonal or professional domains…each personality disorder, as defined in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [currently DSM-5-TR], is described by a problematic approach to interpersonal interactions, or by characteristics that are likely to interfere with adaptive interactions and relationships.”

Reading through this article, I had to admit that it described some of my own characteristics in dealing with people. As I read more, I became increasingly uncomfortable in realizing the possibility I had PD’s of my own without knowing it: “Another way in which PDs are different from other forms of mental illness is that most people with PDs do not know they have a disorder or even a problem…”

“Personality disorders are…characterized by pervasive, inflexible, and stable patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving, and interacting with others that cause significant distress or impaired functioning in interpersonal or professional domains…a problematic approach to interpersonal interactions, or by characteristics that are likely to interfere with adaptive interactions and relationships.”

Bill Eddy, attorney and social worker

I have never been to a mental health expert who professionally diagnosed me with any form of mental illness or PD. But in my honest attempts at seeking an understanding of not only the problems obviously associated with the pathological manifestations of my ex-wife, it dawned on me the logical conclusion was that she was not 100% to blame for the breakup of our family and the alienation from my children.

In fact, it would be a miracle to have gone through the trauma of my own dysfunctional upbringing without bearing tangible mental and psychologically scarring of my own.

This is a hard truth to deal with and even harder to admit publicly. The stigma surrounding individuals with mental illness can be traumatic to those afflicted with these maladies. This stigma is unfortunate because it prevents acceptance, treatment, diagnosis and eventual healing from these disorders if such shame was not associated with them.

I have always had compassion for hurting people and have spent most of my life seeking to bring healing and comfort to others who are suffering. How ironic that I have spent most of my life concerned about others without a thorough understanding I may need the same help and—hopefully—the same degree of compassion and understanding.

Crossing this bridge, though, has not completely blindsided me due to the fact I have always known I was out of kilter in many ways. Step by step, as I have journeyed long through this earthly pilgrimage, the evidence seems to be overwhelming that mental illness not only runs in my family, but I have not escaped its clutches.

In fact, and it now seems obvious, the odds of me not having some form of a mental illness when looking at my family members (parents, brothers and sisters) is mathematically low. Saying it another way, the odds are against me for coming out unscathed from the family background I come from: it seems highly probable I have a personality disorder of some type.

If true, this opens up an entirely different dimension in dealing with the psychological pathology obviously prevalent in my immediate family; specifically, PAS and PA. No longer can I only look at my ex-wife being wholly responsible for the alienation of my children but I must also look at myself and my mental health issues as well. Both of us have contributed to their issues.

This is a hard pill to swallow, for certain. Yet perhaps—and I hope this is true—this realization will help to bring some form of healing to my children. And in their healing, which is of primary importance, I will hope to find healing as well.

It grieves me to realize my innocent children have been victimized by the possible mental illnesses and/or PD’s of both myself and my ex wife. But the progress and success for their healing—or for any families healing affected by PAS/PA—is best realized when everyone involved in the breakdown of their families can humbly come to the table and admit they bear partial responsibility for the problems. Perhaps the humiliating confessions of my own challenges with mental illness can help bring healing and understanding to others struggling with the same.